Direct mail: now with digital superpowers

Jenny Stanley, Managing Director of Appetite Creative, looks at how integrating connected experiences has rejuvenated direct mail.

Direct mail campaigns have officially had a digital makeover. With thanks to QR codes, the enduringly popular media channel has been souped-up through digitisation to improve customer response rates and overall engagement and sales. Direct mail now officially has digital superpowers.

A recent JICMAIL report shows that engagement with direct mail increased during the pandemic. In Q2 2019, consumers engaged with 91 per cent of all direct mail, by Q2 2020 this figure rose to 96 per cent. We’re not only still receiving it, but we’re also opening and reading it.

According to research carried out by the DMA, as a direct result of receiving mail, 92 per cent have been driven to online or digital activity, 87 per cent have been influenced to make online purchases and 86 per cent have connected with a business online. Those under the age of 24 are 40 per cent more likely to claim that mail can change their mind about a brand than the average GB adult. 

Digitising direct mail and connected experiences
Direct mail literally takes a brand’s message to its customers, offering a multi-sensory experience that receiving an email on your laptop simply doesn’t deliver. It provides opportunities to evolve what customers expect of physical mail, and now, using the power of connected experiences, accessed via QR codes, direct mail combines the existing high-quality standards of postal mail with industry-leading digital technology.

New digital services give business customers infinite possibilities to tailor existing media channels and tap into new digital ones; harness data and insights; and get closer than ever to their customers. It offers portability combined with accountability, two-way conversation with customers, and real-time data collection.

Adding a personalised QR code onto a direct mail letter or parcel is easier than ever before and gives potential customers instant access to interactive branded content, immediately driving engagement. By scanning the QR code using a smartphone camera, users are taken to a browser-based app connected experience, offering product information, discount codes, competitions and interactive games or augmented reality (AR) experiences, and the data collected is all trackable in real-time.

Other than delivering business advantages, connected packing can also be a force for good, especially when it comes to sustainability. It can help educate customers and ultimately change their behaviour for the better – and reduce the need for raw materials such as paper and printing. Importantly for marketers, it can also help align brands to be on the right side of the fight for the future of our planet.

At Appetite Creative, we’ve worked on a number of web-based recycling education programmes, which encourage customers to recycle better and support tree-planting schemes. We’ve been helping marketers deliver important information in a way that is easy to digest and action, empowering them to make the right choices for themselves and the planet.

Connected experiences have proven success in appealing to and engaging with customers –  it’s an obvious and simple choice to include within direct mail business services – and has already been adopted by renowned brands including Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Tetra Pak, Dominos Pizza and a variety of utility companies. Recent research into brands using connected packaging showed that over half (54 per cent) of respondents claim to have already incorporated connected experiences into their marketing plans, and 85 per cent are confident that they would become increasingly important to the packaging industry in the next 12 months and beyond.

Working with postal and delivery services
Working with a leading provider of postal and delivery services in the UK, we recently created a new digital direct mail service for its business customers. Designed to deliver trackable and interactive experiences, the new service looks to reinvent direct mail advertising for the digital age. 

While retaining the trust and security of physical mail, the new connected app experience can be accessed on any mobile device via the unique QR code found on any leaflet, parcel, or letter. Typically used as an advertising channel by the postal delivery service’s business customers, direct mail is now trackable and interactive, with branded content no longer restricted by size or weight.

Unlocking limitless opportunities for UK businesses and optimising direct mail advertising, the app can be adapted and branded to meet the needs of any business customer. It can give users access to discount codes, offers, fun games, and product or services information and inspiration.

The app can be tailored to track who receivesand engages with the mail in real-time. Other trackable data includes specific direct mail QR code scanned; average engagement time; location; scan rate; number of visitors; return visitors; and social media shares. The GDPR-compliant personal data collection can enable businesses to optimise marketing and better understand customers. 

So, what have we learned from this campaign? My key takeaways include:

1. Digital direct mail campaigns offer a range of possibilities to brands
Through personalisation of the connected experienced access via a digitised direct mail campaign, benefits include engaging both existing and potential customers with tailor-made messaging which can be tracked and adapted in real-time.

From interactive games and fun competitions, vouchers and prizes, data collection and information sharing – the options and ways to engage with customers are endless.

2. Tracking direct mail generates valuable, never-before accessed data
Responses to a digitised direct mail campaign are now easily trackable in real-time,
and can generate GDPR-compliant data customers. For the first time ever, brands can track who opened it, who interacted with it, and what they did next.

The different layers of data connected experiences deliver, from age, gender, and location to product preferences, can help brands build a unique and in-depth picture of consumer behaviours. This insight can be invaluable, assisting brands to better understand target audiences, but also reach them more efficiently, building engagement.

3. Digitising direct can improve customer engagement
Approaching physical mail campaigns with creativity can help businesses benefit from increased brand recognition and a higher return on investment. Connected experiences encourage customer loyalty, repeat visits, and deliver a direct interactive relationship between brands and its customers.

Taking direct mail campaigns to the next level is a great way to attract new customers. It shows an innovative use and combination of both traditional and digital marketing channels, gives brands a competitive edge, and demonstrates a willingness to invest in this supercharged media channel. Superpowers have never been easier to harness for your business!