DMA: E-Mail Comes of Age

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E-mail marketing volume, frequency and response experienced greater increases than postal mail last year, according to a report by the Direct Marketing Association that will be released today at its 85th Annual Conference & Exhibition.


The report, "State of Postal & E-Mail Marketing: New Trends and Results," replaces the Annual List Usage Survey, which covered only postal mail from a list industry perspective.


"The report is not just for the list industry. It's issues that all mailers are interested in," said Ann Zeller, vice president of information and special projects at the DMA. "The report looks at how all marketers are using direct mail and e-mail at a time when there's a lot of credibility to e-mail as a legitimate substitute for postal mail."


Though 43 percent of respondents reported increasing postal mail quantities in 2001, 71 percent said they increased e-mail quantities. As for frequency, 41 percent increased postal mail and 69 percent increased e-mail. E-mail also beat postal mail in gross response, with 35 percent reporting increased response versus 25 percent in postal.


"This is the year that e-mail has begun to come of age," Zeller said, though she added, "on scale, postal is still by far the most used and critical element for mailers."


Even so, 37 percent of respondents said their postal mail volume stayed the same and 21 percent said it dropped from 2000 to 2001.


These results differ strongly from those in a 1997 DMA study before the advent of e-mail marketing, when 70 percent of postal mailers said they increased mail quantities in 1996.


Still, of respondents who increased e-mail quantities, nearly 60 percent said they did so because of the higher cost of postal mail.


And, in addition to the 35 percent reporting increased gross response for e-mail, 59 percent reported stable response from 2000 to 2001 and 5.6 percent saw a decrease. For postal mailers, 53 percent reported stable response and 21 percent said it decreased.


The study also looked at why marketers used postal mail and e-mail. Improving customer retention was the top reason, cited by 89.5 percent of postal respondents and 80.9 percent of e-mail respondents. Other reasons included improving customer purchase frequency, reactivating customers and cross-selling.


Postal mail was cited by 60 percent of respondents as the best way to convey product information. Postal also beat e-mail as far as the number of files on the list rental and exchange market. While 92 percent of e-mail marketers said their files were not currently available, only 65 percent of postal marketers' were not. Only 3 percent said their e-mail files were available for rental and exchange, but 25 percent said their postal files were.


Though Zeller admitted to being surprised that 65 percent of postal mailers did not share their lists, she said the numbers needed to be put in perspective.


"There are a lot of small mailers out there that do not market their files, but a large number of high-quantity mailers make their lists available," she said.


Also, it's widely known that e-mailers are very protective of their lists.


The future will bring better business conditions largely because of a better economy, said 66 percent of postal responders and 67 percent of e-mail responders. Factors cited include strategic planning, new products, company reputation, strategy change, e-mail opportunities and segmentation capabilities.


The study was done on behalf of the DMA List and Database Council in the first quarter of the year. It was e-mailed to 2,000 DMA members who market to consumers and businesses using mail or e-mail. By the end of March, 386 members completed part or all of the survey. Numbers are rounded for the report.


Zeller said the report will be conducted yearly.


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