Study: Fifty percent of consumers prefer direct mail to email

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Fifty percent of U.S. consumers prefer direct mail to email, according to a study released by marketing services firm Epsilon on Dec. 1. The study also found that one-quarter of all U.S. consumers said they found direct mail to be “more trustworthy” than email.

Of the 2,226 U.S. consumers surveyed for the third Consumer Channel Preference Study, 60% said they enjoy checking their physical mailboxes, highlighting what the study refers to as an “emotional connection” to postal mail.

Over-reliance on email messaging may actually hurt marketers, according to the study, which found the perception that reading email is faster than reading postal mail declined among U.S. email account holders from 47% in 2010 to 45% this year.

Warren Storey, VP of product marketing and insight at ICOM, a division of Epsilon Targeting, said the findings are not all that unexpected when “you know the data and consumer trends.”

“It's just ‘surprising' because everything you hear in the media is basically counter to what the consumers are actually telling us, which is that direct mail is still the preferred channel,” Storey said.

While Groupon and LinkedIn, for example, are grabbing high-profile media attention by generating “giant” initial public offerings, “direct mail is one of those mediums that is always quietly there in the background doing a great job,” Storey said.

The most ideal way to reach consumers, according to the report, is to use a combination of media to build consumer trust, including media that some marketers might consider to be “old school,” like direct mail, TV and newspapers, said Storey.  

 “There is definitely a growing trend that email inboxes are getting more and more full,” Storey said. “Over the last three years, we've seen an increase of the percentage of consumers saying, yeah, they like getting email, but they get far too many. In the U.S., 75% of consumers say they get more email than they can read.”

Ultimately, the overarching theme of the study, according to Storey, is that marketers should think twice before they disregard direct mail.

“It's not sexy. It's not terribly innovative,” he said. “But it works.”

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