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Age no obstacle

New research from Royal Mail highlights the enduring appeal of direct mail, even among so called digital natives.

Young people receive less mail than older groups

The British office worker’s love/hate relationship with paper is laid bare in a recent survey by Danwood. Nine out of 10 workers questioned by the document solutions provider said there would always be a reason to print documents and 80% said they needed paper to do their jobs. Yet, almost as many (73%) said they were trying to reduce their reliance on the printed page.

Digitisation should help them do this in relation to internal document workflows and the sharing of information. But what of other uses of paper, such as direct marketing? Switching to e-marketing might help a business reduce its carbon footprint and be good PR. But does it make sense from a commercial perspective?

A new study by Royal Mail MarketReach suggests not. Three quarters of direct mail users questioned said that direct mail delivers a good return on investment. The same proportion believes that consumers are more likely to retain a printed mailshot than an email. Even so, digital channels remain more popular than direct mail.

According to Smart Marketing for Small Businesses, the most popular channels for SME marketing are email (82%), social media (62%), online advertising (50%) and direct mail (46%). Only 16% of SMEs currently use search marketing, with just 7% using telemarketing.

To help SMEs explore the possibilities of direct mail, Royal Mail has launched MailshotMaker, an online tool that can be used to design mailshots for distribution to mailing lists created from Royal Mail data or the user’s own customer lists. Prices, including printing and postage, start at 49p plus VAT per mailshot.

Enduring appeal

A separate Royal Mail MarketReach report, The Life Stages of Mail, underlines the enduring appeal and effectiveness of hard copy marketing for all age group. Its analysis shows that the average response rate to addressed mail (i.e. buying or ordering) in the last 12 months is 26.7%.

The report explores how people at all seven stages of life read, share and respond to direct mail, including:

Fledglings – young adults living with their parents;

Sharers – adults living in shared accommodation;

Couples – adults living only with their partners;

Young Families – adults living with child(ren) below the age of secondary school;

Older Families – adults living with at least one child at secondary school or further education;

Empty Nesters – adults with no children at home and at least one still working; and

Older Retirees – either one or two adults living as partners and dependent on income from pensions.

Its analysis shows no marked variation in response rates between different age groups. Indexing the findings and taking the average response across all age groups as 100, Royal Mail MarketReach found that all groups were within 20 index points of the average.

Missed opportunities

Perhaps surprisingly, Fledglings, who tend to be characterised as digital natives and are assumed to have a clear preference for electronic communications, are 18% more likely than the general population to welcome direct mail and 32% more likely to find it memorable.

Almost a quarter (23%) of Fledglings have bought or ordered something as a result of receiving direct mail in the last year, and 31% have kept a piece of direct mail for future reference.

Nevertheless, Royal Mail points out that young people receive less mail than older groups as advertisers erroneously assume they don’t want to receive it or won’t respond to it. This suggests that businesses are missing an opportunity to market themselves to young people.

Choice matters


Another key finding of The Life Stages of Mail report is the importance of providing a choice of response mechanism, as results show that people in different life stages like to respond to mail in different ways (see graphic).

Royal Mail suggests that the response levels of specific age groups can be improved by highlighting the channel that they prefer. For example, Young Families are much more likely to go online to make an enquiry or request more information as a result of receiving mail than other life stage groups. Older recipients are more likely to respond by post or phone call.

The full Life Stages of Mail report, including tips on how to market to specific life stage groups, can be downloaded from

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