Direct mail advertising and marketing in the United States – statistics & facts
While brands and consumers increasingly turn to digital media, direct mail – an advertising and direct marketing strategy entailing sending print material directly to residents' mailboxes – remains relevant well into the 21st century. According to the latest projections, direct mail annual ad revenues in the United States will reach almost 13.2 billion U.S. dollars by the end of 2023. While the figure was forecast to decline in the following years, it still accounts for almost one-fifth of the global direct mail ad revenue, estimated at nearly 77 billion dollars. Perhaps most importantly, unlike the U.S.-only projections, the global forecast suggests a steady rise in spending as the 2020s unfold. Furthermore, all of the world's top 10 direct mail advertising companies by market share in 2022 are based in the U.S. This is particularly relevant considering how fragmented the industry is: None of the leading players held more than one percent of the market that year. Their shares combined did not surpass three percent.
Why direct mail stands tall
The expected decrease in expenditure in the U.S. likely reflects the decline in volume between before and after the pandemic. The number of pieces attributed to direct mail in the U.S. has increased yearly since 2020 but remained far from the pattern seen at the end of the past decade. The 2022 volume amounted to less than 90 percent of figures recorded in 2019 and 2018 – a sign of how lockdowns and mobility restrictions boosted online media's performance to the detriment of offline channels. Yet the post-pandemic growth is as palpable as a pamphlet or brochure. Between 2020 and 2022, the average number of regular marketing mail received by a U.S. household rose by eight percent. This print medium offers a financial advantage compared to its digital counterparts. 2022 data shows direct mail campaign's return on investment (ROI) of over 40 percent outperformed email, social media, paid search, SMS, and digital displays in 2022.
Direct mail's benefits
Direct mail's ROI goes even further in some sectors, exceeding 60 percent. According to a survey among marketers in North America published in early 2023, the e-commerce, financial services and banking, insurance, healthcare, and retail segments enjoyed exceptionally high figures, with the former three's ROIs surpassing 80 percent. Another study, conducted in 2022 by a global leader in the industry, indicated that this marketing tactic might expand not despite the internet's rise but rather because of it. Three out of four responding marketers reported reallocating some digital marketing budget into direct mail in response to consumers' data privacy concerns. Online anxieties aside, American consumers seem to know very well what they expect from companies' print messages. Over three-quarters of those surveyed in 2023 said an offer or promotion increased their likelihood to open a piece of direct mail sent by an interesting brand. For comparison, little more than half stated the same about a piece containing their first name.
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J. G. Navarro
Research expert covering advertising and marketing with a focus on South America