How a digital generation responds to direct mail versus email.

Every generation looks back on the next and shakes its head thinking, “this is it … this is the end of the world as we know it!” Certainly, if you are a direct marketer who has had success using direct mail in the past, the rise of the millennial generation creates a lot of stress and concern. They are, after all, the first generation to grow up during a time of mass dissemination of information dispensed by digital devices such as computers, tablets and cell phones. Do they even know what direct mail is?

Before you start running about shouting “direct mail is dead, direct mail is dead”, we suggest you take a sober look at millennial attitudes and actual behavior towards direct mail verses email.

Since the email system was developed in 1971, email usage has grown exponentially. Digital Marketing Ramblings, known for collecting stats on all kinds of digital media usage, guestimates a whopping 269 billion emails are sent daily worldwide. And news.com predicts the number of business-related emails will rise from 121 to 140 per day by the end of 2018.

Of course, getting lots of emails and responding to them is another story. With so many coming at you each day, which ones do you pay attention to and which do you shrug off? More importantly, how do millennial target audiences react to the barrage of emails they receive daily?

For an answer to this question, we suggest you ask the United States Postal Service – that’s right, the snail mail experts! They recently surveyed a wide range of millennials and discovered some pretty startling findings about how the generation reacts to paper-based direct mail versus e-mail.

Here are some of those findings:

  • 64% of millennials would rather scan for useful information in the mail than in email
  • 77% of millennials pay attention to direct mail and almost 90% find it reliable
  • 57% make purchases from direct mail
  • 87% like getting mail

Skeptical? Don’t be! The U.S. Post Office needed verification of their findings as much as you do. So they asked the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University’s Fox School of Business to study millennial reaction to direct mail versus email using bran imaging, biometrics and eye movement. They also asked some pretty direct questions of the people in the study.

Their findings bode well for direct mail marketers. It seems while millennials process email content rapidly, they spend more time and attention on physical direct mail. Better yet, the physical ads signaled more value and desirability than email and the recipients not only responded to direct mail more emotionally but also retain its information better. In fact, recall of direct mail was 70% higher than digital mail and activation in areas of the brain that signal motivation were 20% higher for direct mail than email.

Their findings bode well for direct mail marketers. It seems while millennials process email content rapidly, they spend more time and attention on physical direct mail. Better yet, the physical ads signaled more value and desirability than email and the recipients not only responded to direct mail more emotionally but also retain its information better. In fact, recall of direct mail was 70% higher than digital mail and activation in areas of the brain that signal motivation were 20% higher for direct mail than email.

Millennials may be more” digital” than previous generations, but they’re still human. There is a limit to how much they can take in and respond to. According to the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail enjoys five-times greater response rate over digital channels. With better response and retention rates than email, you’ve got to ask yourself, why isn’t your business using more direct mail to reach millennials these days?

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