Live from DMDNY: Direct Mail Use on the Rise

(Direct) New York–Direct mail was more likely to have spurred consumers to action in 2003 than in 2001, according to a new consumer survey.

Barely over one-third of all consumers reported responding to direct mail solicitation through either the mail, telephone, a Website, or an in-person visit in a 30-day period during 2001, the last year the question was asked. In 2003, this jumped to 46%, according to the direct mail portion of a direct marketing study undertaken by Vertis, a marketing solutions provider.

This may partly be a result of some ethnic groups and higher-age consumers becoming more comfortable with the Internet, a channel that offers one more way to respond to direct mail offerings, speculated Scott Marden, Vertis’s director, marketing research.

Young baby boomers (those born between 1956 and 1964) led the pack in direct mail responsiveness. In 2001 36% of them did so, while in 2003 almost half were moved to take an action.

This is an age segment that is still taking risks and seeking pleasure, Marden speculated. If it is more responsive to direct mail than other segments, it may also be due to a desire to treat itself well, or take risks by responding to offers that promise a more fulfilling life.

But it is also a segment that is especially responsive to special offers and discounts, as are often featured in direct mail pieces, Marden said.

Young baby boomers also showed the biggest jumps in their willingness to contribute to charities through direct mail. While 47% of them did so in 2001, 59% indicated they did in 2003. Likewise men, which at 45% in 2001 were less likely than the total population to contribute, saw their donor levels rise to 57% in 2003.

Overall, just under half of all consumers were spurred to make such donations through the mail in 2001, a figure that rose to nearly six in 10 in 2003.

Marden said that the increase in males making donations was likely due to post-9/11 fallout. In years past, men had not been among the higher donor categories. But the events of Sept. 11, 2001 spurred an increased awareness in charities.

The study’s other findings include:

*Willingness to purchase life insurance directly from a company using any direct channel, as opposed to seeing an agent, rose from 40% in 2001 to 46% in 2003 among all consumers.

*While direct mail readership within a seven-day period remained steady, at 55% in 2002 and 2003, among households with incomes in excess of $75,000 it rose from 53% to 59%.

*Readership of direct mail offerings remained constant between 2002 and 2003 was constant, moving only slightly from 73% a year ago to 74%. But among consumers born before 1930, it rose from 65% to 75%.

*Finally, while overall readership of financial service and credit card-related direct mail slipped from 34% last year to 32%, among adults aged 50+ it rose from 27% to 31%, and among those aged 65+ it jumped from 18% to 27%. Marden speculated this might be due to older adults seeing to gain control of their finances in a time of economic downturn.

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