SMP finds remote working is delivering DM opportunity

Richard Stuart-Turner
Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The widespread switch to working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic has provided a huge boost for printed mail, according to new research from the the Strategic Mailing Partnership (SMP).

Donovan: The data now exists to outline direct mail's case even more strongly
Donovan: The data now exists to outline direct mail's case even more strongly

The industry body, which represents more than 150 mail producers across the UK, conducted a survey of member businesses that recorded a response rate of 40%.

Nearly all (98%) of respondents said they saw the pandemic as a one-off event and a number reported that they had taken on new clients in addition to winning extra work printing Covid messaging.

While only 4% of members had been able to continue working without placing staff on furlough, nearly three-quarters (73%) said they thought the growing number of people working from home was a big opportunity and could persuade customers to retain or expand their use of physical mail.

These figures are supported by data from JICMail, which found that the engagement rate of mail had increased to a record 96% in Q2 2020 – a 5% gain on the same period the year before. All mail was interacted with 4.5 times in the same period; significantly higher than the average frequency in Q2 2018.

While nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents said they believed that volumes were unlikely to return to pre-Covid predicted levels until 2021, 17% said they were intending to design and produce new types of mail packs as part of their recovery strategy.

The SMP's business impact survey was carried out as an alternative to its annual SMP Summit, which enables mail producers to get together to exchange analysis and ideas. The partnership’s chair, Judith Donovan, said that while cancelling this year’s summit was not ideal, the survey had “revealed some priceless insights”.

“[Mail has] always been a trusted way to communicate but with so many people now working from home it’s having an even bigger impact; people are at home to pick it up read it and digest it rather than stepping over it on the doormat as they fly out of the door to get to the office.”

The survey also found that 83% of respondents believed their business would survive at the height of the pandemic, but 62% had made staff redundant.

And while half of all respondents said they had been planning major investment during 2020 prior to the onset of the pandemic, 43% of these had cancelled, with half saying plans had been delayed rather than scrapped.

Donovan told Printweek she hopes that the second national lockdown in England, starting on Thursday (5 November), will have “minimal effect” on the direct mail sector.

“SMP board members are reporting that Christmas campaigns are already booked in with budgets committed to producing these,” she said.

“Mail producers still have many clients who are looking to communicate with people, whether that be sharing details of what they are offering at Christmas or letting their customers know about a change of service such as takeaway rather than dining in.

“Also, with online shopping being more popular than ever, some of our members have experienced an uplift in demand as retailers look to get their products in front of people.

“Not only that, charities still need to reach out to supporters in order to fundraise. The decision by HMRC to apply standard rate VAT to all charity advertising on Facebook, resulting in a rise in cost of around 20%, is another move in favour of physical mail.”

She added that while the volume of mailings has fallen, this reduction has largely been a result of many customers not being open for business.

“Some have reduced budgets but only around a third of our members have lost business through their customers ceasing to trade. Vitally, the data now exists for our members to outline the case for direct mail even more strongly.”

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