Door drop spend remains stable despite uncertainty

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Friday 13 July 2018

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The annual net spend on door drop material has remained stable over the past four years despite political uncertainty and legislative changes, according to new research, though the post-GDPR impact has yet to be determined.

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The annual net spend by UK businesses on door drops totalled £263m in 2017

The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Annual door drop industry report 2018 revealed that the annual net spend by UK businesses on door drops totalled £263m in 2017, compared with £266m in 2016 and £260m in 2013.

Data from the DMA publication as well as the AA/Warc Expenditure Report 2018 found that door drops accounted for around 15% of all direct mail expenditure last year, down slightly from 15.5% in 2016 though that figure was up on the 12.9% recorded in 2015.

The total annual net spend by UK businesses on all direct mail in 2017 was £1.75bn, up from £1.71bn in 2016 though that was down on the £1.91bn recorded in 2015.

The stability in door drop expenditure was achieved in the face of political uncertainty and legislative changes caused by GDPR, Brexit and 2017’s snap general election, the DMA said.

Annual volumes of direct mail fell from 6.6 billion items in 2013 to 5.7 billion in 2017 and in the past 12 months alone the total weight of door drop material reduced by 3,650 tonnes.

While 2017 saw slight reductions in annual volume and spend on door drops compared with the prior year, this should not signify a wider decline, the DMA said.

The snap general election disrupted planning and spend halfway through the year and larger regional and national door drops underperformed against expectations in May and June, when the election took place. Brexit, meanwhile, has continued to affect advertisers’ ability to plan and forecast, the DMA said.

The association added the industry is continuing to attract spend but is becoming more environmentally aware and that the volume decline will in part be a result of improved campaign planning, printing and targeting techniques.

DMA head of insight Tim Bond told PrintWeek: “There’s been an increase in the ability to really target door drops and understand the kind of segments you’re targeting. Not on an individual level, as that’s the nature of the channel, but at least from a broader perspective of understanding the types of people that you’re actually able to target, even at a postcode level.”

The extent of GDPR’s impact on advertising mediums will likely be revealed over the coming years. In the immediate aftermath of the legislation's introduction on 25 May many direct mail printers have reported falling volumes as marketers have become more cautious.

But the DMA said it is unlikely that there will ultimately be a negative impact on door drops, which are GDPR compliant from the off because they do not require any personally identifiable information.

“There’s an opportunity for mail as a whole under GDPR, and door drops more specifically, simply because it doesn’t use data in the same way that digital channels maybe do,” said Bond.

“Future small and local businesses will swing back to those [mediums] because the ability to use door drops to acquire new customers is imperative for those businesses to be able to grow.”

Webmart said it had seen an increase in the use of door drops by its customers both prior to the GDPR legislation being enforced, and since.

Category director for direct mail Paul Dykes said: “We’ve found that expenditure has increased but also that the types of door drops that are being undertaken are moving from very straightforward leaflets to maybe more brochures and some more complex items as well.

“We are able to do some very clever and innovative stuff with door drops these days and we’re certainly finding that GDPR has put more of an emphasis on how we can target customers in a non-personalised way but with a highly targeted methodology.”

Bond said that, despite the increased opportunity for door drops, he does not anticipate a return to the once rife practice of carpet bombing.

“No marketer worth their salt should target somebody that doesn’t want to be targeted. I think with door drops that is harder to mitigate because of the nature of it, however there are ways and means to opt out of it.

“Mail is an incredible channel and I don’t believe that marketers should or will start carpet bombing because it would undermine it for everybody.”

Earlier this year the first JICMail (Joint Industry Committee for Mail) annual report was released. The DMA said this new initiative has put mail on a level playing field with other marketing channels for the first time and enables door drops to be accurately compared.

The inaugural report found that for every 100 unaddressed door drops received, ten are passed on and shared, and each piece is revisited three times.

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