DM volumes down but relevance up since GDPR

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Tuesday 15 October 2019

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There has been a 30% reduction in the amount of direct mail received by UK households since the introduction of GDPR, but the perceived relevance of the mail received has increased, according to new research.

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On average households now receive five items of direct mail per week

Data specialist Wilmington Millennium’s direct mail tracker, which was carried out among 1,000 consumers by Censuswide in January 2018 and July 2019, has found that the introduction of the regulation has led to 2.8 billion fewer items dropping onto doormats across the country every year.

Prior to GDPR’s May 2018 implementation, Wilmington Millennium’s historic data shows that on average households received seven items of advertising mail per week, a total of 9.9 billion items per year across the UK. However, since the legislation came into force this has fallen to five items of direct mail per household per week, a total of 7.1 billion.

Households in Leeds, Brighton and Plymouth were found to have experienced the largest reduction in direct mail volumes with drops of 53%, 50% and 46% respectively. All other areas of the UK also experienced reductions except for residents in Sheffield, who experienced a 10.2% increase.

People in Liverpool (3.82 pieces per week), Norwich (3.99 pieces per week) and Newcastle (4.14 pieces per week) currently receive the least amount of direct mail, while those in Sheffield (6.48 pieces per week), London (5.44 pieces per week) and Birmingham (5.36 pieces per week) receive the most.

Historically, Wilmington Millennium’s figures showed that before GDPR the areas receiving the most direct mail were Leeds (9.88 pieces per week), Brighton (9.49 pieces per week) and London (8.01 pieces per week) while areas receiving the least were Sheffield (5.88 pieces per week), Bristol (6.23 pieces per week) and Southampton (6.61 pieces per week).

Wilmington Millennium Mortascreen product director Patrick Lymath said: “We all knew that GDPR was going to have an impact on mail volumes and this has already been proven by Royal Mail figures. However, this research is interesting as it is based on what consumers themselves say/believe they receive.

“It is heartening that the reduction is converting into perceived relevance with 45% of consumers reporting that the advertising mail they receive is more relevant since GDPR.

“As a result of this we are increasingly seeing new brands testing the channel such as Just Eat and historic direct mail users return to the channel. Perception amongst marketers is also changing – effectiveness is now not tied to volume, it is tied to response, which is an incredibly positive step change for the sector.”

Just Eat has partnered with Go Inspire Group’s programmatic direct mail division Paperplanes to incorporate intelligent direct mail into its customer journey for the first time.

Paperplanes can track the online food order and delivery service’s customers’ online behaviour, and then use that data to deliver personalised direct mail to nudge their purchase decisions.

Just Eat senior global media manager Ross Duncan said: “What impresses us about Paperplanes’ solution is the speed and agility they can offer when supporting our campaign pushes.

“It was a no brainer to include Paperplanes into our marketing strategy, helping us improve conversion rates for a reasonable cost.”

Paperplanes founder and chief executive Dan Dunn added it was “refreshing that such a well-known brand is open to try a more traditional method of marketing”.

“As brands look for new ways to engage with their customers significant investments are made in SEO, social and email but our direct mail campaigns have generated results up to ten times stronger than digital ones.”

Direct mail’s effectiveness was also high on the agenda at the Federation of European Envelope Manufacturers’ annual congress, which was held in Porto earlier this month.

Mark Harrison, head of markets at the International Post Corporation, said that addressed direct mail is a particularly powerful tool, both for loyalty and acquisition.

According to a study he quoted by Austrian Post, 34% of recipients read direct mail for more than five minutes, much longer than most online ads, while 42% said they were influenced by direct mail when grocery shopping.

Whistl managing director Mark Davies, meanwhile, presented data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) which stated that 54% of all digital advertising is not even seen, mainly due to ad blockers, fraudulent practices, plug-ins and loading problems.

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