What direct mail trends will shape the course of your business in 2022?

The future is hard to predict. Defying many expectations, direct mail volume in the U.S. recovered nearly to pre-pandemic levels overall in 2021. Some major mailers in several verticals discovered – or re-discovered – the importance of direct mail in their marketing strategy.

For example, in October 2021, leading home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond cited a reduction in the distribution of its store flyers as a factor in its sales drop for the previous quarter. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, “‘One of the critical missteps … was cutting back key traffic drivers that had been traditionally strong … as the company sought to shift consumer engagement toward online and social media channels.”

Supply chain issues and an uncertain postal environment post challenges to the strength of the economic comeback in the months ahead. But with the right planning, marketers should be able to overcome them and meet their goals.

As you plan your marketing spend, here are some direct mail trends for 2022.

1. Postal Service Changes

Marketing Mail rebounded in 2021 to almost pre-pandemic levels. For the year ending September 30, 2021, volume in this class jumped 3.4% to 66.2 billion pieces. Revenue increased 4.9% to $14.5 billion.

Package delivery continued to soar, reflecting the changes in consumer habits, some of which were forced or at least accelerated by Covid over the previous year. However, the decline in volume and revenues for First Class mail continued.

In March 2021, the USPS rolled out its 10-year makeover, “Delivering for America.” The stated goal of the plan is to achieve financial stability after years of heavy losses overall while driving more parcel delivery activity.

Among the changes called for:

  • Investing in new postal delivery vehicles
  • Using more trucks instead of air transport for moving mail across the country
  • Installing new packaging sorting machines to handle increased e-commerce demand
  • Streamlining retail services by closing post office branches

Also, new USPS service standards for First Class Mail and Periodicals were adopted. Starting in October, delivery time for about 39% of mail in these classes was adjusted within 5 days from the previous guideline of within 3 days.

Higher postage rates and a slower timeline for some mail means that marketers need to look at several steps to economize on their campaigns. For example, reducing the size of your mail pieces can save paper and ink costs. At the same time, moving to a large postcard size and mailing at new First Class rates gives you a chance to stand out better in the mailbox.

Postal reform legislation continues to advance through Congress, and hopefully pass in the next few months. Most stakeholders agree that many changes to put the service on a solid long-term footing can only happen with this kind of action.

2. Postal Tech Promotions: A Bigger Bargain

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it because it’s true: mail is not just alive, it’s transforming into a channel that plays well with others in ways that make sense for today’s consumers.

The USPS realized this fact years ago. It began a robust promotions program that gives mailers discounts for mail campaigns that incorporate new and developing marketing and printing technologies. The idea is to “push the envelope”, to get marketers and printers to think outside the box, and create mail that drives engagement and increases ROI.

Here are the 2022 USPS Promotions:

  • Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Engagement (4% discount)
  • Emerging and Advanced Technology (2-3% discount)
  • Personalized Color Transpromo (3% discount)
  • Mobile Shopping (2% discount)
  • Earned Value Reply Mail ($0.02 credit per piece)
  • Informed Delivery (4% discount)

We’ll get into much more detail about these technology discounts in upcoming posts. But for now, think about this as an opportunity to try out cutting-edge tech that makes your mail more valuable. In a world where every digital experience is delivered over the same devices, these techniques can reach consumers in a tactile way.

3. New Focus on the Personal

More personalization in your direct mail has always been a good thing to strive for. But more and more, it’s also becoming a necessity.

As I noted earlier, postage costs continue to rise. And In 2021, paper and ink prices saw price hikes due to low supply and high demand. However long this change lasts, being cost-conscious makes sense for the long-term.

Variable Data Printing (VDP) lets you use all of that data you have on customers (or data you should have) to engage with them 1-to-1. Your offers, copy, and images can all be powered by your data. Paired with a strategy of focusing on your best-performing segments, it will result in campaigns that are more customized – and relevant – to your customers.

VDP is also an opportunity to develop a more omnichannel communications strategy. Instead of a generic campaign going to a large audience, use a personalized mail piece that meets an individual’s wants or needs at the right time, and moves them to act in any channel – print or digital.

4. Another New Normal in 2022

We noted last year that many of the economic disruptions that resulted from the pandemic were inevitable anyway and not likely to be rolled back.

What changes have continued? How about:

  • Permanent work-from-home
  • Virtual conferences
  • Continued shift to e-commerce

2021 was also the year of the Great Resignation and other adjustments to the reopening of the economy. As employers deal with a changing workforce, there will be more opportunities to reach companies with products and services to meet their needs.

Wrapping it up

When it’s done well, direct mail has a higher response rate than purely digital channels. The key to success is using all of these technologies more wisely. Do it in a way that meets individual members of today’s audiences where each of them is and drives authentic, human interaction.

At mailing.com, our postal experts can help you put together a complete and cost-effective direct mail campaign – from planning to printing to mailing – that reaches consumers in ways digital can’t alone.