The direct mail marketplace continued to evolve over the last 12 months, adjusting to cooling inflation, solid economic growth, and the continuing implementation of USPS’s “Delivering for America” plan. Through it all, we’ve continued tracking direct mail campaigns and active mailers.


WMW! Stats + Views from Experts = Insight

At Who’s Mailing What!, we track a lot of data about the mail we catalog in our collection each month.

So, for this year’s article, we’ve run some of the numbers to see what trends are important to talk about.

Also, as in the past few years, we have once again been honored to include valuable insights from direct mail professionals interviewed for our “Meet the Mailers” video podcast series. Their expertise and experience as practitioners shape their thoughts on how the world of direct mail marketing will shake out in the year (or more) ahead. We thank each of them for sharing their thoughts and opinions with you, our audience.

These 12 trends represent a good cross-section of what’s going on in the direct mail marketplace.

1. Eco Terms: A Mixed Bag

This chart covers direct mail pieces that include a sustainability stance from 2020-2023. From a trend perspective, we see this becoming more prevalent.

The popularity of eco terms has had some mixed results:

  • A sharp increase year-over-year in usage of “FSC” (Forest Stewardship Council)
  • “Organic” & “renewable” became less popular compared to 2020-2021
  • “Recycled paper”/”please recycle” are unstable but more popular in 2023
  • “Responsible sources” are also unstable and are on the same level of popularity as in 2021 (but less popular than in 2022)

Industry experts express optimism about using more sustainable practices.

2. Formats: Preferences are Stabilizing


Our previous review of format statistics showed marked increases in postcards and, to a lesser extent, folded self-mailers from around 2000 to 2020. We cited higher postage and paper costs as the big driver for that trend. And let’s face it, how people read mail has changed since the turn of the century. Fewer words, more images and online CTAs … it makes sense that we see less envelopes.

From 2021 through 2023, we see:

  • Postcards started getting popular in 2021 and continued until 2023. The popularity of postcards remains similar in 2022 and 2023.
  • Self-mailer becomes more popular than 2 years ago (2021 and 2022)

All the same, envelopes continue to work well, especially for several big verticals..


3. QR codes: The Sky is the Limit

It should come as no surprise that the usage of QR codes in direct mail continues to soar:

  • Adoption of QR codes is steadily climbing year-over-year
  • QR codes popularity grew to 34.08% in 2023 from 3.96% in 2020

Think about it. Tech and smartphones made QR codes easy to use by the time so many people learned to use them during the pandemic. Marketers recognize that when incorporated into a mail piece, they tie the physical and digital worlds together. And USPS offers promotional discounts for using them in your mail. So keep scanning!

4. Word Count – Is Now …Increasing?

In Direct Mail Trends 2021, we said that mail copy is getting more concise. Well, it’s not anymore. Our stats show that compared to the period 2017-2020, the average word count in mail pieces of all formats increased by 146 words (26%).

Moreover, the word count is growing for all three main formats. In the last 3 years, copy length increased:

  • for postcards by 14%
  • for self-mailers by 38%
  • for envelopes by 33%