Covid-19 Direct Mail Overview

27 May 2020 / By Jeff Tarran
Reading time: 4 minutes

A Topline Report on How the Pandemic is Affecting Direct Mailers

According to the USPS Covid Mail Attitudes Study, 65% of respondents agree that getting mail lifts their spirits and 61% of those respondents say the mail is “extra special” as they cope with changing social behavior. Yet, we know that mail boxes are generally empty and mailers are cutting back.

Clients have been asking us who’s mailing and what trends we are seeing. So, we thought we’d take a quick survey of our data and printing partners to gain some insights beyond our own Gunderson Direct experience.

The partners we asked include data compilers, list brokers, large national and smaller regional printers. While this isn’t a scientific survey, the consistency among the roughly one dozen responders does lend it some credibility.

 

Who’s mailing?
  • Insurance—health and life insurance were mentioned by virtually every respondent; mailings are generally up, as are response rates. Compliance mailings are taking a larger share of the total as well.
  • Elder care services and products—individual mailings and catalogs.
  • Children’s educational software and products.
  • Consumer and personal care catalogs—one data company reported that a mailing to digital-only buyers has been surprisingly successful during shelter-in-place. We are also seeing a number of first-time mailers in this category jumping in to capitalize on new buying behaviors.
  • B2B and consumer courses offering self-improvement—hey, lots of people have the time….
  • Online food ordering—in addition to food/alcohol delivery apps, food gift mailers are also booming.
  • Publishing—response to magazine subscription mailings is surprisingly strong.
  • Medical and dental offices—practices are starting to reopen and need to let patients know.
  • Casino loyalty programs—after going silent for 8 weeks, we heard from a few partners that they are planning big comebacks.
  • Theme parks—parks planning summer re-openings are starting to jump back into the mail stream.

 

The list of who’s cut back is a long one, as most of us in the trenches can attest. The hardest hit according to our survey respondents include:

  • Financial services—though a couple respondents reported that investment services are picking up and a few lenders are planning mailings to market lower rates.
  • B2B has fallen pretty much across the board, however one data provider reported an uptick in data requests for telemarketing and email deployment.
  • Travel and leisure.
  • Conferences, trade shows and live events.
  • Memberships to zoos, museums and similar institutions.

 

Finally, some trends:
  • A move to digital:
    • Requests for email address data are up.
    • Retargeting through display and Facebook is increasing response and being employed more often with encouraging results.
    • Informed Delivery (a digital service offered by the USPS) now serves over 15% of the US population with 26 million users—more consumers than ever are signing up and email open rates top 60%.
  • A Mintel spokeswoman reported that CVS was typical of health retailers who are mixing Covid-19 messaging with unique and deep offers.
  • Donations to health service providers and hospitals are up—hospital systems are awash with unsolicited donations. Outbound efforts to new donors will determine their future intent to support those institutions.
  • B2B mailers are already planning—almost every respondent reported that their more sophisticated B2B mailers were already planning their return to the mail.
  • Who’s open for business? One data partner reported a client mail plan based on a cross reference of reopening geos and SICs. D&B is working on an algorithm to predict the likelihood that a business is open while other data providers are working on solutions to that same issue.
  • Targeting employees and business owners at home—requests for home address appends to business addresses are up. Data providers are working hard to match records using a variety of sources, matching records across databases, and using first-party cookie data.

We hope this overview helps and perhaps even inspires some new thinking of your own. What are you seeing out there? We’d love to hear your comments and plans.

If you took a mailing hiatus, now could be the right time to plan your return to direct mail. As shelter-in-place moves into new phases, it’s certainly worth considering. Please contact us and drop us a line if you’d like to start planning your direct mail strategy.

Jeff Tarran
About The Author

Jeff Tarran

As VP of Account Services, Jeff works with our clients to analyze business problems and develop direct marketing strategies that achieve their goals. A 20-year veteran and strategic thought leader in direct marketing, Jeff has headed two independent direct response agencies in the Bay Area after starting his career at Foote Cone and Belding. He earned a Dual BS in management and communications at Syracuse University and his MBA in marketing at Columbia University in New York.