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Is Direct Mail Dead?

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Let’s look at Google Trends to find out.

According to Google, 100 is the peak and 50 means that the search term is half as popular. We’re going to be looking at a 5 year trend, and only search results within Australia.
First let’s search the term “Direct Mail” and see what comes up;

What do we see?

Since 2013 we can see a definite downwards trend. We can see a starting average hovering around 50, and a slow decline to around 25 over 5 years.
Let’s do some correlation now and look at the search term “Mail House”

Okay, those two data points now confirm a steady 5-year decline in search trends. From a high starting point of around 75 to a decrease down to just below 50 in five years.
Let’s dig deeper with a further with a few different but related search terms;

“Mailhouse” as the search term – small decline – nothing spectacular.

“Mail Marketing” – again, showing a decline but nothing that stands out.

“Direct Marketing” as the search terms shows no decline at all – very steady.

“Bulk Mail” search terms is also very steady over five years. Nothing that stands out.

Okay, let’s look at a few more starting with Australia Post;

Here we can see a steady decline – but again, nothing dramatic except for the expected peaks in December.

What about “Mail Out”?’

No noticeable decline in that search term over five years. Hovers around 50 or a bit lower. And this is five years of data!

Okay, let’s compare “Mail Out” search term with say something that’s really popular right now and had lots of media coverage, something similar but different; let’s search “3D Printing”;

Surprisingly, nothing in the data shows much movement over five years. This is very interesting because I would have assumed a steady increase in search terms over five years, but this is not the case.
So, we have all the data from Google Trends, what could we surmise from this?

What we know

Steady decline in search terms “Direct Mail” and “Mail House”, but no noticeable decline in the search term “Mail Out”. Is this because when people are thinking about mails outs, they are not thinking about “Direct Mail” and “Mail House” anymore? Possibly, and I wouldn’t rule out integration of mail and print services helping that along as well; in the past, businesses tended to specialise in one or the other, but a quick look around the web reveals that more print businesses are offering mail house services as well.

Let’s dig deeper, let’s expand our “Mail Out” search term to be worldwide, instead of Australia specifically. And since we have noted a decline in other search terms, let’s focus on the last 12 months data;

Interestingly we can only see a steady line across. No upswing or downswing. In fact, it appears that we finish in the same place we started, just over 75.

So worldwide, in the last 12 months there has been no decline in search term “Mail Out”.

Because Australia Post postage is almost doubled since 2008, it’s undeniable that the increase has had a major affect on the volumes of mail being distributed. When you double the price of something in a decade, people are either going to stop using it or use less of it and I think that’s exactly what we are seeing in the data.

But what is interesting is that we don’t see a dramatic decline in the popular search terms for direct mail, in fact the regular search term “Mail Out” for both Australia and Worldwide over five years.

The conclusion I can come to from this data is that YES, Australia Post has seen declines in letter volumes there hasn’t been a decrease in any search trends for “Mail Out” in five years.
What is means is that sending a letter today, is equally important as sending the same letter five years ago, even if it cost twice as much in postage.

But is Direct Mail dead? I can’t see it yet. I think direct mail has become increasingly important in a world that is become more awash in electronic messages, it cuts through all that digital clutter and allows you to connect with your customer, one on one without any other advertising or pop up interfering with your message.

What to learn more about Direct mail and how it compares to email marketing? Click here.

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