direct mail versus email

Direct Mail v Email = DM wins (again!)

Direct Mail v Email = DM wins (again!)


How direct mail outperforms email for cold and warm acquisition campaigns


When you’re trying to work out where to spend your marketing budget, it’s tempting to focus on digital. After all, when everyone’s spending their time with their noses in their phones, it’s common sense to put your budget where your customers are – right?

Well, it turns out that maybe because your customers are spending so much time Snapbooking and TickTocking each other that they actually might not have too much time left over to really pay much attention to our carefully crafted marketing versus print for customer acquisition

Or at least that’s what campaign research is suggesting.

Obv if you manage to create that viral hit we’re all so desperately trying to conjure up, then they may just be giving your brand the recognition it so richly deserves.

But if not, is it just possible a portion of your digital marketing spend might be swirling down a digital plug hole?

If the majority of your new – or indeed, your lapsed – acquisition budget gets spent on email, then you might want to look away now.

Because one of our lovely partners recently shared some fascinating insight with us on the ROIs of two campaigns – one a cold acquisition campaign and the other for warm acquisition (meaning customers had made enquiries but not bought).

They wanted to know whether direct mail or email was most effective at engaging and converting both these customer groups and how much each cost per sale.

They’re pretty simple yet vitally important questions us marketers want to know, right? And, because of the obvious lack of cost associated with each email send, they kinda took it as a foregone conclusion that email would triumph.

Cold Acquisition campaign

The cold acquisition campaign was split between DM and Email, contacting over 900,000 cold customers with approximately one third receiving email only and two thirds a piece of direct mail.

The result?

  • The email campaign resulted in just 0.02% of email recipients enquiring with a conversion rate of 42%.
  • The DM campaign resulted in almost 1% of recipients making enquiries of which over half resulted in a sale.
  • And when the calculations were made, the cost per sale for the printed direct mail campaign was 57% lower than for the email campaign!

If you run email campaigns, you may be surprised to hear that?

Warm Acquisition Campaign

The team were pretty staggered by the cold campaign results. Not what they were expecting at all. So they turned their attention to the warm acquisition campaign.

Remember, these are prospective customers who’d previously enquired but who hadn’t yet bought. That meant the sample was much smaller. It also meant they were potentially much more valuable than the cold list, so the team opted to not only split the direct mail and email sends as before, but to send most of the list both email and DM to see how they worked together.

The split was approx. 5%/20%/75% email only/DM only/DM & email.

The result?

  • The email campaign resulted in around 3.5% enquiry rate and an enquiry to sales conversion rate of just 3.6%
  • The DM campaign resulted in a slightly lower 2.5% enquiry rate but with an enquiry to sales conversion of a massive 70%
  • The joint email & DM campaign encouraged almost 7% of enquiries but, surprisingly, only a 33% enquiry to sale conversion rate.

That said, when we look at that all important cost per sale, the joint email/DM campaign and the DM-only campaign were pretty similar at around the £20 mark.

The email-only cost worked out around 8 times higher!

Yes, you read that right. Compared to a DM campaign alone or DM combined with email, an email-only campaign to a warm list cost over 8 times more per order.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I thought the results would be.

Hopefully though, now you do know, it’ll give you a little food for thought when planning your next acquisition campaign.

Obviously, this data probably generates almost as many questions as it answers (what data doesn’t?). What was the creative like? Which sectors were involved? What were the data sources and how were the calculations made etc. etc.?

But that’s all part of the journey we all go through to understand our own sector and marketing landscape.

So if you’re looking to run your next acquisition campaign and wanting good advice from our team of print and DM marketing specialists on what formats to choose or to navigate your way through your postage options – all of which will hopefully drive up enquiry and conversion rates even higher still – then your friendly Webmart consultant is always available to help.

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