Direct Mail Hanging In

According to the Direct Marketing Association in the recently released 2012 Response Rate Report, direct mail response rates have dropped nearly 25% over the past nine years.  Even so, mail campaigns draw a better overall response than digital channels.  For instance, response rates for direct mail to an existing customer average 3.40%, compared with 0.12% for email, which is roughly a 30-fold difference.  Costs are also higher, which translates to roughly equivalent costs-per-sale/lead for direct mail, email, and paid search.

Response By Selected Media


House List

Prospect or Total

Direct mail (letter size)





















Paid search



Source: DMA Response Rate Report, July 2012

Yory Wurmser, DMA’s director of marketing and media insights, says “... even though direct mail is less effective in driving response than... a decade ago... still is among the best media for generating overall response... likely continued... in the marketing mix, even as... digital channels... gain budget share...”  

Other important findings include: 

  • Transactional data show that only 6% of the actions following an online display advertisement occur immediately following a click, which indicates that click-through rate greatly underestimates the impact of online display
  • Transactional data show that financial services emails had open rates above 30%, which ranked the highest among industries.  Apparel had open rates averaging 14.7%, which narrowly was lower than Publishing & Media (14.9%).  In contrast, data showed Publishing & Media as having the highest action rates per impression (0.013%)
  • For emails, the highest click rate to open rate is for CPG at 46.5%
  • Cost per order or lead for acquisition campaigns were roughly equivalent for direct mail ($51.40), post card ($54.10), email ($55.24), and paid search ($52.58)
  • Email had the highest ROI (28.5), compared with 7.00 for direct mail
  • Email performance went up slightly from the 2010 Edition of the Response Rate Report
  • The highest response rates, nearly 13% to a house list, was produced by telephone marketing.  Telephone marketing also had the highest costs: nearly $78 per order or lead for a house list, and $190 for a prospect list.
  • Costs were generally higher for B-to-B campaigns than for B-to-C campaigns.

For additional information from the DMA Response Rate Report, please visit here.


1 comment about "Direct Mail Hanging In".
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  1. Will Mays from magnetbyMail, August 10, 2012 at 12:41 p.m.

    These stats are very interesting to look through.

    I'm pretty sure their usefulness is mostly academic. (Every marketer knows that actual results could differ wildly, depending on the market, the list, the offer, the presentation...)

    But it's nice to see all the data in one article. It's like walking through a hardware store where every size nut and bolt is on display.

    Nice work, Jack!

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