How does direct mail translate in the age of the Internet?

DSM Digital School of Marketing - direct mail

In the crusade against environmentally-damaging practices, the world is slowly but surely outlawing print mail. This makes sense, and the reduction of physical posted items will save paper and countless trees. Telkom made the decision to cease sending customers physical bills each month, and instead attach each monthly invoice digitally to an email. So, what exactly is direct mail in the marketing context, how has it changed since the dawn of the Internet, and what does the implementing of the POPI Act mean for direct marketing practices? Let’s find out:

What is direct mail?

There’s a good chance you encounter at least a few direct mails every month. Before the rise of the Internet and its communicative capabilities, marketers and advertisers would send out physical letters (made from cardboard, paper and ink) to people’s physical addresses. Direct mail promotional material has included things like newsletters, postcards, sales letters, catalogues and brochures. Direct mail is commonly used by large corporations who have the budget to afford sending out thousands upon thousands of letters each year.

However, traditional direct mailing is fast becoming something of the past. De-forestation is an eco-taboo, and even paper sourced from responsible sources requires much processing which has a negative impact on the environment. Other than the creation of the promotional posted materials affecting the planet, actually getting the letters to people’s houses involves the use of fossil fuel-driven vehicles – which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Digital direct mail

How many times daily do you check your emails? The physical post box has been replaced by the digital email inbox, and while there are still companies sending out physical posted direct mail – most are going green and facilitating all of their customer-destined content via email. Digital direct marketing offers more affordable, effective ways to bring a brand’s message directly to customers. There is no waste involved, and recipients can instantly consume the content submitted without having to struggle with soggy letters and post box pilferers.

There are two main types of digital direct marketing approaches widely used by brands today:

  • Email Marketing

    Using the two-step direct marketing approach, advertisers can collate interested respondents’ information on a database. If the potential client has offered up their email address, and agrees to a brand sending them promotional material, email marketing is a no-brainer. This involves crafting visually appealing, information-stuffed digital content in HTML or other formats – and sending it to prospective customers on a mailing list.

  • Pay-per-click

    PPC marketing is a digital direct marketing method where advertisers only pay a fee once someone being advertised to clicks on the advert. Google Ads is the most popular PPC platform, but social media sites like Facebook and Twitter also offer pay-per-click marketing capabilities. This qualifies as a direct marketing technique, because brands have granular control over who sees the adverts.

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