Emotions associated with receiving, reading, keeping mail help to explain why it continues to resonate with consumers
OTTAWA – Brands vying for the consumer’s attention face a challenge: to cut through the noise in the lives of people lead awash in digital content, whose attention span expires in seconds.
Now new research offers fresh insights into why an enduring marketing tool breaks through the noise so effectively. Breaking Through the Noise is an ethnographic study that explores how consumers behave with mail, their attitudes and emotions toward it, and how they interact with it. The findings reveal a power in the familiar and the physical: the tactile ritual of receiving, sorting and reading mail. The fact that it occurs in one’s hands and home, combined with the repeated brand exposure from keeping it in the home, helps marketing mail to get noticed, trigger action and even enhance customer value and loyalty.
The study Breaking Through the Noise examined how consumers experience, engage with and manage mail: physical mail, email and social media (Facebook). Researchers observed how they behaved as they sorted messages, tracking eye movements by using a small, specialized camera. In a second stage of the study, subjects completed diary entries sharing their responses to, behaviour around and attitudes toward physical and digital mail. The study also incorporates a review of related and relevant research from around the world.
Key findings include:
- Collecting mail is part of the “coming home” routine, and is so embedded in life that many consumers have “ritualized” it – or made it a routine that is significant for them. People tend to sort it in the same part of the home every time: the kitchen, home office, living or dining room. Every time a brand contacts a customer via mail, it is a unique opportunity embed themselves within and benefit from the positive emotions of arriving in the intimate home setting. This can increase a consumer’s openness to offers.
- Consumers are far more likely to notice, open and read mail than digital forms of advertising. Consumers state they are more likely to notice and read direct mail than email. One third say direct mail is the most effective way to get them to remember a product or service.
- More than twice as many consumers say they enjoy receiving direct mail than digital advertising. They’re more likely to associate feelings of happiness or surprise with physical advertisements, while digital ads are more often experienced as distracting or intrusive. Research in a Royal Mail paper, cited in this study, even suggests more than half of consumers are more likely to feel valued and to have a better impression of a company if they contract them by mail rather than email.
- Direct mail is kept – catalogues and flyers often in the living room, other promotional mail on the fridge or by the couch, restaurant menus in a kitchen drawer. Mail that is kept and displayed presents repeated opportunities to engage the consumer.
- Direct mail persuades, starting by being a go-to source of information and inspiration early in the purchase journey. More than 9 in 10 consumers say they get ideas for household shopping from flyers, and check grocery flyers at least once a month. Around one in five used unaddressed mail for unintentional purchases, and one in three use it to help with planned purchases.
- Direct mail drives traffic, and is a powerful complement to the digital channel: a significant portion of consumers visit a website or a store, or engaged in social media, in response to receiving direct mail or a catalogue.
The paper concludes that in the fierce competition for share of consumers’ fleeting attention, adding direct mail to the customer communication mix can mean the difference between adding to the noise and breaking through it.
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