The Future of Post-​Pandemic Direct Mail

BY Rachel Cagle
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This past year has been a tough one for many forms of advertising. Print media, which has had a reputation of decreasing in popularity even before COVID-​19 drove everyone even deeper into the digital realm, was one of the pandemic’s victims. After all, when the pandemic first hit, everyone was afraid to touch things that others had already touched. According to a report by Winterberry Group, direct mail is among the print media that took a hit last year.

COVID-19’s Effect on Direct Mail

Winterberry Group found that the offline media spending in the U.S. for direct mail dropped by 17.2% last year. This brought total spending for this advertising medium down to approximately $34.9 billion. The number of pieces of mail also plummeted in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, direct mail volumes dropped from 77.802 million to 63.752 million. This is a difference of 18.1%.

This drop in direct mail’s advertising spend in the U.S. may seem bad, but it’s nothing compared to other forms of offline media. Six other types of offline media suffered more severe spending cuts than direct mail:

  • Experiential and Sponsorship: Media spending dropped by 49.4% last year
  • Shopper Marketing: experienced a spending cut of 33.2%
  • Newspaper’s ad spending decreased by 28.9%
  • Radio also experienced spending cuts of 27.2%
  • Traditional outdoor marketing spending fell by 21.9%
  • Magazines also had their ad spending drop by 18.5%

The Silver Lining

There is still a ray of hope for direct mail, though, according to Winterberry. The company anticipates this medium's ad spending will rise by 4.8% this year to reach a total of $36.5 billion. Winterberry also estimates that these ads will be the second largest area of ad spending among offline media next year, second only to linear TV ads.

According to a previous SalesFuel blog written by Kathy Crosett, mail was a key marketing tactic before the pandemic hit. “Direct mail delivers the second highest effectiveness score (78%) when marketers integrate, brand and personalize their message,” writes Crosett. “Currently, over 50% of businesses regularly use postcards and letter formats for their direct mail messages. However, they report that dimensional mail, pieces that might contain a product sample or possess another unique feature, score the highest brand effectiveness score (89%).” The direct mail formats that have proven to be the most effective include postcards, letter-​sized envelops and flat-​sized envelops.

Additionally, Crosett suggests adding mail to your client’s next multichannel advertising campaign. “Around 80% of marketers in this study say direct mail shows its strength to influence potential buyers when it’s used in a campaign with other media formats. To keep costs down and increase effectiveness, businesses use marketing technology to personalize content on their direct mail pieces.”


Direct mail has proved to be one of the top types of ad media that influenced American consumers to take action last year. Your client’s target audience is likely among them. To figure out for sure, and to learn which other types of media to include in a multichannel campaign, check out your client’s target audience’s profile on AudienceSCAN on AdMall by SalesFuel.