If the past year is any indication, it looks like marketers will continue to have plenty of opportunities to create innovative and relevant direct mail that pushes the envelope – literally and figuratively.
But – and it’s a big but – the postal environment we all operate in will continue to face some longtime challenges thanks to uncertainty around the U.S. Postal Service’s operations and direction.
Because many of its operating rules are set by the U.S. Congress, the USPS has struggled to keep up with a rapidly changing marketplace.
For example, the volumes for some classes of mail have seen big declines, while others have increased dramatically. Many stakeholders have called for major changes to the system for several years.
Meanwhile, you’re wondering …
How will I be able to save money on my direct mail campaigns in the coming year?
What’s happening with omnichannel marketing?
How will politics affect the mail?
With that in mind, let’s see what the crystal ball says is in store for direct mail in the new year with these quick predictions.
Rates Will Increase But …
Yes, it’s true that many postal rates will go up on January 26. Generally speaking, we’re talking about a 2.1% increase for first class presort, a 1.9% increase for marketing mail, and a 3.9% increase in postage for flats.
Fortunately, you have ways to deal with price increases instead of mailing less.
For example, commingling and co-palletization, two workshare methods pushed by USPS, are incentivized with lower rate increases.
Also – how’s your data? Makes sure you’re making the most of it to save on both postage and printing costs.
Promotional Incentives Will Return
Direct mail doesn’t stand still. But, to help it stand out in the mailbox, marketers might need a financial incentive to try new things.
In 2020, the USPS will once again offer a 2% postage discount for direct mail that uses cutting-edge response technologies and printing techniques. The postal promotions are these:
- Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Engagement
- Emerging and Advanced Technology
- Personalized Color Transpromo
- Mobile Shopping
- Earned Value Reply Mail
- Informed Delivery.
Direct mail that incorporates these new technologies will be more eye-catching and useful to all kinds of audiences and, therefore, improve response rates. Because they use data, interactive, and tactile elements like nothing before, mail will be revitalized as a marketing channel.
Informed Delivery Will Continue to Rise
USPS’s Informed Delivery program, which lets consumers who opt in see an image of the mail on the way to their mailbox, is providing new ways for companies to market themselves. The statistics tell much of the story.
As of early December, over 6,000 brands have run more than 31,000 multichannel campaigns. And, 21 million people have signed up to preview their mail via email or an online dashboard. With 200,000 households being added every week, it’s pretty likely enrollment will exceed 30 million by the end of 2020.
Local Mail Will Continue to Rule
According to media research firm BIA Advisory Services, direct mail retained the biggest slice of local advertising in 2019, with 25% of the market, or $37.2 billion. Although digital’s share is growing, nothing yet has the reach of direct mail.
Small businesses and local companies will continue to include direct mail in their marketing mix because – with the right partner – they can target (and re-target) customers with offers segmented by geography as well as other demographics.
Political Mail Will Break Records
In the 2018 election cycle, political campaigns spent $563 million on direct mail alone, the most ever. Expect even more spending this coming year because 2020 brings elections for president, the U.S. Congress, and thousands of state and local offices.
Although TV remains the biggest campaign channel, the sheer volume of ads leads to viewer fatigue. Well-designed political direct mail excels as a voter education and get-out-the-vote initiative and can be even more powerful and engaging when driven by data.
With primary and caucus season starting in January, look for the mail to start flowing all the way through to November.
Postal Reform Won’t Happen (Yet)
A year ago, it looked as if the stars were finally aligning just right for progress in resolving structural issues that have plagued the postal service for years. Some new members were named to start filling out an empty USPS Board of Governors. The administration released a long-promised reform plan, and several members of Congress drew up legislation that relieved USPS of its healthcare prepayment mandate, among other changes. But nothing was moved forward.
Now, in an election year, with less time available on the legislative calendar, any proposals are even more controversial. To complicate matters more, a new Postmaster General will have to be found to lead USPS following the retirement of Megan Brennan. Don’t expect any reform action until after the November elections decide who will be in power and setting the agenda in the years ahead.
Wrapping it up
There’s nothing really groundbreaking coming at direct mail marketers in 2020. The next year is mostly going to be about taking advantage of exciting opportunities to create direct mail that makes a difference.
The challenges? They can seem pretty frustrating. Everyone wants to feel like they have an affordable, predictable, and sustainable mailing environment that lets them reach audiences while producing a great ROI.
It’s important to take a long-term view on your marketing strategy. While we all wait on the policymakers to come together on plans that enable us to have a more dynamic marketplace, look for ways to improve every aspect of your direct mail campaigns.
At mailing.com, our postal experts can help you put together a complete and cost-effective direct mail campaign – from planning to printing to mailing – to accomplish your goals quickly.
Drop us a line or call us! We’d love to show you how to put mail to work in your next campaign during the year ahead..