Online Americans Prefer Receiving Marketing Info Via Postal Mail Than Email

December 5, 2012

Surprise! Americans would generally rather receive marketing information from brands via postal mail than over the internet or by email, per survey results from Epsilon. (Actually, that’s not a big surprise: Epsilon found the same thing last year.) That general preference for postal mail extends even to smart device owners, although they are more likely than those who don’t own such devices to prefer receiving information online or over email.

Looking first at the general sample, the survey finds that across 18 different categories, postal mail is preferred in 15. The biggest gap is for sensitive health information: 42% would want to receive such information via postal mail, compared to 11% over the internet and 8% via email. Privacy concerns no doubt play a role. Similar gaps emerge for information from financial services, mail order shopping, insurance (more on email marketing for insurance here), and food products, although the gaps are narrower. The only 3 categories where postal mail is not favored are: hobbies or interest (26% choosing the internet, 24% postal mail); travel (32% choosing the internet; 22% mail); and online sites to shop at (32% the internet; 19% email; and 12% direct mail).

When segregating by smart device ownership, the general preference for postal mail remains across most categories, though the trends shift. According to the report, tablet users in the US in particular are roughly 50-60% more likely to prefer receiving information via email and the internet.

3 in 4 Say They Get a Lot of Emails They Don’t Open

Further data from Epsilon’s “2012 Channel Preferences Study” indicates that 73% of American respondents to the survey agree that they get a lot of emails that they simply don’t open. That could be a result of clutter: a recent report found 4 in 10 respondents saying that more than half of their new emails are from marketers. Indeed, 70% of the Epsilon survey respondents said they’re getting more emails than before.

That email volume may explain preferences for postal mail. But it’s not just negative attitudes towards email that might be pushing respondents to favor postal mail. In fact, 6 in 10 say they enjoy geting postal mail from brands about new products. Only 4 in 10 could say the same about getting emails from brands.

When respondents were asked why they prefer postal mail to email or online information, the ability to read the information when convenient was the leading reason given, by 73%. (One wonders why that same ability isn’t present for online and email, too.) The next-most popular reason was the ability to refer back to the information when needed, cited by 61% of respondents.

Interestingly, among those who prefer digital channels (email/online) to postal mail, those same 2 reasons topped the list, though in the opposite order, and with less enthusiasm. 45% said they preferred the email/online route because they could refer back to the information when needed, and 42% cited the ability to read the information when convenient.

Direct Mail More Trusted Then Email

Overall, trust in brochures, flyers, and direct mail is fairly low, but still beats out email. 16% of US respondents gave a top-3 box score (on a 10-point scale) to their trust in those sources, compared to 12% for email. That landed email at the bottom of the list. When breaking down the responses by gender, women came out as more trusting than men on both counts: 19% compared to 13% for brochures, flyers, and direct mail; 14% compared to 10% for email.

The most trusted information sources were doctors and nurses, pharmacists or other healthcare providers, and friends and family. Newspapers, company websites and online search engines comprised the next tier of trust, getting the vote from about 1 in 5 respondents.

About the Data: The Epsilon report on channel preferences for the receipt of marketing information is based on the completed responses of 1,991 U.S. and 3,816 Canadian consumers to an online survey conducted in June 2012. The survey is representative sampling of U.S. and Canadian consumers. This article is based on responses from US consumers only.

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