Consumers Prefer Direct Mail to Email

December 5, 2011

epsilon-attitudes-toward-postal-mail-and-email-dec11.gifAlmost 3 in 5 American consumers report that they enjoy getting postal mail from brands about new products, compared to just 43% who say they enjoy getting emails from brands on new products, according to a study released in December 2011 by Epsilon Targeting. Data from the “2011 Channel Preference Study” indicates that a similar gap exists for Canadian consumers: 66% enjoy being notified about new products via postal mail, compared to 55% who report that enjoyment from receiving marketing emails about new products. Notably, the preference for direct mail extends to the 18-34-year-old demographic in both the US and Canada.

The percentages refer to the proportion of the respondents agreeing with the relevant statement based on top 2 selections on a 5-point scale.

Direct Mail Preferred in All Categories

epsilon-channel-preference-categories.jpgConsumers in the US and Canada prefer postal mail to email in all industry categories studied: among American consumers, some of the largest disparities in preference are seen in the sensitive health (41% vs. 8%), prescription (37% vs. 9%), insurance (36% vs. 9%), financial services (36% vs. 8%), food product (31% vs. 10%), and household services (25% vs. 7%) categories, although these consumers are twice as likely to prefer receiving retail information by postal mail than email (25% vs. 12%). Much of this is related to privacy concerns: 37% of US consumers feel traditional mail is more private than email, and just 8% feel that the internet is “more anonymous.”

3 in 4 Americans Overloaded With Emails

75% of US and 61% of Canadian respondents to the survey say they get a lot more emails that they do not open, while 65% of American and 52% of Canadians say they get too many emails in one day. According to a November study from MarketLive and the e-tailing group, 39% of consumers would like to receive emails weekly from retailers with whom they have opted in, more than double the proportion indicating the second-most preferred option, twice a month, and triple that of the third-most preferred choice, 2-6 times a week. In fact, more consumers would prefer to receive emails on a monthly basis (13%) than on a daily basis (8%).

In addition to email overload, the Epsilon study also shows that the perception that reading email is faster has declined among US email account holders to 45% in 2011 from 47% in 2010, suggesting that clogged inboxes are draining time.

Newspapers, Company Sites Most Trusted in US

Newspapers and company websites are the most trusted sources of information for US consumers, rated by 21% of respondents as a top 3 box score on a 10-point scale. Brochures/flyers/direct mail (16%) and TV (15%) follow relatively closely, with email (10%) and social media channels trailing far behind: less than 1 in 10 Americans point to Facebook (8%), blogs (6%), YouTube (6%), Twitter (6%), and other social media sites (6%) as trustworthy sources.

Among Canadians, TV (21%) is perceived to be the most trustworthy source of information, ahead of newspapers (16%), brochures/flyers/direct mail (15%), and company websites (13%).

Other Findings

  • 34% of US consumers who prefer email over mail cite “saving on paper” as the main reason, up from 21% in 2010. The top reason for preferring email is the ability to choose which information is sent (42%), slightly ahead of the ability to print the information to keep if desired (41%).
  • Among US consumers who prefer postal mail, the leading reason is that it is perceived as more private if sent through the mail rather than sent by email or online (37%), while roughly one-third say they already get too much email.

About the Data: The Epsilon study is based on completed responses of 2,226 U.S. consumers and 2,574 Canadian consumers to an online survey conducted in August 2011. A 15-minute questionnaire was presented to respondents aged 18 and older.

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