Skip to main content

Tug Life IV: Is mail still relevant in the digital age?

by Olivia Williams | 07.06.2018
As the focus of Tug Life is on the future of technology and digital innovation, you’d be forgiven for assuming that there’s no room at our events for more traditional marketing channels such as direct marketing. But we think it’s important to see the whole picture.

Although almost every aspect of our lives has been digitised in recent years – from keeping in touch with friends to banking – one thing that hasn’t changed is our attitude towards paperwork. Because which household doesn’t have a pile of hastily opened letters from the council, bank statements, water bills and restaurant menus lying around somewhere?

Does this mean there will always be a place for post? What impact has the advance of technology and the rise of online marketing had on a proudly British institution – Royal Mail? Has the company struggled to stay relevant in the face of email, instant messaging and paperless workplaces?

pile of letters

We spoke to Sierian Hanner, Head of Insight at Royal Mail MarketReach, ahead of her talk for Day 1 of Tug Life IV. MarketReach specialise in understanding mail as a media channel. Their research gathers valuable information on the role that mail plays people’s lives, and how it works alongside other media channels – and with technology – to help people run their lives.

Hanner will be sharing some expert insights into the role that mail plays in marketing during her talk – The Private Life of Digital Consumers: What happens when your phone’s in the other room.

Deeper engagement

While our email inboxes might be perpetually chaotic or meticulously organised, they’re stored digitally. Physical mail on the other hand, must be shelved, filed or otherwise organised in the home. This means it sticks around for longer than email.

On average, addressed advertising mail stays in the home for 17 days, door drops for 38 days, and bills and statements for 45 days. According to Hanner: “The way we sort and handle our mail offers a unique window into the offline consumer behaviours, discussions, brand and purchase consideration that takes place before people go online.” People have multiple opportunities to reread and engage with mail more deeply than an email, which will be buried beneath newer messages in an inbox within a matter of hours.

delivered letters

Building meaningful relationships

In today’s hyper-connected and digitised world – where people’s email inboxes are flooded with promotional marketing, and social media is increasingly focused around advertising – mail builds a more meaningful and lasting relationship.

Hanner says mail is “a great way to connect with others.  Handmade, tailored or personalised mail will always be valued and help build relationships, whether it comes from companies or from other people.” Indeed, the MarketReach report found that 70% of consumers think better of brands that send them mail, and a further 70% say receiving mail makes them feel valued.

Supporting digital marketing

Most of us probably feel we receive a lot of junk mail, but even so it remains a channel people trust. In a world of fake news, email phishing and GDPR regulations, only 48% consider email believable according to a 2017 MarketReach report. By contrast, 87% of people consider mail believable.

Mail shouldn’t exist in isolation from or in competition with digital marketing. Rather, as Hanner says, it serves to “bridge the gap between our offline world and the digital landscape.

lady collects mail

“It’s more important than ever to offer a mix of formats to consumers and that includes mail.  Mail is used and useful, and – most importantly – we’re starting to see the role it plays to support and amplify tech channels.”

Leaflets, brochures and door drop mail might be the first exposure a person has to your brand, prompting them to go online and browse your website or social channels. 36% of respondents to the survey claimed to have bought something as a result of receiving mail in the past 12 months.

Get your FREE ticket to the Tug Life IV event Humans, life and machines: Is tech good for us? On Tuesday 12th June to hear more from Sierian Hanner on how mail is perhaps more relevant than ever in the digital age.