Millennials and Direct Mail: The Myths Holding Back Marketers

Millennials interact with mail quite differently than you might expect. Why marketers need to rethink how they capitalize on Millennials.

Mon Nov 20 16:13:00 EST 2017

Businesses today pursue Millennials like Ahab did his white whale, and just like the fanatical captain, it seems like many industries are coming up empty handed. Banks, homebuying, chain restaurants – these are just a few of the seemingly countless verticals that Millennials are said to be “killing” due to lack of interest, personal preference, or just about any other reason you can think of.

But, interestingly, one industry has managed to avoid Millennials’ wrath: physical mail.

That might seem counterintuitive. Millennials, after all, are born-and-bred digital natives. This is the generation that grew up in the age of constant connectivity, surrounded by PCs, smartphones, social media and instant messaging. So, you might expect that their receptivity to print communications would be pretty low.

But, if you dig into the research as we have, you’ll find that Millennials interact with mail quite differently than expected. A number of factors – from the immersive nature of mail, to the clutter of email inboxes, to the advancements in data personalization, to their unique perspectives on print and digital content – are creating a phenomenon where Millennials are looking forward to opening their mailboxes.

That’s important insight for marketers who work in digital and print. As we strive to understand this significant population – now America’s largest generation – it will be crucial for marketers to unlearn misconceptions about the ideas and channels that appeal most to Millennials. Because, as the numbers show, this is a generation that doesn’t fit any one mold.

Millennials and Mail

The U.S. Postal Service found that, on average, Millennials spend more than 9 minutes per day sorting through their mail, more than any other generation. They also are more engaged with their mail than the average consumer, taking more time to scan, read and organize their mail. In fact, 50 percent of Millennials say they like to discover what the mail brings every day, and consider scanning their mail time well spent.

Though they prefer to pay bills online, 83 percent of Millennials still use hard copies for bill management. They’re also open to certain types of direct mail: 54 percent said that businesses in their neighborhood need to do a better job of using mail to keep them informed.

Perhaps this preference for print isn’t as big a contradiction as one might think. After all, Millennials also use public libraries more than any other generation. They prefer printed books over digital ones. They’re driving a resurgence in bookstore sales. They make up nearly one-third of U.S. magazine readers.

Ultimately, Millennials appreciate print for the same reasons many people do: the tactile experience and the emotional connection. But, trust plays an important role too. One study found that 88 percent of Millennials believe print is more “official” than other channels, and 82 percent consider it more trustworthy.

The Direct Mail Opportunity

So, is it time to abandon all digital channels? Obviously not.

But, it is important for marketers to understand print’s enduring appeal. Yes, Millennials appreciate this medium, but, more importantly, they appreciate the quality of their interactions with print content – and that’s where some marketers today fall short of expectations.

Businesses need to explore creative direct mail options now more than ever, because we’re just at the start of the Millennial age. This is a young generation that will only gain more purchasing power and influence in the decades to come. It’s critical to understand the channels they care about and reach them in ways that make an impact. Campaigns that combine and maximize the best of print and digital communications are the most effective way to capture the elusive Millennial market.

Pitney Bowes operates on the cutting edge of print and digital commerce, developing innovative solutions that help businesses re-imagine how they reach customers with high-value communications. Learn how we’re combining the benefits of direct mail and mobile advertising to help business drive even more effective campaigns.

The convergence of physical mail and digital channels creates exciting new opportunity for your print-and-mail operation. Read our whitepaper, "Mail: Reinvented and resurgent" to learn more.