There is nothing new in stating that there has been a swing in popular opinion away from the digital utopia the noughties promised to a more tangible form ownership. Sales of vinyl records reached a 25-year high in 2016 with artists such as David Bowie topping the charts. Sales in the printed book have also seen an increase in recent years, as some books simply do not translate well into digital format. These facts may not mean that there are burning piles of Kindles or iPods, the portability and instant ownership they bring will always mean the digital age will still be ahead.

In the UK, vinyl sales rose 53% to 3.2 million units, the same volume last reached in 1991. (Digital Music News)

For marketers another, more relevant, shift from digital to physical is the resurgence of mail as a marketing tool against the decline in email marketing. Research has shown that ‘Millennials’ are now more likely to scan their mail than to simply discard it, bringing an added value to your mailings.

In recent times direct mail has been seen as the poor relation to email marketing that offered instant interactive communication with your customer. An email could serve as a doorway to your digital world capturing sales without the need to meet or talk and often at a fraction of the costs to the sender.

The email is accessible to all – no matter what level of creativity or budget is available – as a cure to many marketing headaches. However, like antibiotics, overuse and misuse has weakened the effectiveness and hardened resistance towards them.

The open net that email marketing is able to cast is also soon to be restricted. May 2018 will see the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) become law. The new law is aimed at increasing public confidence in how their data is used by any organisation that holds it and marketing use is included. Only once a specific and recordable opt-in to receive emails has been received can a marketing email be sent. With E-Privacy regulations also set to become law at a later date the days of sending mass emails at the push of a button without a second thought to who it is going to are short.

Today, 87% of consumers rate messages delivered by mail as believable, compared to 48% for email. And 65% feel confident the contents of their mail remain private. People trust mail. (Mailmen.co.uk)

But it isn’t all bad news. The problems and apathy facing email marketing is now being replaced by a new enthusiasm, growth and development of direct mail as a marketing tool.

Like the vinyl record or the printed book, direct mail can provoke an emotional response from the recipient in a tactile connection that emails cannot generate. This sentiment is not necessarily confined to a generation from before mobile technology either; studies show that younger generations also value mail when making purchase decisions. It seems that the opening of an envelope is harder to ignore than a click of an email.

A good piece of direct mail holds many advantages over its email counterpart including time. The instant delivery of emails often needs an instant view of the email along with the call to action and sale is lost. It is stated that the likelihood of an email being opened starts to diminish rapidly after the first 30 minutes. Those not opened in the first 90 minutes are unlikely to be opened at all. In comparison, direct mail can be held by the recipient for many days before they act upon it generating sales long after its arrival.

As easily as an email is personalised, mail can also be used as part of a targeted campaign. The physical nature of mail provides opportunities to send personalised items intended to be kept forming bonds, promoting your brand and showing value to your customers. Although many purchases are made online the value of a catalogue or brochure to browse should not be underestimated. Such literature can be left unread then ignite a sale weeks after the email is out of site and out of mind in the inbox history.

The figures are also good for direct mail over email when it comes to ROI. Mail used with market research and creative design can return excellent results for your investment. Study shows that direct mail performs better at rewarding customer loyalty and up to 10% better than email at securing new customers. Like emails your direct mail can be measured and can provide data for use on your next campaign.

Like emails, direct mail can also be the doorway to your digital world. QR codes, image recognition and augmented reality all have a big part to play in bringing your digital world to your physical mailing. Some technology is freely available to start bringing any direct mail to life. For Example at the top end of the technology two of the biggest exponents are Ikea and Audi. Ikea use augmented reality to enable readers of their catalogue to place items of furniture into their homes before they purchase. Audi use augmented reality in their brochure to place the reader in the driver’s seat of their vehicles giving a full visual experience. There are expected to be 1 billion users of augmented reality by 2020.

As we start 2018 with fresh ideas and new plans will the GDPR make us think again about how we communicate those ideas? There is no saying how much it will change marketing but it is sure to hit email marketing hard. If your business loses the ability to talk, will it lose the ability to survive? It is worth remembering that door-drops carry no personal data and are therefore outside of the GDPR with the emphasis of the GDPR being on the collection and use of personal data.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages your mail will have in 2018 over an email equivalent is that there is a lot less mail to contend with and it is hard to think of a product, service or message that does not communicate well on a good piece of direct mail.