How to Merge Email and Direct Mail for Powerful Marketing
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October 9, 2018

holiday mail

For many companies, the holidays are a crucial time to drive business. Marketers need a fine-tuned plan to capitalize on the busy shopping season and attract customers. Some include email in their holiday marketing mix, others choose to focus on direct mail. But choosing one channel over the other could do your business a disservice.

By combining email and direct mail, you can target and convert consumers even more effectively. For example, in one study, businesses increased their order value by more than $3 when using the two mediums combined; they also saw a 25% response rate.1 Learn about the benefits of email and direct mail, and best practices for creating a campaign that uses both channels in sync.

Two Potent Channels

Email and mail can make a real impact on holiday sales.

Email has serious reach.
eMarketer estimates that there will be 253.4 million email users in the US in 2018, accounting for nearly 90.6% of internet users and 77% of the population. By 2021, that number will grow to 266.3 million users.2

Direct mail has a high return on investment (ROI).
A 2016 report showed that, in the US, direct mail has a 27% median ROI.3

Email campaigns convert more with a house list.
The same report showed the following conversion rates:

House list rates:                                                                Prospect list rates:
21% open rate                                                                  16.4% open rate
10% click through rate                                                     5.9% click through rate
5.5% conversion rate                                                       4.3% conversion rate4

Personalization makes a difference for both channels.
One study showed that brands that personalize the subject lines of their emails experience 27% higher unique click rates and 11% higher open rates than those that do not personalize their promotional emails.5 By personalizing a direct mail campaign with a customer’s name and location, one company achieved a 9.7% conversion rate.6

Using both channels in tandem can capture more consumer attention during the holidays.
According to a study by Canada Post, marketing campaigns that integrate direct mail and digital media hold 39% more of a customer’s time than digital campaigns alone.7

Consumers prefer email and direct mail during the holidays.
A 2017 survey showed that Internet users most preferred email and direct mail to receive their holiday deals.8

How to Create a Multi-channel Campaign

Consider these best practices when implementing a multi-channel holiday campaign featuring email and direct mail.

1. Decide on the optimal timing.
When planning a direct mail and email campaign, mail is typically the first touchpoint. Once the mailpiece is sent, choose two to four different moments to send out emails. The first email should go out a week after the mailing to keep the original mailing top-of-mind. Send the other emails a few days apart to not overwhelm the recipient. According to HubSpot, Tuesday is the best day of the week to send an email, while 11 am ET sees the highest email click-through rates.9

2. Make sure your branding aligns.
Creative elements in the mailpiece and subsequent emails should match. Leverage the copy and visuals you’re using for your holiday campaigns in both. For example, your holiday tagline can be used in header copy of the mailpiece and the subject line of your first email or its body copy. Be sure your mail and email also leads to the same final touchpoint – whether it’s your website or a holiday microsite.

3. Personalize the content.
Help boost conversion rates by personalizing the copy in your mailpiece. For example, you could include the name of the recipient in header copy and customize content in the rest of the mailpiece to their specific customer segment. For the first email sent out, consider including the recipient’s name in the subject line. This small change can bump up email open rates and direct mail responses.

4. Use a comprehensive mailing list for your campaign.
Creating a house or prospect list for your campaign will be more complicated, since you’ll need to match email addresses to physical addresses. For a house list, work with your internal teams to merge the address data you already have. For a prospect list, work with a list supplier that can tap into a multi-channel database. You don’t want to buy a list that’s missing email or physical address information for the same prospect.

5. Consider using programmatic mail instead of a list.
The latest trend in direct mail leverages programmatic technology to send personalized mailpieces triggered by digital interactions. You’ll need to be sure the programmatic database has customer information that includes email and physical addresses. Once a visitor interacts with a specific touchpoint on your site—whether your homepage, a category page or product page—the programmatic technology will send a mailpiece within 24-48 hours of the interaction.


Nailing down the right marketing mix during the holidays is crucial for year-round success. Sync up your email and direct mail efforts instead of choosing one channel over the other. With a well-timed, well-designed campaign, your business could see increased sales during the holidays.

Reprinted with permission of, a resource for business knowledge and insights. 

1Arthur Middleton Hughes, “Why Email Marketing Is King,” Harvard Business Review, August 21, 2012.
2“Email Users, US 2018 – 2022,” eMarketer, 2018.
3“2016 Response Rate Report,” Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric, as cited by eMarketer, September 12, 2016.
4“2016 DMA Response Rate Report,” Data & Marketing Association, 2016.
5 “New insight from Experian Marketing Services helps brands prepare for the holiday season,” Cheetah Digital, formerly Experian Marketing Services, August 25, 2016.
6Aja Frost, “The Ultimate Guide to Direct Mail,” HubSpot, January 12, 2018.
7 “Connecting for Action Study,” Canada Post, September 2016.
8 “Holiday Retail Insights Survey November 2017,”IFTTT, as cited by eMarketer, 2017.
9David Ly Kim, “The Best Times To Get Your Business Email Opened, Based on Data From 20 Million Emails” HubSpot, 2015.

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