Should You Use Digital Marketing or Direct Mail?

Should You Use Digital Marketing or Direct Mail?
At one time, direct mail dominated the marketing landscape. Over the last several years, digital marketing has soared as the popularity of direct mail has dropped. Digital marketing not only offers a variety of options to reach the target audience, but it delivers tangible, measurable results in brand loyalty and online sales. However, those are far from the only advantages that digital marketing holds over direct mail.

High ROI

Return on investment (ROI) is top of mind for any company. Your bottom line is the most accurate indicator of the efficacy of your investment dollars, and that depends heavily on connecting with and influencing your potential customers.

With a carefully crafted, well-targeted digital marketing campaign, you can influence more of the right consumer groups at a lower cost than other marketing methods. That means a higher ROI. If you are still on the fence about investing in digital marketing or direct mail, consider these statistics:

  • Smart Insights determined that email marketing returns $40 for every $1 invested, giving it one of the highest returns on investment.
  • Companies that use dynamic video retargeting show a 49% ROI.
  • According to Forrester, not only do digital media campaigns increase sales in year one, but the effect increases over years two and three.


Direct mail is generated from lists that may or may not be updated, accurate, or, ultimately, useful. When it comes to targeting, the best you can do with direct mail is to focus on geography. However, it is very difficult to know if or when your message reaches your intended target audience with direct mail, much less if it converts to sales. Direct mail is difficult, if not nearly impossible, to measure and track.

Conversely, digital marketing can target ads or emails by behaviors and interests. You can easily track what is reaching your audience and what is or is not effective. With real-time statistics, you can quickly tweak your strategy if it isn’t reaching the target or giving you the conversion you were anticipating. With a company website and database, you can send visitors targeted offers and welcome return customers with personalized greetings.


While direct mail has a modest regional scope, digital marketing expands your reach to the entire world. To expand reach with direct mail, companies who still depend on that method have to purchase lists. The quality of those lists can vary greatly. Unfortunately, the low quality of the list may not be obvious for many months.

Direct mail can be compared to playing darts with your eyes closed. You know what you are aiming for, but you have no way to know if you’ve hit your target. Digital marketing allows you to use analytics to create new audience profiles with similar characteristics to previous customers by using lookalike or custom audiences.

The best content in the world does nothing if people don’t see it. The following statistics add clarity:

  • The Digital 2020 July Global Statshot reports that over 50% of people in the world use social media today.
  • Twitter reported 145 million daily active users in Q3 2019 that could be monetized.
  • Per The Content Marketing Institute, the top three marketing platforms are social media at 91%, brand sites at 89%, and email at 87%.
  • Your competitors are leveraging the power of social media, with 71% of companies on Instagram alone.

Brand Awareness

There are limited opportunities for raising brand awareness with direct mail compared to social media and search ads. Having a carefully curated and managed presence on social media allows you to build customer loyalty by actively engaging with your existing and potential customers. When you leverage a variety of content like videos, images, and articles for your campaigns, you gain social currency that increases with each share between users. Entire companies and careers have been created from viral shares. The same cannot be said of direct mail.

Digital Marketing as an Answer

You don’t necessarily have to choose between digital marketing or direct mail. You could reserve some of your budget for direct mail.

But why would you want to?

With direct mail, you have a fraction of the reach, little way to track when or if your prospects receive it, and no easy way to adjust your message to respond to trends.

With digital marketing, you have relatively low cost and high impact options of a company website, social media campaigns, and email marketing combined with quantifiable results on a global scale. You have the ability not only to create target audiences based on behaviors and characteristics of your existing customers, but you can instantly retarget or shift your focus based on emerging trends.

The age of direct mail is over. Digital marketing now reigns supreme.

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