Direct Mail Has a Larger Impact on Purchase Decisions than Digital Ads - pel hughes print marketing new orleans la

In today’s digitally-driven world, it’s almost taken for granted that anything that comes in digital form is going to be more successful. We’ve seen this with everything from online shopping to digital reading, and of course how we communicate with friends, family and customers. Managing marketing and advertising should be no different. 

However, recent studies are showing that this may not be the case when it comes to influencing consumer purchase decisions. This article discusses some of the ways that science and statistics are proving that direct mail is having a larger impact on purchase decisions than advertisements that come in the digital form. 


Despite the growing popularity of marketing and advertising across online media channels, there has been little research into the exact effectiveness of these channels and the impact on consumer purchase decisions. A recent study by Temple University shows that online ads are actually being outperformed in eight out of nine categories by direct mail. 

Temple’s study used 40 digital (email) ads and direct mail ads, and three monitoring methods with their study participants. These monitoring methods included: eye-tracking measured visual attention, fingertip sensors measured bio-response to reveal emotional engagement, and MRI scans uncovered deep brain activity. 

“While participants in this project showed no preference between physical and digital advertising when responding to surveys, neuromarketing techniques revealed different subconscious physiological responses among participants,” according to the researchers. 

The study revealed that although digital ads are grabbing consumer attention faster, direct mail marketing holds consumer attention longer, generates stronger emotions, and has a more significant impact on consumer purchase decisions. 


Aside from scientific research studies, statistical analysis are also proving that direct mail has a larger impact on purchase decisions over their digital counterparts. This includes direct mail outperforming digital ads in response rates, popularity, and the tangible effect that direct mail has on purchasers. 

Let’s look at some of these statistics:

  • Generally, direct mail is providing advertising companies in the US with a 1,300% return, with an average ROI of between 18 and 20%. 
  • Direct mail had a response rate of 4.9%, the highest since 2003, and still pulls a higher response rate than any digital direct marketing medium. 
  • Direct mail is the second-most used medium at 57%, and a staggering 81% of advertisers plan to maintain or increase usage of direct mail in the next year.  
  • As seen from the study above, 76% of consumers trust direct mail when they want to make a purchase decision.
  • US households receive approximately 121.2 billion pieces of mail annually, and across all ages, over 40% of these households look forward to checking their mail each day.  

The constant popularity of direct mail, even with the rise of digital platforms, is largely due to the tangibility and activity that direct mail offers. The motivational response that direct mail offers is 20% higher than that of digital media, and it requires 21% less cognitive effort to process.


Ask the Millennials 

Although perhaps not always the best group to turn to when seeking advice, millennials (those aged 23 to 38) are currently the most relevant generation when it comes to general purchasing influences. And it seems that university studies and statistical analyses are right on par with how millennials view direct mail over digital ads. 

In a recent survey of millennials, 30% said that they prefer direct mail as a advertising tool, while only 24% said email. Moreover, millennials are opening direct mail at a rate consistent with their previous generations. In 2018, the opening rate of millennials was 70%. Because of this, direct mails continue to dominate among the marketing techniques used by companies. 

IN addition to all of this, direct mail doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s expected to grow 5.4% for B2B Direct Sales this year alone.