It's easy for businesspeople outside the print and mail industry to believe the days of postal mail are numbered. Email, social media, texting, and instant messaging apps have largely replaced the humble letter for everyday communication. But mailing professionals familiar with advancements throughout the postal production and distribution environment know mail is far from obsolete. Instead of dealing a death blow, the digital age has, in some ways, helped to reinvigorate it.

Far from seeing the internet as spelling the end of their usefulness, mail service providers have adapted and evolved to leverage the advantages of digital technology. This has helped to keep them relevant and profitable in the 21st century.

Mail production has become more efficient, with digital systems streamlining processes and improving logistics.

Print/mail service providers have integrated postal mail with digital communication tools, creating a seamless customer experience.

Mail continues to offer businesses a tangible way to reach customers that do not engage via digital channels.

The postal service remains a crucial link to those without reliable internet access, including rural and underserved communities.

The Symbiotic Relationship Between Postal Mail and E-Commerce

Before any e-commerce can occur, companies must attract prospective buyers. Digital advertising is one way to do that, but consumers are bombarded with so many digital messages, brands have difficulty getting attention and standing out. Consumers filter or delete unsolicited emails and text messages. They ignore social media and banner ads.

Postal mail exists in an environment with significantly less competition - the customer's mailbox. This message about getting noticed is something print/mail service providers should communicate to potential customers - including e-commerce companies who may have neglected physical mail in the past.

Mailing experts can show customers how postal mail is an excellent way to begin relationships that can then be nurtured though the digital channels most familiar to them. Mail has kept up with the times, including integrating with more modern communication methods.

Many print/mail service providers have adapted their offerings to meet the growing e-commerce demand. This process propels postal mail into a new era of operation, forming a close and mutually beneficial relationship with e-commerce. Mail is trackable and enables easy transition to the digital world via methods like QR codes and pURLs.

Improved postal services enhance the customer experience, fostering more trust and ultimately driving further growth in e-commerce.

Digital growth could revitalize the importance of postal mail in the business world. In this evolving symbiotic relationship, one cannot flourish without the other. Each part leveraging the other's strengths, while helping to balance the weaknesses.

Modernization of Postal Mail: Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness

If your customers believe the extent of direct mail begins and ends with the old Bed, Bath, and Beyond postcards, you have an opportunity to bring them up to speed on how mail has changed. Tell them how affordable variable data printing and personalization changes direct mail from mass marketing to relevant targeted messaging with their customers. Show how you can drive prospects to personalized landing pages with QR codes that turn postal customers into digital connections. Explain how to reduce mailing costs by precise targeting and taking advantage of the USPS postal promotions. Explain how Informed Delivery and Informed Visibility works.

Many companies that could benefit from adding direct mail to their marketing strategy are unaware of what a modern, integrated direct mail program can do for them. With a little work to develop an educational presentation coupled with adequate informational content and case studies from your website, your organization can pursue business from a new group of potential customers.

Bridge to the Digital World: Postal Mail and Customer Experience

Keeping up with the fast pace of the digital world, postal mail has transformed into a unique bridge for companies to connect with customers. It provides a seamless integration between the physical and digital worlds; a comprehensive approach to enhance the overall customer experience.

Mail provides a sense of tangibility; a physical connection that digital communication often lacks.

Personalized direct mail adds a human touch to a company's marketing strategy, creating a more meaningful interaction between companies and their customers. Personalization fosters strong relationships, boosts brand loyalty, and increases consumer satisfaction.

1. Increased Open Rates: Unlike emails that often land in the spam or promotions tab, direct mail has a high open rate. This increases the chances of your customers' marketing messages reaching the target audience.

2. Personalization: Companies can use data about their customers’ preferences, buying history, and behaviors to customize their direct mails. This personalized approach is likely to elicit a more positive response from customers.

3. Trust Building: Because of the publicity about data breaches and scams, postal mail carries more credibility than its digital counterparts. This helps in building trust with the customers.

Customers understand the cost differences between digital messaging and postal mail. They recognize that organizations willing to spend money on direct mail are more trustworthy.

4. Multisensory Experience: The touch, visual appeal, or even the smell of a physical mail piece can create a memorable experience for customers, which aids in strengthening brand recall.

Integration of postal mail with digital tools can further enhance the customer's experience. For example, using QR codes in direct mails can lead customers to a website or promotional video. Augmented reality features turn static mail pieces into interactive encounters, and personal URLs can enable highly personal experiences as customers check out the digital components of a campaign.

Postal Mail: A Vital Lifeline in the Digital Divide

The term "Digital Divide" describes the gap between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not. Even now, countless communities, especially in rural and low-income urban areas, lack consistent, affordable internet access. How do you reach qualified prospects in these communities? This is where postal mail shines.

Companies, even digital-centric ones, can leverage the robustness and reach of the postal service, using traditional mail to transcend the digital divide. In doing so, they connect with customers across varied demographics, including generation gaps, socio-economic statuses and geographically remote locations that are often overlooked or under-serviced by the e-commerce industry.

The role of traditional mail goes beyond being merely a communication tool. It is a veritable lifeline, providing vital services to these communities.

Postal Mail as an Entry Point

I'm going to use a personal example to illustrate just how direct mail triggers online e-commerce.

My wife is an avid catalog shopper. She gets catalogs for clothing, shoes, crafts, collectibles, and more. We get catalogs in the mail nearly every day. I know because I'm the one that brings them back from the mailbox. I also see ads for the catalogs in our daily Informed Delivery digest. Hardly any of those catalogs go directly to the recycle bin. My wife thumbs through them while sitting on the couch or watching TV.

The next thing I know, she's on her phone or laptop, placing an order.

Would she do the same thing responding to an email or online ad? Not likely. She regularly empties her inbox, with most of the messages going unopened. Without the catalogs that come in the mail, she wouldn't be buying as often, and I wouldn't be on a first name basis with the UPS driver.

All kidding aside, the connection between direct mail and online shopping couldn't be stronger in my household. I suspect we're not alone.

The practical incorporation of postal mail into a marketing strategy can provide the edge businesses need to stand out, gain trust, and establish a strong customer relationship. It's a proven on-ramp to the digital highway of e-commerce and it's up to the print/mail service providers to ensure their customers know it.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content that helps attract and retain customers for companies in the document industry and assists companies as they integrate new technology. Learn more about his services at Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.