Direct Mail Marketing: A Guide for Modern Retailers

Direct mail is far from dead—at least for marketers who want to see higher ROI and response rates. According to the 2017 DMA/ANA Rates Report direct mail has the highest conversion rates, above email, social media and other online marketing formats, with postcards at a 5.7 percent response rate and ROI of 29 percent.

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Direct mail marketing is a strategic medium for retailers, allowing brick-and-mortar stores to reach their community directly, driving foot traffic and brand awareness. Ecommerce retailers can be just as effective, as well, using direct mail marketing to send offer codes that can be entered at checkout to drive online purchases.

If you’re new to direct mail marketing, or want to refresh your current campaigns to be more effective, consider how you your retail business can make the most of each direct mail send.

Improve Your Targeting

Targeting your ideal customer with direct mail is easier than ever in our modern world. One of the best ways to do this is with USPS’s Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), which allows you to map your marketing to audience by age, household size or income. In The Complete Guide to Understanding EDDM, print marketing experts MyCreativeShop explain:

“EDDM gets your business in the front door of far more homes than you could reach otherwise. It also allows you to zero in on households that may be most likely to find your business or special offer appealing, all without a mailing list. The size limits give you all kinds of room to share your message or upcoming promotion and even coupons with your recipients. Best of all, EDDM mailers can qualify for a lower per piece rate than a standard postcard.”

When using this service, you need to comply with USPS’s design and delivery requirements. MyCreativeShop breaks them down:


Your materials must be rectangular. Specs include: no more than 15” long x 12” high x.75” thick. The item also can’t exceed 3.3 ounces in weight. The weight will be affected by paper choice, so if you plan to use this targeting method, don’t forget to include that in your planning.


When sending your mailers to the USPS for shipping, you must also adheare to strict guidelines, which include:

  • You can only include 50-100 mailers per bundle and each bundle must be less than 6 inches in height.
  • Keep the size of your bundles the same. Here’s an example from MyCreativeShop: 538 postcards can be grouped in ten bundles of 50 and one bundle of 38 or five bundles of 100 and one bundle of 38, depending on the stacked height.
  • Always follow the USPS requirements for labeling your bundles.


USPS requires all direct mailers to comply with specific labeling requirements. You can see examples in their design guide.


Develop an Eye-Catching Design

Direct mail marketing, like online marketing, is only as effective as its design. Even the best targeting won’t drive conversions if you’re not able to get the attention of your audience. If your post cards aren’t eye-catching, they’ll end up in the trash, so as you develop direct mail campaigns, take the following details into account.


Don’t skimp on color for your direct mailers. Color printed items are 55 percent more likely to be read than black and white, and color increased the likelihood of a purchase by 80 percent, as reported by Canon USA. Stick with your brand colors to ensure consistency—if someone has seen your website or social media sites before, they’re more likely to recognize the item as yours.


Direct mailers in full color, with the name of the recipient, had a 135 percent higher response rate than black and white direct mailer with no name. Using EDDM and other targeting technologies, you can easily personalize your direct mail to have the greatest impact.

Call to action

This is one of the most important elements of your direct mail—especially if you’ve included a link or QR code to a landing page or website. Refer back to your online data as a starting place: which CTAs have traditionally performed best with your audience? Start here and test as you see what’s working and what’s not.

Don’t Forget Tracking

Direct mail took a hit with the recession, and quickly faded out of view as marketers realized they could better track conversions and ROI with online marketing. The good news is, you can easily track conversions and traffic from your direct mail marketing campaigns using one of the following methods.

Trackable phone number

This can be used as a primary or secondary form of tracking. The easiest way to execute this is to use a dedicated toll-free number. This can then forward to your cell phone or business line. Choose a toll-free service that offers call tracking so you can easily login and see data on a dashboard.

Trackable shortened URL

Create a unique landing page, or append a specific tracking code to a page that already exists, shorten it using a tool like Bit.Ly or Google Shortener, and place it in the design of your direct mailer. When people visit the page, you’ll see the traffic, allowing you track how many people “clicked through.” Consider customizing tracking codes for regions or specific demographics to get deeper insights.

Trackable QR code

Like a URL, a QR code makes it easy to track visits to your site or landing page. This makes your direct mailer more interactive as well, which could increase engagement with the mailer and therefore conversions and response rates.

Coupon codes

Coupon codes can be used for physical stores or online retailers as an easy way to track conversions. The shopper can enter the coupon code at check-out or give it to their cashier in the store—all coupon codes will be tracked through your POS, making it easy to see how many conversions came from each one. Make your coupon code even more impactful by making it a limited time offer.

Retailers: Don’t Forget About Direct Mail Marketing

Online marketing has become the norm, but direct mail marketing is still a valuable and important addition to your marketing strategy. Use these ideas to kick-start your direct mail efforts or give current campaigns a much-needed boost. Don’t forget to track every send so you know what’s working and what’s not, allowing you to boost ROI and drive more conversions.