Direct Mail Goes Digital

Digitize Direct MailLast week’s blog post (Think Direct Mail is Old School?) introduced the fact that direct mail can be used to seamlessly blend offline and online marketing. It can do more than simply deliver messages on a page. When combined with digital channels and the latest mobile technology it allows a quick scan, swipe, or tap of a smartphone to automatically connect recipients to your business and turns a mail piece into a gateway to personalized content, promotions, experiences and more.

Digitally Enhanced Direct Mail

Direct mail can work to drive highly targeted, motivated prospects where you want them to go. To capitalize on the effectiveness of direct mail, try incorporating digital enhancements into your message to make it stand out in a fun and exciting way, motivate immediate response, collect real-time consumer data, and facilitate two-way communication.

NFC (Near Field Communication)
NFC is a wireless technology that allows two NFC-enabled devices to communicate with each other, or an NFC-enabled device to communicate with an NFC tag (a small chip usually embedded in a sticker, on printed material or inside a product). NFC is activated simply by tapping the device against the mailer which may result in a launched website, application or information being downloaded to the device.

Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) allows anyone with a smartphone or tablet to transform a printed advertisement, postcard, or still image into a live 3D video experience simply by pointing their webcam at it. AR draws consumers into a personalized retail experience by overlaying a new digital world onto the physical world. It turns 2D into 3D, giving consumers a reason to engage with and hold onto a promotional piece. AR can instantly transform a static direct mail piece into anything from a virtual shopping trip, vacation experience, swing of the bat, or the personification of the product simply by scanning an image, photo, or code.

Personalized URLs allow consumers to access landing pages which contain information unique to them; a tactic that’s proven to drive response. Unique codes printed on direct mail pieces may be used to deliver more information, rewards, coupons and special offers to consumers via their own PURL. Visits to PURLs and use of unique codes are highly trackable and marketers will not only know “how many” responded, but “who” responded for prompt follow-up and improved sales conversions.

QR Code
The most common, simplest, and most easily recognized enhancement is the QR Code. A QR code is a two-dimensional, square barcode that can store large amounts of unique data and, when scanned, can launch a specific action. QR codes not only allow consumers to immediately access coupons, landing pages, product information or other data directly from their mobile devices, they also enable marketers to collect data on consumer activity and track the effectiveness of marketing elements in real time. QR Codes eliminate the gap between customer response and delivery of coupons, product information, special offers, or other marketing follow-up communications. QR code programs are very affordable; in fact there are many free QR Code generators and readers available online.

Ensure Success
When designing your next mail piece, first think about what you want your target audience to do (visit your website, make a phone call, send an email, launch your latest video, complete a survey, sign up for newsletter, make an online purchase), and how a mailing that includes a digital response option will accomplish that goal. Then, work with your direct mail provider to select a digital enhancement that is appropriate for your audience and your budget. Keep in mind that many of these programs require your direct mail provider and your audience to have specific software in order to create and use the technology. If you and your audience are new to these programs you may want to include some instruction or guidance on needed software and where to download. Other important considerations for success:

Offer an Incentive to Scan
New digital enhancements can be fast and easy, but people still need a good reason to grab their phone and use it. Make sure connecting with you is worth their while by offering them information or an offer they won’t want to miss such as a link to exclusive or time-limited content, a video, a landing page, email sign up form, or even dial a phone number. Send out special offers such as coupons or discounts.

Make Your Destination Mobile Friendly
When scanning customers/prospects will need to use their smartphone or tablet, so make sure the place they’re headed to is optimized for mobile viewing. If you don’t, they’ll click away and your opportunity will be lost. Once respondents visit the landing page featured in the mail piece, an embedded tracking code on that landing page can be set up to trigger targeted online ads to be served to the respondent after they’ve left the site. Direct mail will drive people to online engagement; make sure you are ready for them.

Include a Call to Action
A clear call to action lets your customer/prospect know what they should do next, and what’s in it for them. Tell them why they should scan your mail piece, for example “scan here to receive your free gift” or “scan to watch our two minute marketing 101 video.”


With all of the digital innovations over the past few years, the bottom line is clear. Direct Mail is as strong as ever and careful integration with digital marketing tactics such as those outlined above is a great way to maximize ROI.

Your customers and prospects are likely active both online and off. Using new digital enhancements as part of your next direct mail campaign will provide you with important touches and allow you to connect with them at both “locations” to reinforce your message.

Let’s start by adding a QR Code to your next direct mail campaign. Call us to get started.