The Success of Snail Mail in a digital world


Anthony Halliwell, General Manager at Shipley Creative chats to Bingo Life

It’s 2018 and despite the unrelenting progress and presence of the digital and online worlds in people’s lives, traditional direct marketing remains a powerful communication and sales tool that can often be overlooked.

UK total inland letter volumes declined by 3.1% p.a. from 2005 to 2008, and by 6.3% p.a. from 2008 to 2013, driven by the economic downturn and increased use of electronic mail: meanwhile UK parcel volumes grew by 4.3% p.a. from 2005 to 2008, and by 3.7% p.a. from 2008-2013, driven by online shopping.

While these figures and drivers may seem obvious, the consumer path to shopping online and engaging is in many cases not just driven by electronic e-mail or online search, but receipt of physical communication – letter, brochure or catalogue – direct to their door: snail mail.

Some businesses, such as Amazon, started in the digital age, while others have evolved, with most already having accommodated, to some degree, digital/electronic communication into their business. The level to which electronic communication has been substituted for paper varies greatly between and within sectors, depending on both the senders’ and recipients’ attitude toward it: affected by a range of factors such as familiarity with technology, access to the internet, age and mailing costs.

Declines in letter (paper-based comms) volumes is set to continue, though the rate of decline will slow: importantly for operators in the delivery sector this is something that will be partially offset by the growth of parcels traffic, as online shopping transaction volumes increase.

Despite the attention currently paid to digital marketing, offline methods such as direct mail can still play an important part in customer communication and engagement. While digital offers many cost benefits, the ease with which it can be used has created an increasingly crowded online space, where consumers are bombarded by such huge volumes of messages and alerts that they are either using technology to block them, for example spam filters and pop-up blockers, or just tuning-out.

Some are inclined to pit traditional mail against electronic communication, placing the emphasis on the channel rather than the customer, which can be counter productive, minimise returns on marketing spend and alienate customers.

The land-based bingo sector is an interesting mix of traditional and new, with products and venues that increasingly make the most of technology, but with a client base that contains customers who are as much fans of the traditional as they are the new, and covering all ages.

Direct marketing is about talking directly to customers, as individuals, stepping right into their lives as soon as they open their mail – whether that be paper-based or electronic.

We spoke to Shipley Creative, who cover both electronic and paper for a range of clients, to hear first-hand if we truly are living in a digital world.

“Traditional direct mail is anything but dead,” says Anthony Halliwell, General Manager at Shipley Creative, “A great example of the power of direct mail marketing is the recent campaign commissioned by Clifton Bingo in York: the week ending 4th March this year saw one of the coldest weeks on record for March, but whilst most of the bingo industry saw a 20% downfall in their admissions, Clifton Bingo had an amazing 15% increase, all due to timely direct mail.”

Shipley Creative spoke to Clifton Bingo in January about a new marketing campaign and after looking at the many options available the team and client decided against a traditional ‘envelope’ mailer promotion: still sticking with traditional mail, they chose an innovative ‘breakopen’ direct mailer.

The unique and engaging mailing piece certainly helped Clifton Bingo achieve a successful mailing campaign, especially given the horrendous weather and business decline experienced elsewhere in the industry.

“Breakopens are ideal for, ‘Everyone’s a winner campaigns’,” says Halliwell, “Either through direct mail or as in-house promotions given out in club. These, along with other formats of direct mail designed, printed and fulfilled by us at Shipley Creative, added up to over 5 million pieces of traditional mail sent out over the last year.

“With less competition on the doormat, traditional mail is increasingly less likely to be seen as ‘junk mail’ than many e-mails: with a strong targeted message it can bring in a good response rate.”

Shipley Creative, who have worked with the club bingo sector for many years, know the business and provide access to advice from experienced industry experts who can help clients plan, create and implement a campaign from start to finish, and ensure that it integrates with other communication and promotional activity. Using their in-house design, print, finishing and fulfilment services, costs are highly competitive - you don’t even have to lick your stamps to get the best rates!

Shipley Creative: or Ellesmere Street, Leigh. WN7 4LQ

Interview Originally Published Summer 2018 Bingo Life magazine