Survey: Personalization and Direct Mail Spark Higher Engagement Among Digitally Fatigued Audiences

PFL’s “2022 Hybrid Audience Engagement Survey” Reveals Fully Remote and C-level Audiences Are Experiencing Significant Levels of Digital Fatigue

In today’s business landscape, the competition for impressions, clicks, and mindshare is fierce. Despite increasingly powerful and ubiquitous digital marketing tools, many businesses find themselves struggling to gain traction among customers and prospects. To better understand the difficulties that many companies face in capturing audiences’ attention, PFL, a leading hybrid experience company, surveyed more than 600 U.S.-based enterprise professionals. The results of PFL’s “2022 Hybrid Audience Engagement Survey” found that personalization, content, and physical marketing tactics, such as direct mail, can have a significant impact on brands’ abilities to reach burnt-out audiences.

According to the survey, more than half (52.4 percent) of enterprise employees experience fatigue due to the volume of digital promotions they receive at work. Respondents indicate they receive an average of 65 promotional emails while at work every week. Those at higher levels in organizations—manager through C-level respondents—receive 2.5x more promotional emails weekly than entry-level and associate-level respondents. It is even more extreme for fully remote workers, who receive almost 6x as many promotional emails per week than individuals at hybrid companies. In this saturated digital landscape, 56.8 percent of professionals indicate they are more likely to open something received via physical mail versus an email—presenting marketers with a clear opportunity to incorporate or reincorporate direct mail into their overall audience engagement strategy.

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“In today’s Attention Economy, the ability to capture audiences and earn their engagement has become a scarce commodity. Digital fatigue is a reality for many individuals, which means brands must find new ways to inspire customers to take action,” said Nick Runyon, CEO of PFL. “Our latest research sheds light on today’s highly competitive B2B marketing landscape and how companies can use hybrid strategies to stand out to customers and prospects.”

Audiences Are Inundated by Digital Communications, Leading to Rising Levels of Fatigue

According to the “2022 Hybrid Audience Engagement Survey,” employees at fully remote companies are more affected by digital communications than their counterparts at companies operating in a hybrid model. The average number of promotional emails received by fully remote respondents is 172.6 per week, compared with just 31 per week for individuals at hybrid companies. Additionally, the more senior the position, the more likely respondents are to receive a higher volume of digital communications. Entry-level and associate-level respondents receive an average of 28.45 promotional emails per week, whereas decision makers—manager through C-level—receive an average of 79.9 every week.

Digital fatigue—which is defined as a state of mental exhaustion brought on by the excessive and concurrent use of multiple digital tools—is a growing issue in the workforce. More than 50 percent of respondents report being fatigued due to the volume of digital promotions received at work, with digital-fatigue levels significantly higher among fully remote organizations. Sixty-three percent of respondents whose companies are operating fully remotely report digital fatigue, compared with 49 percent of respondents at companies working in a hybrid capacity. The survey also revealed that individuals in certain departments are experiencing fatigue more acutely than others. More than 70 percent of respondents in marketing and 66.4 percent of those in IT report they are experiencing digital fatigue. Professionals working in the legal field are less likely to experience fatigue, which was reported by only 20 percent of legal respondents.

In addition to heightened levels of fatigue, 55 percent of all respondents indicate they feel overwhelmed by the volume of digital promotional communications they receive at work. This was particularly true for respondents in leadership positions, such as C-level respondents (80 percent) and director-level respondents (72 percent).

Runyon commented: “As individuals continue to struggle with digital overload, marketers will need to embrace new strategies and tactics that leverage the strengths of person-to-person interactions to supplement the missing ‘human connection’ element of digital marketing. Strategies that include a hybrid mix of online advertising, direct mail, and virtual events will enable the entire marketing lifecycle and customer experience to feel more human. By forging stronger person-to-person connections, companies can reduce the digital exhaustion that audiences experience today.”

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Personalization and Physical Touchpoints Help Brands Stand Out and Drive Conversions

On average, direct mail leads to much higher open rates than do digital communications, with some studies suggesting that direct mail open rates might be as high as 90 percent. This trend is validated by the “2022 Hybrid Audience Engagement Survey,” which found that 56.8 percent of respondents are more likely to open something sent in the mail than an email. This is especially evident among C-level respondents, with 72.5 percent indicating they would be more likely to open something sent in the physical mail. This number jumps significantly when the person is already familiar with a brand. The majority of survey respondents (89 percent) indicate they are more likely to open something received in the mail from a company with whom they have an existing relationship, than a company with whom they do not have a relationship—validating that physical touchpoints, such as direct mail, serve an important function when delivered during the right phase of the sales cycle.

When companies do not already have an existing relationship, providing monetary value or using personalization are the most effective means of breaking through. When asked what would most impact their likelihood of opening mail, respondents indicated that something of monetary value (39.8 percent) or something personal (30.8 percent) would increase the chances of opening the piece.

The survey also revealed that respondents are significantly more likely to respond and engage with a brand after receiving personalized physical mail (54 percent) rather than other forms of communication, such as a personalized email tailored to the respondent’s interests (32.1 percent) or a templated email with their name in the subject line (13.9 percent).

When asked what action they would take after receiving a piece of direct mail, respondents indicated they are most likely to visit a brand’s website or research the company (36.9 percent), keep the company in mind for the future (21.1 percent), and send the company an email inquiry (10.8 percent).

Direct Mail Experiences Can Make a Lasting Impression

Properly personalized and creative physical direct mail experiences can have a significant impact on an individual. The “2022 Hybrid Audience Engagement Survey” found that 62 percent of fully remote employees are likely to act after receiving something in the mail. Among C-level respondents, the figure rose to 68 percent. In all, 54 percent say they are more likely to engage with a brand after receiving a personalized piece of physical mail.

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Survey respondents were also asked to share the best or most memorable piece of direct mail that they had received from a business. The open-ended responses varied greatly, largely consisting of the following core themes: promotional or sales materials, swag, HR-related materials, chocolates, and holiday cards. Some unique responses included:

  • “A remote-control Formula 1 car”
  • “An oven mitt from a snack company”
  • “A calendar of puppy pictures”
  • “A free promotional gourmet meal”
  • “A food scale, waist measure, and step counter from a health company”

“While poorly targeted direct mail will be ignored by consumers just as frequently as off-base digital ads or email blasts, properly executed direct mail can create genuinely memorable and impactful experiences. When integrated into an organization’s overall marketing strategy, direct mail allows companies to drive greater ROI and increase brand affinity among current and future customers,” concluded Runyon.

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