Designing High-ROI Direct Mail: 5 Ways to Increase Conversions

circle overlay

A recent report found about 40% of millennials regularly purchase items as a direct result of receiving marketing mail — and what’s even more interesting is that the same survey found more 60% are likely to complete a purchase online after receiving a direct mail offer. 

These two data points are hard to ignore, and they both point to the wealth of potential designers and marketers have in using direct mail as a primary means to drive increases in revenue and growth, especially as marketers continue to struggle with the oversaturation of digital channels and increasingly poor email deliverability and performance

With a clear pathway to make an impact on your marketing campaigns, the question becomes: What is the best practice for creating an engaging direct mail piece that increases both conversion rates and ROI? 

Let’s look at five strategies for designing direct mail pieces that will help you achieve these goals. 

Go for QR codes

During the last few years, the popularity of quick response (QR) codes has soared in a variety of applications from restaurant menus to retail signage. And this trend of incorporating QR code technology as a digital bridge shows no sign of slowing down as, a recent study found that more than 89 million smartphone users scanned a QR code in 2022.  

QR codes can help designers extend the content and messaging of their direct mailer by creating a more engaging, interactive experience. Using digital components like videos, infographics, PDFs, and even augmented reality (AR), designers and marketers can educate consumers, increase the value of the direct mail piece, and better entice the recipient to convert all in one piece  — in fact, one company saw a 135% increase in conversion rate when designing their direct mail campaign around QR codes and AR technology

You can also use QR codes to streamline the consumer’s purchasing process. With a strong, clear CTA in place — more on that in a moment — you can design your code to launch an online store or e-commerce platform where consumers can browse and buy with just a few simple clicks. 

When you think CTAs, think clarity

Basic though it may seem, one surefire way to help increase ROI and conversions with direct mail is to consider the step you want the recipient to take, and then make sure the call-to-action (CTA) is clear, concise, and relevant to the content and copy in your mailer. You want to avoid burying your CTA in blocks of copy, and your CTA should use active language — for example, if your desired action is for the recipient to RSVP for an upcoming event, use a CTA like Reserve your spot now or RSVP soon. 

You also want your CTA to create a sense of urgency, and if you can personalize it using VDP,  the recipient is more likely to respond or take the intended action. CTAs should also be short and to-the-point, and you want to insert your CTA in a place where it’s easily accessible and legible — avoid putting your CTA in the crease of a fold or sandwiched between chunks of text. 

This is particularly important if you are incorporating QR codes as your CTA needs to clearly instruct the user on what will happen when they scan the code, and why scanning it will provide additional value. 

Don’t be afraid to get personal

Personalization in print marketing works — in fact, when it comes specifically to direct mail, personalization can help increase response rates by as much as 30%. Variable data printing (VDP) via digital press technology gives designers the power to create highly targeted, personalized direct mailers that can create deeper, more meaningful connections with their recipients — the kinds of connections that can also help increase customer retention and loyalty. 

The trick with personalizing your direct mail piece is to think a bit outside the box in terms of the standard fields like first name or last name. With the right customer data, designers can take personalization one step further and use insights on job titles or industry, customer lifecycle stage, purchase history, regionality, or membership to professional organizations. 

Thinking about personalization on a more granular level can help create a sense of authenticity and familiarity with the recipient, which is important in prompting users to engage, respond, and convert on your direct mail campaigns.  

Make the mailer useful

When we think of adding value to direct mail, we often think about how to make the content more dynamic, engaging, and informative, or how we can use technology like variable data printing (VDP) to create highly targeted content that speaks in a more meaningful way to the user. And while these are certain important considerations, making a direct mailer userful on a more practical level can go a long way toward increasing conversions. 

For example, a recent USPS study found that 69% of participants respond well to direct mail coupons for restaurants, and 65% are very favorable toward coupons for retail businesses. 

Making your direct mailer useful in a way that helps drive conversions — be it in a brick-and-mortar or online context — can be as simple as incorporating perforated discount cards or coupons that can be easily removed and redeemed. Or, in the case of event marketing in direct mail, perforated panels can be designed as reminders or save-the-dates to help drive attendance. 

Keep Informed Delivery® in Mind

USPS Informed Delivery® helps designers and marketers connect the print and digital worlds by allowing customers to view and interact with their daily mail either via their email or online dashboard. Not only does this alert recipients  when your high quality direct mail piece will be arriving, but digital previews also provide a snapshot of the content they’re going to receive. 

What does this have to do with designing high-ROI direct mail? Informed Delivery® allows designers to create digital materials — called ride along content – for recipients to engage with via their email inbox or online USPS dashboard. Examples can include additional discounts, exclusive offers, or unique online experiences, each of which create a more omnichannel approach that designers need to account for when conceiving how their mail piece will look, feel, or fold. 

The additional touchpoints of email notifications and ride-along content have shown to significantly increase direct mail response and conversion rates, which helps you achieve a more robust ROI on your print marketing efforts.


Have you designed a direct mail that helped increase conversions and drive robust ROI? Tell us about the project and we’ll feature it in an upcoming Dots & Pixels project spotlight.