In the old days, direct mail was much less of a precision marketing tool than it is today. Before data analysis made effective targeting possible, it was all about volume and was hard to track the hit rate.

Driving direct mail recipients online

The biggest issue, however, was the method of response. Unless your brand had a physical high-street presence, you were pretty much limited to postal or telephone-based calls to action, neither of which were ideal among an increasingly impatient and tech-savvy audience.

Thankfully, over the past 10 years, the direct mail world has transformed beyond all recognition. We could talk about many things but I’m going to focus on response mechanisms, specifically on how the internet has revolutionised the DM channel, offering instant gratification to recipients and real-time updates for marketers.

It began with a simple URL, usually presented alongside the phone and postal response information, which would drive the consumer to a homepage or, as things developed, a specific landing page. Even then, it would be little more than a form to register your interest and request a callback, thereby avoiding the widespread fear of premium-rate phone numbers that once dogged the industry.

The next big development, which continues to dominate online response mechanisms today, was the QR code. The growth in the popularity of smart devices meant that there was no need to type in a long URL, you just needed to scan the mailer with your phone camera. At the same time, marketers utilised the potential of interactive responses, making specific discounts, promotions and even games for each campaign. The beauty of online responses is that using unique QR codes or URLs, the hook can be tailored for every individual recipient, based on age, demographics, playing habits and spend.

For i-gaming businesses, these developments have revolutionised direct mail, turning it from a largely standalone, one-size-fits-all marketing tool into an integral part of the digital mix. With products that are offered exclusively online, the opportunity exists to tailor all aspects of the direct mail process from the mailer itself to the offer and the games being promoted.

The combination of an individualised mailer and the instant gratification of online play makes direct mail a far more attractive proposition for marketers in the online gaming industry.

The technology will do a lot of the hard work, but the marketer still needs to get things right. The call to action needs to be right for each individual recipient and the online experience needs to match the promise of the mailer. It’s also worth posting a deadline in order to inspire a sense of urgency, but keep this sensible and allow for the vagaries of the postal system.

For new customer campaigns, you also need to focus on the establishment of trust in your brand and product, particularly where i-gaming is concerned.

The next stage in the partnership of direct mail and online will be augmented reality, whereby the mailer and the website are effectively integrated through the camera of your phone or tablet. Think Pokémon Go with a mailer and you’ll get what this means. It’s not new technology, but it has yet to be embraced by the industry on a large scale.

With research showing that millennials love direct mail, however, it won’t be too long before this becomes mainstream.

Niall Carey is interim commercial director of Isle of Man Post Office, where he oversees the Secure Direct Mail division, dedicated exclusively to online gaming direct mail campaigns