Direct Mail vs Online Advertising

Direct mail vs. online advertising is a common argument. In the age of the internet and the power of social media, online advertising is often thought of as the superior marketing campaign medium. However, with the recent developments in direct mail marketing the differences between the two methods are fewer, and this suggests it’s time for a re-evaluation of the situation.

Differences between Direct Mail and Online Advertising

Direct mail marketing is the more traditional marketing campaign process, compared to online advertising. Research has shown that print ads are more effective than online ads. Today, we are so immersed in the digital world and junk email, whereas print ads evoke stronger emotions, and you are also able to hold onto the ads.

Online ads are ideal for offering your services to consumers, and for them to purchase there and then. For example, if someone sees an ad for a particular clothing item online, they can click through to the website and buy the item within minutes. Therefore, an online advertising campaign is perfect for impulse buyers and speedy purchases. However, direct mail invokes  customer loyalty and trust for larger buys. For example, you might not click on an online ad for a mortgage company, but if you receive personalised direct mail regarding the business – you might be more likely to click through.

Advantages of Direct Mail

Direct Mail Online Ad

To truly come to a conclusion about  direct mail vs. online advertising, you must first analyse the advantages of each. There are many benefits to direct mail; one such is building trust with your target customer. Speaking to them directly, rather than via an online ad, gains consumer loyalty and, thus, builds that elusive trust. As you do this, responses will increase as will revenue. Direct mail consistently has higher response rates than online and email marketing – it’s a powerful tool for raising brand awareness and improving ROI.

You only have to look at your email inbox to understand the power of direct mail. Our inboxes are regularly full of junk email, but people still pick up their physical mail. As discussed in this direct mail study, 77% of audiences still sort through their direct mail, so you have a high chance of cutting through and being seen by the right people.

Advantages of Online Advertising

Online Ad

A significant advantage to online advertising is, of course, how speedy and effective it is for the consumer, and your business. If your target customer sees a particular online ad while they are browsing the internet, they can click through and purchase it straight away. In turn, this will improve your brand awareness and visibility. Online advertising also allows a business to reach significantly more people than you would with direct mail, again improving your brand and sharing your services with a larger audience. However, this becomes a disadvantage when compared with direct mail, which targets fewer people but is often hyper-personalised – adding more value to the consumer’s life and buying habits.

Types of Direct Mail

Direct mail marketing can take many forms and, when used correctly, can guarantee large responses from your targeted customer. The types of direct mail can include:

  • Postcards
  • Catalogues
  • Brochures
  • Self mailers
  • Lead letters

It’s worth noting that creating unique and personalised direct mail campaigns will improve response rate. We’ve highlighted 10 creative examples of direct mail marketing to keep in mind when producing your next campaign.

Types of Online Advertising

Similar to direct mail marketing, online advertising can also take many forms. The most common types of online advertising are as follows:

  • Social media (Facebook ads are an excellent example)
  • Banner advertising
  • Newsletter advertising
  • Pay-per-click advertising (Google Adwords)


While we are in the age of online advertising, direct mail marketing has not lost its power. At WDM, we specialise in direct mail and personalised direct mail services to improve your business. If you would like to speak to one of our team about our offerings and what direct mail can do for your company – just give us a call.

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