The Future of DM: It’s Interactive

Earlier this week, the Direct Marketing Association released a qualitative report on the future of direct marketing, concluding that it will most certainly be interactive.

More on how the report was put together in a moment. Bottom line: Customers will be in control, analytics will rule and digital marketing will increase.

Earlier this week, the Direct Marketing Association released a qualitative report on the future of direct marketing, concluding that it will most certainly be interactive.

More on how the report was put together in a moment. Bottom line: Customers will be in control, analytics will rule and digital marketing will increase.

The DMA asked more than 35 well-respected direct marketing leaders — including copywriting maven and columnist Herschell Gordon Lewis of Lewis Enterprises, Alan Moss of Google, Jeanniey Mullen of Zinio, and Akira Oka of Direct Marketing Japan — their opinions on the future of direct marketing and their industries/segments. The report provides insight into what these leaders think about the short- and long-term future of direct marketing.

Specifically, they were asked the following questions:
* Where do you think direct marketing will be in five years? Ten years?
* How should direct marketers prepare for these changes?
* How will your industry/segment change during this time?
* How is the state of our nation’s economy impacting your industry/segment?
* How do you think the election of Barack Obama will affect the direct marketing community?

The report revealed the following about the future of direct marketing in the next five to 10 years:

Customers will be in control. Technology has given consumers myriad choices, options and resources that let them find what they want and skip over what they don’t. Technology also will continue to advance, opening up great opportunities for both consumers and marketers.

Measurable and accountable marketing will increase. The health of the economy has made marketers think and rethink about where to put each dollar of their marketing budgets, according to the report. As a result, allocations will move away from traditional channels such as catalog and direct mail into digital channels, which are intrinsically more measurable.

Traditional DM will decrease; digital marketing will increase. Environmental pressures, postal rate hikes and the potential for a do-not-mail bill will result in a decrease in both direct mail and catalog volume. Digital has many advantages over traditional DM, such as its ability to track real-time measurements; create more targeted, relevant and personalized messages; and reach new generations of consumers who were born with a mouse in hand.

Many channels, one message. It’s not all bad news for direct mail and catalogs, though. Integration always has been a key component to direct marketing and will only increase in importance as the number of viable channels increases, the report says. There also will be a movement from single channel campaigns to more integrated, multichannel strategies. These campaigns have the same message across multiple channels, allowing marketers to reach more customers, who have more opportunities to respond via the channel of their choice.

While the death of direct mail will not come in 2009 — or any time in the near future — interactive marketing clearly is growing in importance. If you’re not participating in any interactive marketing programs now, it’s time you start. Your future depends on it.