The 1-2 Punch: How to Combine Direct Mail & Email Marketing to Nurture, Convert & Retain Customers

May 30, 2023
The 1-2 Punch: How to Combine Direct Mail & Email Marketing to Nurture, Convert & Retain Customers

30 Second Summary

Instagram and avocado toast. Mario and Luigi. Email and direct mail. 

Think one of these pairs doesn’t belong? Wrong. They’re all things that work beautifully together. 

Email and direct mail aren’t competitors; they’re complimentary channels in a smart ecommerce marketing portfolio. Together they can help nurture leads, convert customers and increase customer lifetime value. 

How Direct Mail and Email Marketing Stack Up

Before you start layering direct mail and email marketing together, it’s important to understand the strengths of each channel. 

Email and direct mail have some significant similarities. Both are trackable and can be automated. Both enable one-to-one personalization—you can customize everything from greetings to visuals to discount codes. 

The big differences between email and direct mail are in reach, response, speed and cost. One isn’t better than the other—they have advantages that complement one another, which it’s why it’s smart to use them in concert. 

Reach: Email is easy to send and has a broad reach. Open rates generally max out around 30%. Direct mail has an estimated 90% open rate, because there’s less competition in physical mailboxes. 

Response: According to Campaign Monitor, the average email click-through rate is 2.3%, which means volume is important. The Data & Marketing Association shows an average 9% response rate for direct mail campaigns, but those campaigns will cost more. 

Speed: Email can be sent on a moment’s notice. Direct mail requires slightly more lead time—for direct mail platforms like PostPilot, a handful of days. 

Cost: Email is less expensive, with no printing or postage costs. Direct mail is a more premium channel that should be deployed strategically. 

In short, email is cheaper and faster to send,  while direct mail typically has more engagement and reach. Those characteristics inform how you should use the two channels together: 

Why Direct Mail is Important to the Customer Journey

Some brands think of direct mail as a “traditional” channel that isn’t needed for modern marketing. In fact, direct mail is getting more essential every day for DTC ecommerce brands. 

Privacy changes have made it harder to retarget customers with online ads. Digital acquisition costs have been going up. Apple beefed up its SMS filtering features. And at the end of the day, not everyone is going to open every email you send. Diversifying your marketing strategy is always a good approach for reaching and engaging more customers.

Direct mail is an end run around many of those challenges. 

•  It stands out 

With direct mail, you don’t have to worry about “banner blindness.” And while typically 80% of email gets filtered out to trashed without being read, direct mail has an almost perfect open rate. It’s a way to avoid getting lost in the digital tsunami. 

•  It’s predictably priced

Direct mail costs don’t go up because it’s Q4 or there’s a lot of competition for your favored keywords. The price of a postcard stays the same, and often beats the cost of a click.

•  It’s tangible

Want to show high-value customers that you appreciate them? Paper is the way to make them feel seen—and kept around. When was the last time a customer posted your marketing email to the fridge? 

A useful rule of thumb for getting the most out of email and direct mail: Use email for initial outreach and lower-stakes customers. Turn to direct mail to build relationships with high-value customers and to get the attention of customers who aren’t responding through other channels.

How to Use Direct Mail in the Customer Journey

Here are some ideas for converting customers by using direct mail at different stages of the customer journey. 

New Leads

Start with an email welcome campaign that offers prospects an incentive to make their first purchase, whether that’s a discount, buy-one-get-one, or free gift. Trigger a postcard if they haven’t responded to a certain number of emails, to reach customers who ignore email or have overactive spam filters. PostPilot’s MailMatch feature can identify physical addresses based solely on emails.  

Buyer Intent

Target customers who have shown a high intent to buy with an offer through direct mail. Just like with new leads, you can initially reach out through email. If the customer bites, you’ve got a win. If not, show how serious you are with a personalized postcard that includes a generous offer. 


Research has shown that customers see mail as a sort of gift rather than an intrusion. Surprise and delight your brand-new customers with a personalized thank-you postcard. Got a VIP customer? Upgrade to a handwritten note for a special touch that’s sure to make them feel valued. 


Running a successful ecommerce business is about more than converting customers; long-term profits come from keeping them around. Many customers come to a brand for a single product; they’re open to others, but may need some education. Laird Superfood uses postcards to cross-sell customers, customizing its offers depending on what they’ve bought before. A roomy Cardalog provides lots of space to introduce newbies to a wider range of products. Postcards are also a powerful way to encourage one-time buyers to upgrade to a subscription. 


Don’t give up because a customer hasn’t come back in a month or even a year. PostPilot customers have scored huge wins sending postcards to long-lapsed customers they couldn’t reach any other way. 

How to Get Started

To get rolling with your first integrated email-direct mail campaign, sign up with PostPilot now. We’ll connect you with a campaign concierge to see if these strategies are a good fit for your brand.

You can also get started with a 14-day free trial of Backbone to get a custom-built email marketing strategy with email campaigns, flows & email templates to get more revenue out of your email marketing.


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