Mailing industry experts do agree that paper based mail volumes will continue to fall. Especially first class mail, a big money maker, is affected by this decline. Part of the decline is due to the economy, but according to Deutsche Post the better part of this decline is caused by the Internet. As this development continues the postage for direct mail will have to go up in order to compensate for the lack of first class mail revenue. This in turn will incite direct marketers to take a closer look at paperless mail providers.

Direct mail is based on street address information and taking the plunge into digital direct mail would be so much easier if the old address lists could just be used in the digital realm. And not all paperless mail services allow direct mail. Canadian ePost and NoMorePost in the UK would fall in that category.

But there are also paperless mail services which do allow direct mail, like Goodmail and zumbox. From a direct mailer’s point of view, zumbox offers a transparent way to reach the consumer. This is because zumbox created digital mail boxes based on the consumer’s name and address. This slick approach allows instant re-use of existing address lists in the digital realm. See our prior article for more info on zumbox and direct mail.

Goodmail just teamed with iContact to provide trusted opt-in e-mail marketing. The approach of opt-in marketing promises higher response rates than the dreaded opt-out marketing (spam e-mail) and lends itself for better address list hygiene. Speaking of opt-in marketing:  In November 2009 Deutsche Post  ran a direct mail opt-in campaign, sending out 1 million (paper) mailings. Deutsche Post is also getting ready to offer paperless mail services, claiming that they will not allow unwanted advertisement, and opt-in mail does not fall in the “unwanted” category.

We rest fairly assured that Deutsche Post will use their paperless mail system to send opt-in digital direct mail. In order to apply for a digital mail box from Deutsche Post the consumer must present their passport at a local post office. Deutsche Post will know the consumers name and address and can associate this info with the consumers digital mail box. In theory it would be possible to route any mailing, based on street address lists, to the consumers digital mailbox. At a minimum it allows for an easy transition of paper based opt-in mail into the digital realm, using the existing street address lists. Being able to reuse street address lists in order to reach a consumers digital mailbox is certainly more desirable for direct marketers than having to go through the headaches of acquiring and maintaining e-mail addresses.

But no matter how paperless direct mail is implemented: We believe it is very important to not exceed the current paper based direct mail volumes per household. Any paperless service provider, allowing excessive digital direct mail, will alienate the customers and earn a damaging reputation as a spammer.