Whatever Happened to First Class Mail? We Expose the Truth


Whatever-Happened-to-First-Class-Mail-We-Expose-the-TruthAt one time, first class mail was the best way to send direct mail campaigns, particularly smallish campaigns aimed at an upmarket or niche audience. Suddenly, it’s popularity started to dive, and this 2015 report from the U.S. Postal Service showed a drop of 61% in volumes since 1995 for the country as a whole. A decline of more than 70% was reported in 196 areas, with 269 areas losing between 30% and 60% over the time period.

Reason For the Decline

The report cites several reasons for the decline in volume, such as:

  • Higher postage prices
  • Lower levels of employment that affect consumer buying power
  • Differing levels of demand at different times of year in different locations.

While demographic differences were inconclusive with similar rates of decline across all groupings, the study certainly proved the truth of the theory that the marketplace is constantly evolving and that direct mail has to work hard to keep up with the changes. Surprisingly, the level of Internet usage wasn’t a factor in the downturn in first class mail.

Current Status

So, where is first class mail currently with regard to its usefulness as a marketing channel? Surprisingly, it seems to have rallied and isn’t doing too badly. The report showed that the rate of decline is slowing and has stopped, even reversing in some geographical areas. The lowest drop, for example, was -14.8% in Muskogee OK, while in Brockton MA demand actually increased during the period 1995 to 2015 by 128%!

What It’s Used For

Given these figures, it seems the area where your target audience lives is one of the primary factors in whether or not first class mail will work for you. Typically used as a fast, affordable method of sending light packages and envelopes, it’s ideal for direct marketing letters, special promotions and flyers. Stamp price is currently $0.49 cents, and if you purchase credits in bulk you can reduce that quite a bit.

The Truth Exposed

The fact of the matter as concluded by the report is that there’s no longer a single type of customer, and that the concept of the “average” recipient is a myth. Direct mail still works well in some areas under certain circumstances, but it’s vital to know your audience well, have strong customer personas in place and use them to segment your market into various groups. Send clear—rather than clever—mailings every time, and watch your business benefit as a result.  This requires careful research and sound knowledge of your market place, and an understanding of how local customers access information and make purchases.

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