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Commentary & Analysis

Do You Know the Four Types of Mail Behaviors?

According to the USPS, consumers’ “mail behavior” generally falls into one of four categories: sorters, scanners, weak habits, or skimmers. Each category has a different generational makeup, and it may not be what you expect. Knowing what category your customers tend to fall into can help you develop mail that resonates.

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: July 12, 2017

How do you categorize direct mail recipients? Demographics? Psychographics? Purchase habits? How about the way they respond to the physical receipt of the mail? According to the USPS Mail Moments Survey, there are four types of “mail behavior”categories that consumers fall into, and each has a demographic profile attached.

  1. Sorters. Sorters have a strong emotional attachment to the mail. Sorters will categorize all incoming mail and file important pieces or later use.

Generation Breakdown:

  • Millennials      44%
  • GenXers          35%
  • Boomers+       21%

This group has grown 2% between 2012-2106.

It is interesting to note that Millennials, the digital generation, are the plurality in this group. This is not what you might expect. Research seems to suggest that this is because mail is still a novelty to Millennials, but they only respond if it’s something relevant and genuinely interesting.

Millennials also spend the most time sorting their mail than any other generation—9.2 minutes vs. 8.4 minutes overall. They are also more engaged with their mail than other generations.

  1. Scanners. Scanners have a lower emotional attachment to the mail. Scanners will discard mailpieces without even reading them, but they still see value in receiving mail.

Generational Breakdown:

  • Millennials      39%
  • GenXers          35%
  • Boomers+       27%

This group is up 23% between 2012-2016.

  1. Weak Habits. Weak Habits have little emotional attachment to their mail. This group lacks basic mail habits and does not see value in organizing mail.

Generational Breakdown:

  • Millennials      54%
  • GenXers          33%
  • Boomers+       13%

There are 10% fewer people in this group since 2012.

  1. Skimmers. Skimmers are active detractors and have no emotional attachment to their mail. Skimmers pay attention only to items of extreme importance.

Generational breakdown:

  • Millennials      24%
  • GenXers          48%
  • Boomers+       28%

There are 16% fewer people in this category than in 2012.

The biggest group of skimmers are the GenX generation, so if you’re marketing to GenXers, make every split second count!

It is interesting that this category has the highest percentage of Boomers. Boomers also receive the highest number of mailpieces (31.2 compared to 28.1 for GenXers and 27.2 for Millennials), and they are the least likely to sort their mail “at the first opportunity” (although 82% still did so).

The takeaway? While you cannot generalize how people handle the mail, it’s important to understand that, like demographics, psychographics, and other “buckets” into which people are placed for marketing purposes, their relationship to their physical mail is one of them. Mail behavior is part of the mix, so find a way to take advantage of it.

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”



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