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Pitney Bowes/NFO Study Reveals Types of Mail That Consumers Will Open.

STAMFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 8, 1998--

-- First-Class Meter Indicia and Stamps Help Get Mail Opened

-- Generic Recipient Title, Address Labels and 3rd Class Permit

Greatly Deter Opening of Mail

Will they (consumers) open it? It's the one question that direct mailers ask themselves everyday and with good reason. According to the Direct Marketing Association, $229.7 billion in sales was generated in 1996 through direct mail. A critical factor in the success of direct or advertising mail is getting the intended recipient to open the mail piece. The information gained through a recent 1998 Pitney Bowes/NFO (National Family Opinion) Research Inc. study of U.S. consumers sheds light on the factors that influence mail "openability", and could be a boon for the direct mail industry.

In many cases, advertising mail doesn't make it through a consumer's "screening" process because of its appearance. In fact, a new national household study conducted by the U.S. Postal Service found that up to 20.5% of Standard Mail (A) (formerly known as Third-Class Mail) is never opened- presumably because it looks unprofessional and is thrown out.

To determine what types of mail are more likely to be opened by consumers, Pitney Bowes Mailing Systems commissioned NFO Research Inc., a leading national consumer marketing research firm, to understand the factors that lead consumers to open one piece of mail over another.

The study was designed to measure consumer preference in envelope design and six other features affecting mail openability. The features measured included: recipient title or name, type of postage payment, addressing techniques, return address, enticers or special messages and envelope size. Consideration was also given to personal mail versus business mail. "Personal mail" is mail that has a handwritten address, and the primary postage payment mechanism is a stamp. "Business mail" includes all other mail; it is distinguished by addresses that are either computer generated or type-written, and typically it employs either a postage meter imprint or postage permit as the postage payment mechanism. Twenty-one different envelopes were reviewed and ranked by study participants. Based on the findings of the study, Pitney Bowes has determined a combination of features that would result in the "most openable mail."

"Personal mail from family or friends- addressed by hand and with a stamp on it- is, of course, the most openable mail," said Kevin Weiss, Vice President, Marketing, Pitney Bowes Mailing Systems. "However, the study also indicates that consumers will open business or advertising mail that targets a specific individual and has a professional appearance. Considering that today this type of correspondence accounts for 90% of household mail, direct mailers need to raise the quality of their mail to ensure their message gets through."

With business mail, consumers reported that the top factors influencing whether they would open an envelope were whether it was addressed to a specific person, the postage payment (meter, stamp or permit) mechanism and whether a return address was present. Other factors affecting the openability of business mail were envelope size, addressing technique (i.e. address labels vs. direct impression printing vs. showing through a window) and the presence of enticers.

Not surprisingly, mail addressed to a specific, correctly spelled name was the most important factor in determining if the envelope would be opened. Interestingly, the study found that even a misspelled name was more likely to be opened than a generically addressed envelope. "In this age of information where data on consumer preferences is captured on the Internet, at supermarkets, just about anywhere you turn, direct marketers need to be mindful that a properly maintained and updated customer database is the most valuable asset they own in producing effective communications," noted Weiss. "Current resident or occupant just doesn't cut it any more."

The type of postage evidencing--i.e. whether a meter imprint, postage stamp or mail permit was used to pay for sending the mail--was the second most important factor in determining the openability of mail. Stamped mail was the marginal choice, presumably because of its association with "personal" mail. First-Class Metered Mail also had a positive impact on openability, but Permit Mail--both First-Class and Standard Mail (A)--was found to be a significant deterrent in getting mail opened. This is a major finding for mailers because the study clearly illustrates that the convenience of pre-printed permit mail will negatively impact response rates. In fact, metered mail using the lower cost Standard Mail (A) postage rates was revealed to be more "openable" than permit mail using much more expensive First-Class postage.

In a finding that may have broader implications for marketers, the presence of a return address was ranked as the third most important factor affecting openability. Consumers' desire to know who is sending the piece of mail (with a specific name) is a significant factor influencing whether they would open an envelope. Conversely, no return address or sender name was one of the strongest negative influencers in having the letter opened. This finding suggests that consumers want to know who they are dealing with, and this reflects favorably on the ability of mail to build relationships.

Other factors that affected the likelihood of an envelope being opened were envelope size, addressing technique and the presence of enticers. Of the envelopes tested, the study found standard #10 envelopes to be the most openable, and red colored enticers also had a positive impact on whether an envelope would be opened. As for addressing techniques, window envelopes that typically carry bills and invoices were most openable; and these were followed closely by directly printed addresses. Address labels, however, were a significant deterrent to openability. "Mailing labels take a long time to produce and apply, and they don't always look very professional," said Weiss. "People notice labels and this study should be sending a clear message to mailers to rethink how their mail is perceived and produced," concluded Weiss.

The Pitney Bowes/NFO Research Inc. study was conducted among 420 consumers, representative of the U.S. population, who rated 21 different envelopes on a 5-point scale. Data was collected from nationally representative consumers (males and females) via mail from mid-December 1997 through January 1998. For further information on the study, contact Scott Tangney at (212) 684-6300, ext. 313.

Pitney Bowes is a $4.1 billion premier provider of informed mail and messaging management. For information on the company, please visit our web site at
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Sep 24, 1998
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