Don't scrap junk mail -- research says it works

Apr 30, 2012

(Phys.org) -- There's no reprieve in sight for Australian letterboxes bombarded with junk mail, with new University of Sydney research showing that junk mail is enormously effective in boosting in-store sales.

Professor Charles Areni and Dr Rohan Miller, of the University's Discipline of Marketing, found that featuring products in mail catalogue advertising significantly increased compared to advertising on in-store radio, which plays in stores while customers shop.

"We see the signs 'No Junk Mail' everywhere," says Professor Areni, "so it seems people don't want all that advertising material stuffed into their mailboxes.

"However, while people may say they hate junk mail, somebody out there is having long look at it and planning their purchases around what they see."

Soon to be published in the Communications, the research varied the in-store and mail circular advertising in 95 variety discount stores, measuring the sales results of products featured in the two advertising media.

"We alternated what products were advertised over the stores, varying products featured in the junk mail versus in-store radio ads," says Professor Areni.

"The junk mail caused a serious lift in sales - something was going on, people were looking at the junk mail and reacting, whereas the in-store radio didn't perform nearly as well.

"The results are surprising because the retailers would have spent millions of dollars on in-store radio, whereas junk mail doesn't seem at all sophisticated in marketing," Professor Areni says.

The sales increases from junk mail ranged in magnitude from a 67 percent increase for disposable razors to a dramatic tenfold increase for sandwich toasters. By contrast, the in-store radio advertising had little or no effect on sales.

According to Professor Areni, however, we shouldn't give up on in-store radio advertising just yet.

"Consumers are creatures of habit. In-store radio advertising is still relatively new in Australian variety discount stores, so it may simply take time for consumers to learn to listen for good deals while they shop."

"Junk mail is a very common form of advertising for this type of store, and as they arrive regularly at the beginning of the month, it could be that consumers may simply be used to looking for them," he says.

This is the first research in the world to concentrate on variety discount chains, which make up the largest retail growth category over the last 20 years.

Explore further: Collective bargaining subsidizes low-wage work in some states

Related Stories

Banner year for cybercrime

Dec 27, 2006

This was a year for the record books for computer crime with 2007 likely even more dire, Wednesday's Washington Post reported.

Report: Israelis report election spam

Mar 29, 2006

Israelis receive a lot of spam e-mail, but in the month leading up to Tuesday's general elections the amount spiked due to political messages.

Recommended for you

Study identifies upside to financial innovations

Aug 27, 2014

Financial innovations can make or break an economy. While the negative impact of financial innovation has been extensively covered, a new study of financial innovations before and during the last financial crisis indicates ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DarkHorse66
5 / 5 (4) Apr 30, 2012
The problem with junk mail is that you don't get to choose what lands in your letterbox. I might be interested in some 'store specials' of things that I'm planning on buying anyway (but can thus pay less for), but I'm not interested in every last pamphlet that drops in the slot. Most of it gets filed into the 'RGB' box (recycling garbage bin) before I even walk in the front door. What a waste of paper. And this is to say nothing of the electronic version of junk-mail... Just because it works, it doesn't mean that I actually want it, especially so indiscriminately. Cheers, DH66
alfie_null
5 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2012
In the United States the post office has an exclusive (federally protected) right to to deliver mail. I am not allowed to "turn off" receipt of mail. Increasingly, the post office sees BRM as an attractive revenue source.
Currently, 60% (by weight) of my trash is mail delivered by the post office. It would be nice if the cost of processing junk mail (i.e. 60% of what it costs to haul my trash away) were included in what the post office charges. I imagine it would be a less attractive marketing technique.
88HUX88
5 / 5 (2) Apr 30, 2012
I think looking at one example of junk mail and its impact may be valid (they would have excluded confounders of course?) but concluding that all junk mail is as effective is not. The old adage that advertisers waste 50% of their budget but they don't know which half may hold some truth but on based a sample of three comments, I conclude we would rather not receive it.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Apr 30, 2012
Junkmail may be more effective than in-store radio. But in-store radio does not make me want to shoot the originator of the advert in the face. (Though in reality the only effect is that anyone trying to send junkmail to me will never again see me as a customer)

When I need something I gou ot and search for it. I don't need people telling me what I 'need'.
DaFranker
5 / 5 (2) Apr 30, 2012
Junkmail may be more effective than in-store radio. But in-store radio does not make me want to shoot the originator of the advert in the face. (Though in reality the only effect is that anyone trying to send junkmail to me will never again see me as a customer)

When I need something I gou ot and search for it. I don't need people telling me what I 'need'.

This. It's sad that large companies try to revert and subvert this mentality, and even worse that consumers actually fall prey and then perpetuate it socially without realizing.
Nemo
not rated yet Apr 30, 2012
Why not convert the flyers to junk (e)mail? That way people can instruct their filters to let in only the marketing info they actually want to see.

For me I can think of only one unsolicited flyer and one regular flyer that have ever caused me to buy anything. The rest was just a huge waste from every angle. The ratio has to be 300:1 for utility.
Burnerjack
4 / 5 (1) Apr 30, 2012
What may be BOTH environmentaly AND economicaly friendly would be to issue postcards with a brief but focused message detailing what is being brought to market. On said postcard, a "check here and return for more information" box allowing for recipient's opt-in and likelyhood of activity. Regardless of what spammers think, I am LESS apt to be responsive once deluged and/or annoyed by a marketing campaign. I try very hard not to reward bad behavior. Furthermore, I suspect there is an anestitizing effect from too many adds in a short time span. I just "tune them ALL out".
Burnerjack
5 / 5 (1) Apr 30, 2012
Nemo, speaking for myself, the LAST thing I need is more spam. I think I'd rather have a benign tumor that have your idea come to fruition.