Smartphones. Tablets. Google Glasses. With all of the recent buzz about new ways the Internet can make our lives easier, it often starts to seem as if everyone is perpetually connected to the Internet. The world of online marketing certainly doesn’t refute this impression; these days, it seems that most marketing news revolves exclusively around Internet marketing strategies, be it social media, mobile marketing, or gamification. However, Internet usage may not be quite as universal as the online marketing bubble leads us to believe, and traditional marketing strategies, such as direct mail, may still have the last word. The Pew Internet Project has just released a new study (1), and its results may be surprising:
1 in 5 American adults do not use the Internet.
As marketers, it is extremely important that we don’t overlook the segment of the population that does not use the Internet, because this segment is bigger than we often assume. What’s more, we often assume that those who do not have access to the Internet are perhaps not in the market to buy products. While Internet access certainly can be a class issue, not using the Internet does not necessarily equal zero purchasing power:
“Among adults who do not use the Internet, almost half said the main reason they don’t go online is because they don’t think the Internet is relevant to them”.
This means that a relatively large segment of our population is fertile marketing territory, but is not online. Enter traditional marketing strategies, such as direct mail marketing. Direct mail can simply reach more people than online marketing, even before we factor in other online hurdles like personalized search engine results, spam filters, website blocking, and more. Online marketing is clearly a very important aspect of any marketing mix, but there is a very real limit to its reach. Direct mail, on the other hand, can reach anyone with an address, and that is a much larger group than those with Internet access. For instance, one of the biggest and often most lucrative sectors of the globe is the elderly, and according to another survey from Pew (2), only “38% of U.S. adults aged 65+ now go online.” This is a low percentage, and it makes other means of marketing, like direct mail marketing, even more important.
If you limit yourself exclusively to online marketing strategies, you are automatically limiting the reach of your message. Traditional marketing strategies such as direct mail marketing are still around because they still have something to offer us as marketers; in this case, it’s a broader audience. The next time your business embarks on a new marketing campaign, don’t forget about all those non-Internet users out there, because they can be a valuable resource to tap into.
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