Young Adults Prefer Offline Sources for Marketing Offers

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Young Adults Prefer Offline Sources for Marketing Offers


Six years after the launch of Facebook, North American consumers in the valued 18- to 34-year-old demographic prefer by a wide margin to learn about marketing offers via postal mail and newspapers rather than online sources such as social media platforms, according to national survey research from ICOM, a division of Epsilon Targeting.

Additionally, the research shows that preferential attitudes about the trustworthiness of mail strengthened for consumer respondents in all age groups from 2008 to 2010.The 2010 study of 2,569 U.S. households and 2,209 Canadian households focused on consumer preferences in regard to the ever-expanding array of communications channels for the delivery of marketing information, offers and promotions. Responses came from consumers ranging in age from 18 to 55 and above.

Here are some of the key results:

- For household and health products, the preference among 18- to 34-year-old Americans for receiving marketing information from offline sources led by mail and newspapers is two to three times greater than online sources such as social media. Preferences for offline versus online included food, personal care and cleaning products; over-the-counter and prescription medications; and sensitive health products.
- Travel was the exception, where respondents preferred online to offline information by a 42 percent to 35 percent margin. However, insurance and financial services followed the overall trend, with the 18-34 age group preferring offline sources 43 to 21 percent and 44 to 19 percent, respectively.
- The trust pendulum is swinging in the direction of mail for survey takers in all age brackets:
36 percent of U.S. respondents in 2010 said information is more private if sent through the mail vs. e-mail or online, up from 29 percent in 2008; corresponding responses in Canada were 38 percent and 35 percent.
25 percent said a lot of online information can’t be trusted, up from 19 percent in 2008; corresponding responses in Canada were 28 percent and 24 percent.
20 percent said they trust information received by mail more than online, up from 12 percent in 2008; corresponding responses in Canada were 25 percent and 18 percent.
For health information, consumers favor doctors and nurses (80 percent U.S., 83 percent Canada), but for general products they rank as most trustworthy friends and family (57 percent U.S., 52 percent Canada), newspapers (26 percent both), company websites (22/20), television (20/21) and brochures and flyers (18 percent both). The numbers for social media sites, by comparison, were Facebook (8/6), YouTube (7/5) and Twitter (7/5).

“A key takeaway from this research is that marketers targeting coveted 18-34 year olds who are tempted to invest solely in social media could be missing a significant portion of their audience,” said Warren Storey, ICOM VP. “For example, a consumer goods company that relies heavily on a female audience, especially moms, could fall short of expectations if it uses only the social media channel. Companies need to employ a multi-channel approach to gain maximum engagement with their customers.”

Other findings:

- 45 percent of U.S. men and 35 percent of Canadian men do not have any social media accounts; 36 percent of U.S. women and 31 percent of Canadian women do not have any social media accounts.
- 25 percent of all respondents said they get more postal mail versus a year ago; 72 percent U.S. and 66 percent Canadian said they get more e-mail versus a year ago.
- In both the United States and Canada, women are more likely than men to prefer addressed or unaddressed mail for many product categories, and men are more likely to prefer the Internet or e-mail as a mode of receiving marketing information.

The factors driving consumers to certain channels, according to the ICOM research, are trust, convenience, richness and relevance of information and environmental concerns.

“The finding that only 25 percent of respondents perceive they’re getting more postal mail compared to a year ago, while nearly three times that amount say they’re getting more email is telling, and signals to marketers there is an opportunity to gain key consumers’ attention and interest by using the direct mail channel,” Storey said. “Overall, our research confirms the proliferation of channel choices but shows that a unique combination or balance of favored channels needs to be identified, and that combination likely includes direct mail and other offline options, despite the notion by some that offline is no longer effective.”

More information about ICOM’s channel preference research is available at

Epsilon is the industry’s leading marketing services firm and the world’s largest permission-based e-mail marketer.