Re-thinking the whole customer experience

Marketing has transformed with a plethora of ways people connect with brands – from TV to TikTok, Mail to the Metaverse and beyond – we need to continually appraise new touchpoints, not just individually, but how they work together. We need to re-think the whole customer experience.

Customer Experience

Written by Fiona Blades

Three friends laughing while looking at the phone

CX is a hot topic and rightly so. In a world with declining attention rates, and fragmenting media, encouraging people to spend time with your brand is a challenge. What blends and sequences of experiences are most likely to attract people? Which channels should we invest in?

In considering this challenge, we are looking at channels overall and the specific role that mail can play. So often there is a default to TV, social and digital. The smart marketers are looking further afield.

10 Key Takeaways

  1. Start with considering the whole customer experience. This will include paid, and earned channels, like TV advertising, outward bound direct mailing and news stories or conversations. These experiences can drive people to owned channels, like websites, apps and stores. If we artificially divide CX from advertising, the brand experiences can feel disjointed.  Look through the customers’ eyes to understand the whole customer experience and cut down organisational silos in the process.
  1. Think beyond digital and capture the power of human interaction. In a highly digital world, it probably won’t be a surprise to learn that experiences that include human interaction, such as speaking to an assistant in a store generate some of the most powerful customer experiences.  In analysis done for IPA EffWorks Global1, experiences through Owned Channels across a number of sectors had a greater impact on brand metrics, than paid advertising. Personalised mailings provide an interesting role in this dynamic. They offer an intimate way for brands to stay connected to customers. The brand voice, often exemplified through the person sending the mailing to the customer, keeps the customer feeling close to the brand. Remarkably, 95% of mail is engaged with.2
  2. Embrace the connection between physical and digital media. It may seem counter-intuitive to hear that mail provides a great way to gain attention from digital natives. In fact, 88% of Gen Z consumers prefer a blend of physical and digital marketing3. What’s more 15-24 year-olds are more likely to trust mail than any other age group. In a world where misinformation is becoming more common, trust increases its premium. Brands can be held accountable for words written in hard copy mailings. If you are looking to build trust, consider the potential of mail.
  1. Stop pigeon-holing channels – many can be used for both performance marketing and brand building. Retailer advertising, traditionally assigned to drive sales, significantly impacts on building brand consideration for manufacturers4. The same is true for mailings. MESH Experience found that Direct Mail improved non-customer consideration for retail banks (2.88) at a higher rate than TV advertising (1.83) in a paper “The Hidden Drivers of Persuasion”5. Mail can build brands and can drive sales.
  2. Re-appraise “In Home” media. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that 83% of UK employers had hybrid working in place6. What’s more, there is government legislation meaning new employees can opt for flexible working from day and those leaving jobs are citing a lack of flexibility as a reason. Hybrid working is here to stay. This means that “In Home” media has become more important than it was 5 years ago. Mail reaches people in the home. And it reaches people in a new way. Pre pandemic it was often picked up as someone left their home for the rush to work and put somewhere safe to read later. Without the commute, there are more time pockets in the day for mail to be read.
  1. “Attention” is the new “Reach”. Media Reach used to be a trusted metric to understand the impact that a brand would be having on people. But now we can no longer believe that just because people had the opportunity to experience a brand that they actually noticed this. Work MESH Experience has done with SAWA demonstrated the power of cinema as a fabulous medium to attract attention7. Adding cinema to the media mix can turbo-charge the effectiveness of other channels. Similarly, mail has a great role to play when it comes to attracting attention. Reading mail is generally a solus activity and is more attention efficient than virtually all other media channels. Using a methodology reviewed by PwC, it has been revealed that it costs just £0.07 to generate a minute of consumer attention among ABC1 adults with Door Drops and £0.11 with Direct Mail. As a consequence, mail is more attention efficient than social display and digital display advertising8.
  2. Consider how Context is Queen! It’s important to generate good content but it’s vital to consider context. Over 20 years ago, as Planning Director at Lowe Direct, I noticed something interesting when we conducted a diary study asking people to record all the post they received and to tell us how positive the experience was of receiving this. Of course, we expected that receiving a card from a friend would be a positive experience, but we noticed that on a Saturday all mail experiences were rated more positively than on other days of the week (even bills and bank statements). We attributed this to people having the emotional space and time to read their post. More recently, MESH Experience found that people responded more positively to service brand communication, like banks, after 7pm. We believe the same phenomenon is at play – people have the time to take in the communication after finishing work. Target mail at times that will be contextually relevant – such as just before the weekly shop to inspire popping brands onto the shopping list.
  3. Email vs DM – a reversal of roles. 20 years ago there was criticism of the amount of mailings people were receiving in the UK. Now there is email overload and some of this is associated with fraud. Interviewing industry experts for the IPA Owned Channel paper in 2022 revealed that email can feel like paid advertising when customers receive too much sales material. In a world where it is very easy and relatively inexpensive to send an email, a physical mailing from a brand represents an investment in the customer relationship. What’s more it generates more long-term memory than email. Mail was found to be 49% more memorable than email in previous study by Royal Mail Marketreach with researchers at Neuro-Insight9.
  4. Focus on Monetizing the Loss of Attention. Andre D’Abreu, LATAM Airlines raised this interesting point in being interviewed for the IPA Owned Channel paper. Email can be perceived as inexpensive to send. However, sending too many emails has a cost. People opt out. They stop paying attention. What is the cost of losing the attention of one of your loyal customers? If mail is perceived as trustworthy and is used effectively, it has a good chance of making people more likely to pay attention to your brand in future. 
  1. Collecting first party data is the gold rush of the 21st century. Think how your CX can be building your long-term assets. There are many ways to gather data and digital comes to mind quickly. However, call centres represent another wonderful dataset to mine and with AI tools, there is plenty of insight to unlock about people’s preferences and problems. Mail also plays a vital role in acquiring and retaining customers. As a trusted medium, mail can be an ideal channel to learn more about customers’ attitudes and behaviours.

At the same time as brands should be embracing new ways to interact with their customers, such as immersive gaming experiences and the Metaverse, marketers should re-appraise the new roles that existing channels can play, whether cinema, retail media or call centres.

Mail has a distinct role in nurturing and building relationships. It can help to keep a brand top of mind. It can impact on long and short-term brand goals and it can bring in a new generation – Gen Z.


The author, Fiona Blades, is founder and Chief Experience Officer at MESH Experience, a marketing effectiveness consultancy that specialises in capturing, measuring and analysing customer experiences.

  2.  JICMAIL, 2023
  3. WARC Driving Effectiveness with Direct Mail white paper
  4.  Journal of Retailing article – retail advertising builds brand perceptions 

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