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National Mail Order Association

 What is the Average Response Rate for Direct Mail? 

We are often asked "what is the average response rate for direct mail"? It would seem an easy question to answer, yet it is really impossible to give you accurate averages you can depend on because every situation is different, there are far too many variables involved.

The response from a mailing or advertisement depends upon the product or service, the copy used, the offer and the way it’s presented, the payment options, the mailing list used, the appearance of the package or ad, the date or time of season, the general economic conditions of the country at the time, the weather, company name recognition, product recognition, the temperament of recipient on that particular day…the list goes on.

Any one of these factors, or variables, can influence the pull of a mailing or advertisement. It’s not a question of how many orders others get, but, “How Many Orders MUST I GET” to break even or how much can I afford to spend to acquire a new customer. It just doesn’t matter what others get for response rate, you can’t base your particular decisions on it. Here’s why. A tractor company that gets a 1/10th of 1% response rate selling expensive tractors to farmers may be getting a great response rate. A hotel doing a mailing to book rooms may be getting a 20% response rate. Put them together and you get an average response rate of just over 10%. Using this example, should you then expect to get a 10% response rate from your mailing? Counting on averages can be misleading and sometimes dangerous.

We recommend working backward and finding out what response rate you must have to break-even. Then, use your best judgment as to whether you think you can get that response rate and do a test. To determine the break-even point, you must know the actual cost of obtaining and filling an order. Use the “Advanced Break-Even Work Sheet” with the matching MS Excel worksheet that is included with the book, Direct Marketing Toolkit for Small and Home Business. There is also more detail in the book concerning this subject.

That said, there is some data on the subject of average response rates we have included below. This information changes rapidly so if you would like recent statistics on response rates we recommend purchasing the Response Rate Trends Report Recent data may be most important to established  companies that wish to compare their response rates to others. Another study available that provides important DM statistics and benchmarks is the Statistical Fact Book.

Here are some  average response rates when using lists from an outside source as well as using internal lists. Average spending per prospect is also tabulated.

Average Response Rate From Outside Lists

 

Apparel/
Shoes

Child Products Books, Records, Tapes High Tech Food Gardening Gifts Health & Beauty Home Furnishings
.5-1.0% 10.0% 33.3% 36.4% 33.3% 11.1% 55.6% 50.0% 50.0% -
1.1-1.5% 30.0% 16.7% - 50.0% 33.3% - - 50.0% 50.0%
1.6-2.0% 30.0% 33.3% 36.4% 16.7% 33.3% 22.2% - - 50.0%
2.1-2.5% 30.0% 16.7% 27.3% - - - 25.0% - -
2.6-3.0% - - -   - - - - -
3.1-5.0% - - -   11.1% - - - -
5.1-10.0% - - -   11.1% 11.1% 25.0% - -
MORE THAN 10% - - - - - 11.1% - - -

Average Response Rate From Total House File

 

Apparel/
Shoes

Child Products Books, Records, Tapes High Tech Food Gardening Gifts Health & Beauty Home Furnishings
.5-1.0% - - -   - - -   -
1.1-1.5% -   - - - - 20.0% 20.0% -
1.6-2.0% - 50.0% 9.1% 16.7% - - - 20.0% -
2.1-2.5% 9.1% 16.7% 9.1% 33.3% - 18.2% 20.0% - -
2.6-3.0% 36.4% 16.7% 9.1% - 9.1% 18.2% - - 20.0%
3.1-5.0% 18.2% - 54.5% 16.7% 36.4% 9.1% 20.0% 40.0% 20.0%
5.1-10.0% 36.4% - 18.2% 16.7% 27.3% 27.3% 20.0% - 60.0%
MORE THAN 10% - - - - 27.3% 27.3% 20.0% 20.0% -

Average Dollars Spent Per Prospect

 

Apparel/
Shoes

Child Products Books, Records, Tapes High Tech Food Gardening Gifts Health & Beauty Home Furnishings
Less than $2 8.3% 42.9% 30.8% - 18.2% 30.8% 20.0% 28.6% -
$2-$4 16.7% 14.3% 23.1% - 27.3% 46.2% - 14.3% -
$5-$10 33.3% 14.3% 23.1% 66.7% 18.2% 15.4% 40.0% 42.9% 40.0%
$11-$20 8.3% 14.3% 7.7% 16.7% 9.1% - 40.0% - 20.0%
$21-$30 - - - - 18.2% - - - -
$31-$40 8.3% - - - - 7.7% - - 20.0%
More than $40 8.3% - - - - - - - -
Don't Calculate 16.7% 14.3% 15.4% 16.7% 9.1% - - 14.3% 20.0%
Mean 13.8% 4.8% 4.6% 9.1% 9.3% 5.6% 9.4% 4.6% 16.5%

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