According to a special report by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), commercial e-mail produces the highest return on investment of any direct marketing media. That ROI has dropped from $44.93 in 2018 to a projected $42.08 in 2020, but the commercial email is still several times more profitable than any other direct marketing media.

Direct marketing with catalogs produces the lowest return, thanks to the high cost of printing the publications and the growing cost of mailing. The catalog ROI is projected to be $7.34 in 2020. But even that is six cents higher than the 2018 return.

Catalog Shopping

According to Brandweek, catalog sales returns might be “understated” because it is “difficult to track online sales that are influenced by catalog shopping.”

Brandweek added that “in 2019, retailers spent $15.1 billion on catalogs to produce $110.5 billion in sales for a $7.32 ROI. By comparison, retailers spent only $600 million on e-mail to generate $26 billion in sales for a $43.62 ROI — six times higher.”

Asian and European printers compete heavily for the American catalog business, promising savings of up to 30 percent.

Direct mail marketing ROI without catalogs is expected to slip a few pennies to $15.28, but will still be more than twice as high as the return on catalog business.

Internet Search Marketing

According to the DMA report, Internet search marketing produces the second highest return on investment. It was $21.84 in 2018 and is projected at $21.90 in 2020. It is also one of the few direct marketing media expected to increase its ROI this year.

Two other Internet media are expected to show declines from 2018 to 2020, perhaps due to the troubled economy. They are:

  • Internet display, down from $19.78 to $19.57
  • Social networking, down from $12.57 to $12.45

Mobile Has Fastest Growing ROI

The fastest growing direct marketing medium is also the newest. Mobile marketing ROI is expected to reach $10.08 this year, a 29 percent rise over 2018.

Despite the print media’s huge advertising losses in the last couple of years, direct response advertising in newspapers and magazines continue to produce bigger returns than their electronic competitors.

Here’s the ROI projections for direct response advertising in the print media, showing 2020 projections compared to 2018 returns:

  • Newspapers: Down from $12.77 to $12.26
  • Media inserts: Down from $11.60 to $11.43
  • Magazines: Up from $10.11 to $10.26

Print ROI Tops Electronic Media

Those compare well with direct response ads in traditional electronic media:

  • Radio: Down from $8.60 to $8.28
  • Television: Down from $6.81 to $6.62

The complete ROI report covering 15 media channels is available from the Direct Marketing Association for $550.