Direct Marketing Boom

November 23, 1984

Report Outline
Growing Business Force
Mail-Order America
Competition and Critics
Special Focus

Growing Business Force

Customer-Buying Directly from Home

There is scarcely an adult American who doesn't have contacts with the world of direct marketing, especially as the Christmas-buying season begins. The home mailbox is likely to overflow with merchandise catalogs. The doorstep is littered with envelopes containing coupons for cut-rate purchases. The phone calls tend to be from glib people trying to sell something. Mr. or Ms. Consumer, the target of all this, has read dozens of advertisements and listened to uncounted commercials offering unbeatable bargains just for sending in an order form or calling a toll-free number.

“Direct marketing” is an umbrella term for advertising or sales pitches transmitted directly into people's homes or offices. The most pervasive form is direct mail, which includes catalogs and other offers of merchandise, coupons, and ads for such local establishments as grocery and department stores. Other methods include telephone selling, direct-response ads on television and radio or in publications, and newspaper advertising inserts. Direct marketing should not be confused with “direct selling,” once commonly known as door-to-door selling, which involves on-the-scene contact by a salesperson.

Direct marketing has boomed in recent years. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), direct marketing generated an estimated $150 billion in sales in 1983, 10 percent more than in 1982 and three times more than in 1974. This boom has been led by the huge growth in catalog sales. If DMA estimates for this year are correct, catalog sales will have doubled in just seven years, from $34.8 billion in 1977 to $70 billion.

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