Understanding Direct Mail Supply Chain Disruption

As a result of the pandemic, supply chain problems persist and are a global phenomenon. The problem doesn’t end at grocery store shelves or used car lots. This year, direct mail operations were threatened. Understanding direct mail supply chain disruption has become nearly a full time job. Paper mills and printers have had their fair share of nightmares.  Freight and shipping cost surges, never-ending staffing shortages, and increased logistical challenges are just some of these problems.

Direct Mail Supply Chain

I’ve spent my career making Agency Operations look easy. I haven’t faced anything like this. I lose sleep over these sorts of things, because of what they mean to our clients. The lift in results from our direct mail has outperformed non-mailed audiences up to 140%. The show must go on!

Where does the supply chain break for print producers?

The pandemic made it clear how dependent supply chains are on moving parts. From workers and materials to logistics and transport, any one thing can obstruct the rest. Sadly, we’ve now begun to see  interruptions to all segments of the paper supply chain. It’s unprecedented.

Worker shortages are impeding production outputs, though most are operating at or near full capacity. The cost of shipping paper goods has increased by a whopping 1000%, further burdening producers and businesses in need of printed materials. Worse yet, there is a scarcity of imported paper in domestic markets due to an undersupply caused by interruptions of production worldwide.

The pandemic has created a captive audience due to the new work from home trend, which shows no signs of letting up. With direct mail pulling 37% higher response rates than digital content – print isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Especially for those who now work only steps from their mailboxes. How do you plan for disruption in the direct mail supply chain?

How paper shortages affect direct mail advertising.

Envelopes have taken an especially hard hit. They are the endangered species of this environment. This is particularly bad news, since envelope packages outperform postcards and self-mailers most of the time. They’re one of the tougher-to-source paper items. Along with other print materials we’ve seen delays in delivery times climb, adding months to deployment deadlines. This has triggered some pretty interesting conversations at our company, planning around disruption in the supply chain can be problematic to say the least.

All is not lost. My team has identified strategies to embark on so we can stay ahead of the curve. Strategies including implementing a proactive approach, leveraging existing relationships, carving out new ones, being mindful of market shifts, and taking necessary decisive actions.

Relationships matter in overcoming challenges.

I don’t know when these challenges will be over. It’s been suggested (and I believe) that conditions could continue to get worse through the end of this year and beyond. One thing is certain: it’s more important than ever to work with trusted suppliers and intermediaries who understand the situation well and have implemented preparations for such challenges. I’m also reminded much relationships matter.  Planning for direct mail supply chain disruption is critical. If you’d like to learn more about empowering your organization while dealing with paper supply chain problems, head over to our article Overcoming Direct Mail Disruption.