What does direct mail mean?
Mail merge is a feature of most data processing applications that allows users to send a letter or similar document to multiple recipients. It connects a single form template to a data source that contains information about the recipient’s name, address, and other predefined and supported data.
Techopedia Explains Direct Mail
Direct mail primarily automates the process of sending bulk mail to customers, subscribers, or individuals.
Mail merge works with two documents, the data file and the letter template. The data file includes the information of the recipients to whom the letter should be sent. This file can be a spreadsheet or a database file containing separate fields for each type of information to be merged into the letter.
The second file is the Word document or letter template. The recipient information on the letter template is left blank. When the mail merge process is initiated, recipient data from the spreadsheet or database data file is retrieved and placed into the empty field of the letter, one at a time, until all the letters are created.
Direct mail obsolescence
Looking at how direct mail has been used over the years, it’s important to point out that the direct mail feature was launched long before the advent of the “visual dashboard” and various forms of data visualization and automation. that we have today.
The functionality itself resembles what a particular “application” might do in today’s software environment. For example, this functionality could easily be integrated into a smartphone application, or even offered via client/server communication via a web browser.
Although mail merge has been a popular feature in successive versions of document processing software packages, it may soon be as obsolete as the old “Print Shop” software of the early days of the PC, or the dot-matrix printer that was so often used to generate mail merges and Print Shop documents.
A great example of this change is the evolution of Microsoft Word, the dominant word processing software on the market. In newer versions of the cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 software suite, the Mail Merge feature is deprecated, which means it is earmarked for eventual obsolescence. Deprecated features can still be used, but are tagged for end-of-life scenarios.
To replace Microsoft Word’s mail merge functionality, Microsoft has created the ability to provide server-side document generation with Word and Excel templates. Users are prompted by Microsoft to create manual workflow rules to do what a mail merge would have done before.
This type of feature deprecation accompanies the move of the MS Office suite, as well as other software, from a native environment to the cloud. Modern Office 365 subscriptions offer web-delivered office software in which more and more functionality is delivered server-side, rather than at the endpoint or on the customer’s own machine.
This raises all sorts of questions in the user community about the pros and cons of web-provided functionality – one trade-off is if on-demand web-provided cloud software is more versatile in some ways, having features like that mail merge performed on the server side may mean that the user has to hand over more of their personal information to the provider than they would otherwise have to if they were using software products offline on their own machines on site.