The USPS has a vision for the future of direct mail. In the face of mounting competition, the Postal Service is imagining ways to better defend its position as the leading provider of contact and delivery mail services.
Amid signs that some of direct marketing’s most coveted prospects – millennials – actually welcome direct mail, the Postal Service has set its sights on ways to better engage with them while continuing to enhance service to and for traditionally oriented recipients.
Digital enhancements like QR codes, augmented reality, and near-field communication reinforce the impression for millennials and others that the mailer is cognizant of their affinity for technology and eager to make transacting as easy as possible. The USPS offers pricing incentives to mailers who implement these features, since it is mutually self-serving to maintain the relevance of the mail channel for both emerging and traditional users.
User preferences for delivery and pickup are facilitated by smartphones and apps, which allow time and place of delivery to be dictated by recipients. Recipients in all demographic groups expect to know the status of their parcels and be able to customize the delivery experience according to their needs. Advanced – and accurate – tracking tools are now a price of entry in the delivery business. The USPS has deep experience in meeting this expectation. The USPS has even created pick-up points at commercial locations with locker spaces where people can receive packages when not at home. No longer home delivery, it’s what-is-convenient-wherever-am-I-now delivery.
On the other hand, businesses that reach out via postal mail and email as a pre-cursor to parcel delivery can assure the integrity of their products. It is now typical for shippers of perishables such as wine to include a message in their direct mail literature to the effect that climate conditions will effect when products can be safely delivered. If and when smart mailboxes are adopted, they can indicate fluctuations in temperature, even how full they may be.
In the future, smart mailboxes may actually be temperature-controlled and able to monitor capacity status, such as when mail was removed. This alone would provide value to mailers. The ability to communicate on a two-way basis with mailers through smartphone-enabled printed links would allow recipients to provide valuable data through feedback.
A key component of the direct mail shopping experience is returns. The USPS has several answers to this need. Parcel Return Service facilitates low cost return service for large volume mailers. Merchandise Return Service provides recipients with pre-paid return shipping labels that are only charged to the mailer when they are scanned for use. Bulk Parcel Return Service makes use of the Postal Service’s ability to process large quantities of small parcels. Each of these services in its own way supports the needs of mailers to assure prospects and customers that the channel is trustworthy, reliable, and dedicated to their satisfaction.
Full-Service Intelligent Mail is a suite of services that allow mailers to take advantage of address correction, fee payment streamlining, tracking and more. This brings a higher level of accuracy and efficiency to direct mail campaigns. For a full description of the program download the USPS fact sheet (PDF).
Every Door Direct Mail allows mailers to get total coverage of an area by demographic or proximity to their business at low cost. Mailers can select postal routes using a mapping tool provided by the USPS, and pay for postage online. Mail pieces are then brought to the local Post Office for delivery to every household on the routes selected. This is a cost effective way of achieving total market/business area coverage. Of note is the fact that there may be some waste as is always the case with a saturation mail approach. If a more sophisticated segmentation and selection approach is required, mailers should work with their data broker for a more customized solution.
USPS Picture Permit indicia allows mailers to brand the Permit Imprint Indicia on their First-Class Mail® and Standard Mail® letters and postcards by incorporating their logo, brand ID or trademark. Mailers simply obtain the necessary permit to begin infusing their mailing with higher brand awareness.
In all, the Postal Service has mailers in mind from start to finish. Whether preparation, logistics, user-facing features or brand building, the USPS has it’s eye on developing and implementing technologies and methodologies designed to ensure a bright future for the direct mail industry.