Most SMBs use some type of direct mail in their integrated marketing campaigns. From simple sales letters and two-sided postcards, to interactive and three-dimensional pieces, direct mail offers marketers an attractive combination of flexibility, engagement and cost.
This close (arguably dependent) relationship with direct mail is one reason why marketers naturally keep a watchful eye on the US Postal Service (USPS™). When they do something new or unexpected (besides hiking up their rates), smart marketers want to know.
Informed Delivery Pilot Programs
Recently, Postmaster General Megan Brennan announced that over the next five years, the Postal Service will invest billions of dollars in capital projects designed to transform the mail system as we know it and “bring it into the digital age.”
The linchpin of Brennan’s new digital strategy is a free service option for residential customers called Informed Delivery, which is currently beta testing in pilot programs in Connecticut, Virginia and New York.
A Daily Snapshot of Incoming Mail
To aid in mail sorting and delivery, Postal Service inserting equipment takes digital photos of mailpiece front-exteriors. Now, with Informed Delivery, it uses those images for a secondary purpose: to give customers a sneak preview of the day’s inbound mail before it arrives at their home–a convenience, the Postal Service says, that lets people monitor receipt of letters, checks, legal papers, jury duty notices and other important correspondence.
How It Works
Each day, after mail is scanned and imaged, small black-and-white pictures of each piece are compiled and emailed to opted-in participants. Every member of a household can receive individual notifications. In the future, traveling customers may preview the day’s delivery from anywhere, at any time, using a smartphone app or web portal.
Digital Consumer Engagement
“Informed Delivery engages customers where they want to be – in a mobile and digital environment,” says Postmaster General Brennan. “It puts the power of [direct] mail onto digital channels… and creates an opportunity to bring mail and packages onto [consumers’] smartphones and devices.”
A Game Changer for Marketers?
Maybe. Brands could conceivably embed links to websites or digital offers within the daily email notifications. Analytics would also enable the Postal Service to track when and which mailpieces consumers view, and what actions they take, which could improve personalization. Effectiveness of both capabilities should become clearer after pilot programs conclude.
Actual engagement, thus far, seems promising, with 90 percent of beta testers reading notifications four times per week, usually within 52 minutes of receiving them, according to USPS survey results. “This is game-changing for the industry,” Postmaster Brennan claims.
As USPS watchers and integrated marketers, we’ll just have to wait and see.