Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: USPS offers a valuable marketing solutionBy CHRISTOPHER THOMPSON
October 06. 2018 8:06PM
When I think of the United States Postal Service (USPS), I don't immediately think of technology. After all, snail mail, as it's known, has been around for a long time, and most people don't think of the postal service as a technology innovator when they see the local carrier delivering mail to their mailbox.
But the USPS has created a new service that provides benefits to consumers and a very high-value solution for businesses and marketers who are trying to get in front of consumers. Very much tied to technology, it's really a brilliant move, in my humble opinion.
The USPS introduced "Informed Delivery" nationwide in 2017 after testing it out in several markets. The concept is pretty simple. The postal service digitally scans every piece of mail it processes. These images are then compiled and grouped by address into an email that is sent to the registered Informed Delivery user every morning. The user receives an email with pictures of each piece of mail they can expect to see in their mailbox that day. Informed Delivery now boasts close to 13 million users.
Now this may not sound like a big deal to most, but there's more to it. The USPS also has a service that allows businesses to place a digital ad into the email the Informed Delivery user receives. The ad can be a custom image or piece of content related to the direct mail piece that business is sending. And there's also an option to place interactive content into the email so users can click and be taken to the advertiser's website or landing page.
This functionality combines traditional direct mail with digital advertising, and the combination is extremely effective. What's even most impressive are the user statistics and data that matter most to advertisers. As an example, 82 percent of Informed Delivery users view the email every day, or almost every day. Compare that to the email open rates for businesses that typically average between 20 percent to 30 percent. That's a substantial difference.
According to the Direct Marketing Association, open rates for emails sent by businesses have declined for the past 17 quarters in a row. That's a scary thought for businesses that rely heavily on email to communicate with their customers and prospects. In addition, services like unroll.me make it extremely simple for people to unsubscribe from emails being sent by businesses. When someone on your email list unsubscribes, your email system automatically flags them and will not email them again. High levels of email unsubscribes keep marketers up at night, and it's something you have to pay close attention to and manage.
What's also interesting about this topic is the resurgence of direct mail with marketers. The Direct Marketing Association recently reported that direct mail response rates have reached the highest level (5.1 percent) since 2003. In my role, I see a lot of integrated campaigns that leverage both traditional and digital marketing strategies. People are barraged with information all day long, and that's a big reason why you have to reach people via multiple channels.
Informed Delivery by the USPS is really a game changer. It provides a unique opportunity for marketers to leverage multiple channels and reach new audiences. The Informed Delivery offering is still fairly new, so I'd expect to see ongoing improvements over the next several years. The service is free for consumers, and it's free for direct mail advertisers to place their ads in the emails, something likely to change in the future.
Christopher Thompson (email@example.com) is the vice president of business development at Talient Action Group in Manchester and writes Closing the Deal weekly.