direct mail, Marketing, USPS

Finally Closing The Mail Gap

Out of town, or at the office, consumers can check their mailbox.

The USPS may be experiencing the continuing shrinkage in mail volumes, especially after the election season spike of 2016. But despite the trend to digital, the folks at L’Enfant Plaza, DC 20590 have come up with a winning service, “Informed Delivery”.

Householders and businesses can receive emails daily reporting what letters have been mailed to them.

You may have thought that Facebook or Instagram are the leading purveyors of new photography– the daily delivery of selfies, restaurant plates, goofy pets and family outings. In fact, it’s the USPS.  It takes approximately 411,000,000 new pictures every day.

The images are emailed, and also displayed on the user’s web portal.

The automated sorting process for letters relies on instantaneous scanning of a bar code, or a ZIP code. In 2016, Americans dropped 150 billion pieces into the USPS mail stream, and the sortation machinery looked at every one of those pieces and took a quick picture of the bar code or ZIP.

Until recently, those images were probably trashed a nano-second later. But then someone, a marketer, an engineer, a postal clerk, thought, “Hey, we took a picture, let’s post it!” Pardon the pun.

Automation machinery scans the incoming letter-sized mail.

Thus, the invention of Informed Delivery.

Every day, we at our household, receive an email from the USPS advising us of letter-sized mail making its way to us. The email includes an individual JPG of each piece, in black and white.

Now, you may feel that this is a weak attempt, a grasping at straws by a struggling old school business attempting to fight the digital tides. To me, it is enlightened genius. In a move that is worthy of a jiu jitsu artist’s praise, the USPS is using the power of digital to elevate its analog medium.

Every day a USPS email sends a photo album of coming mail.

Christmas Comes Early
For people at home, Informed Delivery may eliminate the excitement and anticipation of walking to the mailbox. ‘Kind of like peeking at your Christmas presents under the tree a few days before the event. Still, the service lets you know that a letter, check or invoice you are waiting for is definitely on the way. It also allows you to look at your mailbox, or mail-on-hold while you are out of town. ‘Kind of like scanning your voice mail–and you know you do that.

Many Happy Returns
Direct marketers will love Informed Delivery. Rather than waiting for the physical replies to show up from their latest mailing, they can see the reply envelopes as soon as the consumer drops it back in the mail. Admittedly, marketers can get digital reports now of bar coded reply mail, but Informed Delivery shows which replies, as there may be many outgoing mailings occurring simultaneously.

The USPS harnesses a digital app…who knew??

A Stronger Pitch
Every marketer considers the orchestration of messaging. We want to integrate email, social media and direct mail to complement a retail sales event. Informed Delivery alerts consumers by email of a coming promotion. The front of the envelope is the ideal canvas for the first tease of the event.

Intelligence At HQ
It should be pointed out, that if I have a dashboard of my incoming mail, so does the USPS. While you may worry that the USPS knows what I get by mail, I don’t. But if postal reform ever does get passed, the USPS may be able to offer user privileges to recipients based on the volumes of mail received. After all, if you do receive a lot of mail, you are a likely advocate of mail delivery, and to the USPS, that’s a high-five.

Kudos to the USPS on this latest innovation.  My bet is that as it takes hold, it will be leveraged, much to the benefit of one of America’s oldest and revered institutions.

Thanks for reading and sharing! If you want to see the Informed Delivery package, click on this!

(All pictures shamelessly taken from the USPS email and my personal portal.)

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Education, Media

One Mail Date You Can’t Miss

IMG_4675

Early cursive, having graduated from a straight pen to a fountain pen.

Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. You need to prepare.  But just yesterday, in an important and related circumstance, our world was jiggled.

The news is that the State of Washington is considering a bill to re-install cursive writing as a mandatory subject in elementary school.

These things creep up on you.

It’s not that we missed cursive writing so much as we just didn’t notice that our children no longer write.

They print.

This is because the key pads of every digital device in the world host simple characters, void of any “joined up” writing.

In schools today, writing is no longer a strength. QWERTYUIOP is. This is the real impact of an analog world that went digital.

OMG!

Love Script 9

~”Steel Rail Blues” 

On closer inspection we find a more destructive force at work.

When our kids were divested of their writing skills, they likewise lost their will to communicate on paper. And what follows that is the total lack of understanding about commitment, letters, and the mail.

Love Script 1

~”P.S. I Love You”

In just over two weeks’ time it will be Valentines Day.   February 14th is the penultimate delivery day for personal mail.

Miss this date, and you are sunk, pretty much for the year.

The magic of Valentine’s Day is all about writing and receiving cards, and letters, which are totally tricked up and enhanced for impact.

Love Script 3

~”Mr. Postman”

Cursive writing plays a big role.

Getting Letters
Since the invention of papyrus we have lived in a world where written communication was executed using mail delivery.

A note arrived, not at the speed of light, but at the speed of foot. Replies were expected within weeks, not seconds.

Love Script 5

~”Return To Sender”

There is an argument that speed is of the essence. Why wait two weeks to learn that a love is requited when you can know thumbs up or down in nano seconds?

Answer: the wait is part of the experience.

Not knowing for sure can extract days of wistful, sometimes excruciating, wrenching anticipation of an answer.

Why spoil that with a text reply that will fit on a license plate?

Love Script 8

~”Nights In White Satin”

The effort of putting it on paper, combined with the plodding slowness of mail have been the guard rails of civility for centuries.

Writing gives time for the distillation of emotions.

Committing thoughts on paper gives solemnity and gravity to an otherwise flippant, momentary impulse.  By contrast, the most powerful, and potentially destructive word in the lexicon today is “Send”.

Love Script 4

~”Song For A Winter’s Night”

So we need cursive.   It takes practice and time to perfect.  It also looks nice, even when young hands, and older ones too, have difficulty forming the words.

There are two weeks remaining before a trip down to the mail box reveals your true feelings to a certain someone.

Make the most of your time.

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direct mail, Government, Media

Across The Routed Plain

MailThere is a page on the USPS website which was written to boggle the mind.

It is a story worthy of the read for anyone who views the postal system as a fading presence.

While you have to dig a little, and do your own math, you can learn something fascinating about the real meaning of “ubiquity” and “omnipresence”.

mailman-truckIt turns out that America has a network of 4,100,000 miles of roads.   From two-rut country lanes to 16-lane raceways.   Like a fine mesh of nerves stretching across the continent, the road leads up to the doorsteps of 154,000,000 US mail boxes.  Quite incredibly, the USPS drives vehicles along 3,834,000 miles of this road system, six days a week.

This would not seem such a big deal if it wasn’t for the presumption that we are all connected inexorably by the Web.

mailmanTruly, the Web has done its best to increase our knowledge about more people than we could ever achieve otherwise, without really coming to know them at all.

Enter the the USPS.

This quasi-Federal organization shows up in person every day to see us.   For the working masses, the visit occurred while we were somewhere else, doing our job.   For the very young, the out-of-work, for the retired, and home keepers, it’s likely we saw the truck pause in front of our home, or heard a plop and clunk at the front door as a postal person marched across the yard.

Mail ladyThe point in all of this is that we are connected by a single, reliable entity that physically bears witness to the daily lives of the country’s people.  Present and accounted for.

To fill this in a bit, the post office drew over 244,000 separate routes on a map to come see us, and ostensibly sent over 211,000 couriers out to make the call, judging by the number of vehicles in use.

Just for comparison, Google has 54,000 employees, and apart from their roving camera cars, most probably haven’t left the office.  Yet they would make the claim they know all about you.

The USPS web page is a column of statistics that may astound you, and then again maybe not.   What is riveting nonetheless, is their final, bold statistic– “$0: tax dollars received for operating the postal service”.

Give it a read!

Thanks for reading! I have no affiliation with the USPS, but do value their work and worth.  Compared to a lot of government agencies, this one actually gets the job done.

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