on May 23rd, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 8 comments
 
Mobile technology is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. “Mobile” includes multiple devices (cell phones, smartphones, and tablet computers) and platforms (text messaging, applications — or “apps” — and mobile Internet). With all of these new communication avenues available to customers, the U.S. Postal Service must ask whether it is keeping up with the rapid expansion of this market. Compared to other government organizations in the Postal Service is ahead of the curve when it comes to establishing a mobile presence. It has an app available on both major smartphone/tablet platforms (Apple and Android) that allow customers to find post offices, collection boxes, and Automated Postal Centers anywhere in the country. The Postal Service has also created a mobile-friendly version of its website (http://m.www.usps.com). Just last week the Postal Service launched http://www.uspseverywhere.com, which is a new interactive map featuring dozens of locations for customers to purchase postal services within their neighborhoods by entering a ZIP code. However, compared to major private sector competitors, such as UPS, the Postal Service appears antiquated. For example, the UPS Android app includes a cost calculator and digital package tracking function not available on the Postal Service app. Some foreign postal operations provide numerous services that the Postal Service might want to offer. For instance, Denmark and Sweden just initiated a program that allow customers to buy postage via text messaging rather than standing in line at the post office to buy a stamp. Customers text a word, such as ”stamp” or “postage” to a certain telephone number and receive a unique code they can write on the envelope in the area where they normally place the stamp. The code is only valid for a limited number of hours to reduce the possibility of fraud. Sweden’s program even allows customers to receive different denominations of postage based on the weight of their packages. This is just one example of the way postal operations around the world are leveraging mobile technology to make customers’ interactions with their postal operations more efficient and pleasant. This example underscores the fact that mobile technology presents an important opportunity for the Postal Service to reach out to a generation of technologically savvy customers.

What types of mobile applications should the Postal Service pursue? If you have an idea for a possible postal mobile application, post your ideas in the comment section below.

Update: It has been brought to our attention after the publication of this blog that the USPS Mobile application does include a package tracking feature on the main menu.

This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

Comments

I recently downloaded the USPS and UPS mobile app on my Android phone. I noticed that the USPS app has the following features:

1. Locations: it allows you to search for Post Office locations, Automated Postal Centers, and Collection Boxes.

2. Zip Code: you can search for zip codes based on the address or city. It also provides information on the cities within a specific zip code.

3. Track and Confirm: you can enter a tracking number in the provided box to retrieve the tracking information on your package.

4. About: selecting this option will take the customer to a list of options: About USPS, USPS.com, Terms and Conditions, Get a Free Flat Rate Shipping Kit, and Settings.

Options 2 thru 4 mentioned above are actually hard to find because it is not on the initial page once the application opens. I had to press the Menu button on my Android phone in order to get these additional options.

After browsing both USPS and UPS mobile apps, I think that USPS should give its customers the option for a package price quote similar to the quote feature on UPS mobile app. In addition, all features of the mobile app should be placed on the first page upon opening the application. I could see someone looking at it for the first time and having the assumption that the USPS mobile app only allows customers to search for locations.

Thanks for pointing that out, mhoodallen. Our initial evaluation of the USPS mobile application missed those features. We'll update the article to reflect these features, but as you point out, the UPS app still has more features than the USPS app, such as the price quote. Also, you are correct in that the USPS app is difficult to use, bringing up an entirely different set of issues. Thanks again.

I actually wasn't aware that USPS even had an App available, so thank you for this post.
I am downloading the App now as I am always looking for better technical solutions for business use. I can instantly see that the track and confirm feature will come in handy when a customer rings while I am on the road. Thanks again USPS, a job well done.

http://www.uspseverywhere.com/ is very disappointing for people who live in urban/suburban areas that are experiencing an explosive growth as there are hardly any amenities available for customers to purchase items. Let's take where your headquarters are e.g. Washington D.C, where there is explosive growth near the subway stations

It was very difficult to find postal products or services with the parameters provided. I could find some of what I needed e.g. stamps but not all of what I needed e.g. shipping products. This is not good planning and provides me with a poor customer experience. Gas is almost 4.00 a gallon and some people don't even have cars. Can you imagine people hopping all over town just to get everything they need? One place for stamps and the other place for shipping supplies....

So, if you can't do more locations that are convenient to your urban customers just have them purchase everything on the mobile phone. I would like you to build an app so that I can purchase USPS postal products and service via my mobile phone. I would love to utilize my mobile phone to purchase everything all at one time and have them sent to my home. Send a message via text to have my mail carrier to come pick-up my package and have it delivered to the destination. I can just put my mail in the slot for the next delivery. You do know there is a Netflix app right?!

I agree this new www.uspseverywhere.com website is disappointing.

The iPhone mobile application currently includes a rate calculator function. The Android version wil be available in later this year.

For clarification, the comparison of the USPS Mobile and UPS applications referred to in this article are based on the features available on their respective Android apps at the time the article was written.

I have an idea that would raise revenue that involves the ability for anyone to special order a stamp.

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