• on Dec 11th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 3 comments

    Wouldn’t it be nice to receive only the advertising mail that interests you? Information about products and services you like or want to learn about, and nothing else? And wouldn’t it be nice for advertisers to know more about what recipients think about their ads? Is an offer appealing, but the timing is not right, or is a recipient completely uninterested?

    Creating a system to share this information is a possibility, and the U.S. Postal Service could play a key role in making it happen. That’s the concept of a new white paper released by the Postal Service Office of Inspector General today. Strengthening Advertising Mail by Building a Digital Information Market highlights the importance of maintaining and strengthening advertising mail by enabling more direct communication from mail recipients ultimately back to the advertiser.

    Ad mailings could then be targeted with almost pinpoint accuracy, increasing revenues for advertisers and reducing recycling for everyone. The system would benefit the Postal Service, too, by making ad mail even more relevant and valuable.

    One potential approach starts with using a smart phone or tablet to scan a digital code on the front of a piece of ad mail you receive, and then accessing an interactive system into which you can record your advertising preferences. In return, you are sent a coupon redeemable for merchandise from a variety of vendors, and in the future you would receive ads tailored to products and services of interest to you. Participation would be strictly voluntary, and privacy guidelines would be established.

    Tell us what you think! Do you think customers would be inclined to access an interactive system to record advertising preferences if it meant special offers or more targeted mailings in the future? 

  • on Dec 9th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 4 comments

    Today’s consumers are a demanding bunch – expecting to get what they want precisely when and where they want it.

    These changing expectations are putting the pressure on both brick and mortar retailers as well as online retailers. Pressure grows to deliver goods faster, cheaper, and with more flexibility. Now, customers expect free shipping and overnight delivery or, in some cities, same-day delivery.

    It seems same-day delivery might not be fast enough for some. Amazon.com is toying with the idea of delivering packages within 30 minutes – via drone.

    In an interview on a recent CBS “60 Minutes” news program, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos discussed his Prime Air unmanned aircrafts, which he claims carry packages up to 5 pounds – the weight of most parcels Amazon.com delivers – and have a range of about 10 miles. This could make them viable in more densely populated areas. Bezos thinks he could get this service up and running in about 5 years.

    So is all this drone delivery talk just pie in the sky or a potential delivery path worth considering?

    The technology is getting there. It’s already being tested in other parts of the world. In Australia, a textbook rental company, Zookal, plans to use drones to deliver textbooks to students as early as March 2014. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley startup Matternet is testing drone delivery in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and sees the potential for using these small, electric crafts to deliver goods in populated areas where they can make multiple deliveries within their limited range of a few miles.

    But it’s likely to be some time before U.S. skies look like something out of “Star Wars,” with thousands of small, autonomous aircrafts zipping around and dropping packages at our doorsteps. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) isn’t moving too quickly to open the skies for commercial drone purposes, and understandably so. The thought of unmanned vehicles flying in areas with lots of air traffic raises significant safety concerns.

    Still, innovation is all about experimenting. Many people in the late 19th century thought the light bulb would never catch on. What are your thoughts on these delivery drones? Is driver-free, aerial delivery the answer to the growing demands of consumers? Is this a feasible option for the Postal Service in the coming years? Or could it be more like the Postal Service’s ill-fated test of “rocket mail” from the late 1950s where a cruise missile loaded with mail launched from a submarine? That experiment didn’t gain traction. 

  • on Nov 18th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 1 comment

    The generation known as Digital Natives – born and raised in the age of the Internet – are said to live much of their lives online in one way or another. Indeed, while use of email is hardly exclusive to their demographic, it’s no coincidence that their rise has corresponded with the decline of mail volume.

    Now that Digital Natives account for the largest segment of the American population and are growing more influential every year in their buying power, it’s more important than ever to ensure the U.S. Postal Service is engaging this group. But do Digital Natives currently see any value in the mail?

    Surprisingly, yes. In our recently released white paper, Enhancing Mail for Digital Natives, we found Digital Natives have an abiding interest in the mail. In fact, Digital Natives check their mailboxes daily. They’re mainly interested in packages – things bought online, of course – but they also like regular mailpieces, especially those that integrate some type of digital technology, like augmented reality. Digital Natives said that if regular mail ever disappeared they would be unhappy for a variety of reasons - citing everything from no more handwritten notes to postal employees who would be out of a job.

    The white paper analyzes results from Digital Native focus groups recently convened specifically to assess current uses and perceptions of the mail. And some of those results are interesting, to say the least:

    • Digital Natives feel an emotional attachment to mail that they don’t feel with digital communications.
    • Digital Natives still appreciate receiving certain types of physical mail that are useful, such as coupons, and are more likely to use them when the hard copy coupon can be uploaded and used through a smartphone.
    • Their anticipation of packages leads them not only to check their mail daily but also look at mail they might otherwise ignore.
    • Digital natives still look at catalogs, but catalogs are more likely to lead to a purchase if they can be scanned by mobile phones or tablets.

    The paper details these and other findings that could help both the Postal Service and mailers develop strategies for making mail even more appealing to Digital Natives, and thus continue to meet current and future public needs.

    Do you agree with the findings of the focus groups, especially if you consider yourself a Digital Native? Let us know what you think. 

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