• on May 11th, 2009 in Products & Services | 9 comments
    While 2008 was not a good year for mail volume in general, one source of optimism for the future is the continued growth in mail tied to spending on political campaigns. This is spending during political campaigns on direct mail to promote candidates or issues and to raise funds. Fundraising requests can also generate single-piece First-Class Mail responses. Although in the recent election there was much discussion of President Obama’s creative use of the Internet to communicate with supporters and raise funds electronically, for election campaigns below the national level direct mail is still the most effective tool for reaching localized areas. In an article in DMNews, William Berry, president of William Berry Campaigns, was quoted as saying, “Right now there’s just no effective way to really localize new media direct marketing. Remember, 98 percent of candidates are running for offices such as city council or state assembly and 85 percent of their ad budgets are still direct mail — it would be malpractice to recommend anything else.”

    The revenue potential of expanding voting by mail has received attention, but campaign direct mail may offer even greater opportunities for the Postal Service. Spending on campaigns has gone up every election year, even in years when there was not a national election. Campaign spending on election mail amounted to $648 million in 2004 and $707 million in 2006, before rising to just over $1 billion in 2008. While there have been efforts to market election mail (voting by mail), the revenue potential is not as significant as local campaign mail. For example, if the entire country were to adopt voting by mail, and even if as many as five mailpieces (registration, confirmation, voter guide, the ballot, and return of the ballot) went to or from each of 180 million registered voters, the number of mailpieces would not surpass a billion. The associated revenue would only be several hundred million dollars. Additionally, there is a risk that Congress could mandate that the Postal Service carry election ballots at a discounted rate or for free. The Postal Service has made a special effort to target official election mail, but a focus on campaign direct mail could have a higher revenue potential.

    How should the Postal Service reach out to campaign mailers and political advertisers to generate more revenue?

    This topic is hosted by the OIG's Sales & Service directorate.

  • on Mar 9th, 2009 in Products & Services | 16 comments
    The Office of Inspector General (OIG) independently audits the efficiency and effectiveness of Postal Service programs such as the online shipping solution Click-N-Ship®. However, OIG employees are also customers of the Postal Service, with their own experiences. Tara, a member of the OIG’s Communication team, tried Click-N-Ship® over the holidays and volunteered to write about her experience.
     
    I knew Click-N-Ship® existed through promotions and obviously being an employee of the USPS OIG. And even though I pride myself on being very tech-savvy, I was hesitant to use it. To me there was just something comforting about making the time consuming trip to the post office to pay a real person to take and ship my package. Then I thought to myself, “I shop online, why not give this a shot?” Now I am a raving fan.
     

    With a simple digital kitchen scale, my computer, and credit card, I shipped approximately 50 packages out during the holidays from the comfort of my own home. Most were letter-sized, so I first placed an online order for the free Priority Mail envelopes the Postal Service provides online. They were delivered to my door within a few days. It was fairly easy to set up the account, enter addresses, print the shipping labels, and complete transactions. For no additional charge, I scheduled a carrier pick-up and confirmed delivery of my packages online. In fact, the carrier even left a notification that he picked up my packages.

    The only problem I encountered was not being able to ship anything for a day or so during the Postal Service’s technical glitch in the system in mid-December. Though mildly inconvenient, it wasn’t that big of deal to wait until the next day when the system was fixed. So now whenever someone tells me they are going to the Post Office to ship something, I tell them to give Click-N-Ship® a try.

    Have you ever used Click-N-Ship® and what was your experience? Was your experience similar to Tara’s? If not, what happened? What ideas do you have for the Postal Service to promote or improve this service?

  • on Feb 9th, 2009 in Products & Services | 7 comments
    Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service allow merchants to pay the shipping charges for their customers' returns. Merchandise Return Service is the end-to-end version, and Parcel Return Service provides workshare discounts for mailers willing to pick up the packages within the Postal Service's network. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General independently audits the efficiency and effectiveness of Postal Service programs such as Merchandise Return Service and Parcel Return Service. However, OIG employees are also customers of the Postal Service with their own experiences. Nicole, an OIG employee, recently used Parcel Return Service. She agreed to share her experience on Pushing the Envelope.

    For the 2008 holiday season I tried the all-online shopping approach for the first time. I had my items picked out, purchased, delivered to my door, and even wrapped by December 12! It was an unprecedented feat for me personally and I was overjoyed at the lack of stress involved — that is until I found out the big surprise gift of a digital camera for my Mom turned out to be duplicated by another friend of hers! What does this have to do with the USPS OIG blog? We’ll get there…

    After resigning myself to the fact that the other camera was actually better than the one I purchased, it became clear that I would have to return the item, and my dread mounted. What a hassle — there was no ‘store’ for the virtual vendor I purchased it from, so I’d have to find the invoice, repackage the thing, and get it back to the online seller. Just thinking about how long that would take gave me a headache. That is until I logged into the vendor site and saw that they had something called USPS Parcel Return Service. I thought whoa, what is this? And to my delight, I found that with two mouse clicks and my printer, I could get the return invoice for the package and a pre-paid USPS shipping label for the box! It took me less than 5 minutes to plop the item and invoice in the box, fold and tape the label to it, and be on my way to drop it at a local post office. There was even an option to schedule a pickup of the package free of charge by my local carrier, but I felt entirely too guilty at how easy it was to that point to take advantage.

    So, I stopped by the local post office on my way to work, went in the main lobby, and dropped it straight in the parcel box. E-mails from the vendor confirmed the arrival of the return package, and just this week I received the refund of the purchase price. Easy as that! So next holiday season, I’m not going to let this minor blip keep me from shopping online. Instead, I’m going to look for more vendors who offer this convenient service and online-shop away!

    Have you used Parcel Return Service or Merchandise Return Service? Was your experience similar to Nicole’s? If not, what happened, and how would you improve these services?

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