• on Apr 14th, 2014 in Products & Services | 0 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service is going Hollywood in its latest marketing effort – a new partnership with Sony Pictures as it rolls out the promotion of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” This co-branding and multi-channel marketing push for Priority Mail seem to be catching the attention of consumers, even if scaring off arachnophobic philatelists in the process.

    Commercials on television and in movie theaters, ads on the sides of postal vehicles, online and digital promotional banners, and specially designed packages: consumers are getting hit from many sides in this Priority Mail flat-rate-box promotion. And that is the essence of multi-channel marketing -- communicating with your customers in lots of places.

    While not the first cross promotion or even multi-channel effort the Postal Service has tried, this one is notable in a few senses. The Spider-Man image and web on the side of postal vehicles serve as something of a pilot test for selling advertising space on vehicles, a revenue-generating idea explored in many forums, including this blog. What is consumer reaction to images on these iconic vehicles? Would the public accept other images or do they cheapen the brand? Public reaction could help the Postal Service decide whether to pursue other opportunities for advertising on vehicles.

    Also, this promotion is aimed at a younger audience. As with the Harry Potter stamp, the Postal Service is relying here on a pop culture image to resonate with younger consumers and become more relevant among that crowd. While stamps might be a hard sell to digital natives, package services certainly aren’t. Younger consumers tend to shop frequently online or via peer-to-peer platforms, so they rely on timely and inexpensive package delivery. Perhaps a Spider-Man campaign helps Priority Mail become their go-to product?

    Maybe, or maybe there’s more to it than that. Let us know. Do you think cross promotions with popular cultural events and figures help sell the Postal Service brand to a younger audience? What about using postal vehicles as promotion platforms? Should the Postal Service use its fleet to promote nonpostal products or events? 

  • on Apr 7th, 2014 in Products & Services | 4 comments

    Love ‘em, hate ‘em or feel indifferent, stamps are certainly getting their 15 minutes of fame. Not only are the latest stamp releases creating major buzz (think Harry Potter and Jimi Hendrix) but alternatives to buying stamps at Post Office counters – such as online and retail partners – are gaining in popularity.

    The Postal Service reports a growing number of direct-to-consumer stamp orders received from online channels, including eBay. With consumers buying stamps in new ways and a need to improve internal processes, the Postal Service recently announced it is borrowing some of the best practices of other large national retailers to create a world-class distribution network.

    The new system will support the growing number of direct-to-consumer stamp orders while keeping postal retail outlets and partners, such as Costco, Walmart, and Staples, well-stocked. This improvement should reduce consumer frustration when preferred stamps are not easily available. The changes include consolidating its stamp distribution network, greater use of automated equipment to provide order processing 7 days a week and faster fulfillment and delivery times of 5 days or less. The streamlining also should improve inventory management and reduce destruction of stamps.

    These changes address some of the recommendations made by the Office of Inspector General in an audit report issued late last year. The Postal Service is also beginning to implement some of our other recommended improvements, including better scanning compatibility, timely posting of transaction data, and status alerts sent to requesters.

    The new system should be seamless to customers and post offices were told to order stamps as usual until further notice. We welcome your input on the changes and the stamp-ordering process. Customers, do you have trouble locating the stamps you prefer? Employees, are there other ways to improve stamp ordering and fulfillment? 

  • on Feb 22nd, 2014 in Products & Services | 3 comments

    Postal customers took fewer trips to the Post Office this past holiday season but that doesn’t mean they spent less on postal products. They just conducted more business through alternative channels, such as online at USPS.com and self-service kiosks. Over the 2013 holiday season, transactions at brick-and-mortar post offices were down 8 percent compared to last year, but transactions through alternative access were up 17 percent, postal officials reported.

    The movement to online postage transactions certainly mirrors the larger societal shift toward e-commerce and mobile commerce. But the big shift over the holidays to alternative access could also be the result of reduced hours at some post offices. Customers will shop where they find it most convenient, and in some locations post offices are opened only a few hours a day. This certainly makes Village Post Offices and contract postal units, self-service kiosks, and online purchasing more attractive. Many of these options are available 24 hours a day.

    The U.S. Postal Service recognizes that it needs to be where people find it most convenient to buy postage or other mailing services. The Postmaster General stated as much at the recent Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee meeting when addressing alternative access, including the Postal Service’s decision to partner with Staples. But alternative access retail options have limitations, which if not addressed could frustrate customers and leave some money on the table.

    Our recent audit of self-service kiosks found that customers are not using kiosks as much as anticipated for a few reasons: they sometimes are located in hidden parts of the lobby; kiosk signage is not always visible; and lobby assistants are not always available or fully trained to help customers help themselves. In addition, self-service kiosks are generally housed in retail outlets with the highest mail volume, primarily urban and suburban areas. Low-traffic retail outlets, often in rural areas, get a double whammy. They are not likely to have a kiosk and their Post Office hours are reduced.

    How can the Postal Service ensure that customers receive suitable services while reining in operating costs? Does the Postal Service need more self-service kiosks, or should it redistribute the 2,500 now in service? What incentives might the Postal Service offer merchants to house Village Post Offices? Or should the Postal Service restore hours to its own post offices, even those that are not profitable? 

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