• on Dec 16th, 2013 in Products & Services | 2 comments

    Holiday greeting cards still outweigh e-cards in terms of sentiment and personal touch, recent surveys indicate. Even digital natives say a card in the mail evokes a stronger reaction than a text or email. Yet, each year, fewer and fewer people are sending holiday greeting cards through the mail.

    In 2011, American households on average sent about 16 holiday greeting cards, according to the Postal Service’s recently released 2012 Household Diary Study report. Twelve years earlier, 23 holiday cards were sent. Data from the Greeting Card Association also chart the downward trend: U.S. consumers bought 1.5 billion holiday cards in 2011, compared to 2.7 billion in 1995.

    Still, mailed holiday greeting cards remain an important component of the Postal Service’s revenues for the year, as single-piece First-Class letters are one of the Postal Service’s most profitable products. While mail is not as seasonal as it used to be, a strong holiday season still sets the tone for the entire fiscal year.

    It seems unlikely that this trend in holiday greeting cards can be easily reversed, given the overall decline in mail use and a growing comfort with digital communications. But, perhaps some small innovations might revive interest in sending holiday greeting cards. For example, Australia Post is pioneering the use of “video stamps” – a recorded 15-second video that the addressee can view using a smart phone app. While the post is allowing the stamps on parcels only at the moment, a similar type QR code might provide an interesting opportunity for greeting cards.

    What other innovations or digital enhancements might work well on hard-copy greeting cards? Do you plan on sending greeting cards this year? Do you expect to send more or fewer cards than last year? 

  • on May 21st, 2012 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 6 comments
    Though there has been a steady decline of customers’ usage of First-Class Mail™ over the last decade, writing and sending letters through the U.S. mail used to be very popular ways of letting someone know you cared. For example, many of us remember when we were kids waiting anxiously for the delivery of the mail to see whether that special birthday present from Grandma and Granddad had arrived. And, with sincere gratitude, many of us remember penning a letter to Grandma and Granddad, thanking them for that special birthday present. Family members often read, reflect on, and cherish letters exchanged decades ago between family, lovers, and friends. These letters often serve as time machines, transporting younger generations back to an era where they can gain fascinating insight into their loved ones’ lives or valuable information about the family dynamics of previous generations. Writing and sending letters is a time honored tradition that offers tangible evidence that the writer cares or doesn’t care about the recipient of the letter. Letters and greeting cards visually connect the receiver to the sender through handwriting, images, or messages in the letter or greeting card. Experian QAS, a provider of address management solutions, found that most people prefer to receive greeting cards. The company surveyed 500 respondents about their greeting card preferences, and 92 percent preferred receiving greeting cards mailed through the postal services over receiving e-cards. Email messages, on the other hand, have their advantages. For example, emails can be sent and received instantly wherever there is Internet service. Email does not require physical storage and if the receiver doesn’t want anyone to read the email, it can be password protected or discarded with a click of the mouse. Yet, with all the modern conveniences of emails, how many people remember the first email they ever sent or received? How many people can appreciate the sensory connection to a loved one through an email? This blog is hosted by the OIG's Office of Audit.
  • on Dec 12th, 2011 in Products & Services | 6 comments
    Every year, millions of Americans send holiday greeting cards through the mail to friends and family around the country. Usually this means a trip to the store to pick out cards, the Post Office to get stamps, sometimes even a photographer to capture that perfect holiday photo, and another trip to the Post Office to mail the cards. But now there are many options for creating a holiday greeting card that save both time and money. Not only are these options a potential boon to consumers, they are an opportunity for the Postal Service. Several years ago, Hallmark® introduced a hybrid greeting card that customers can order online. For one price, customers create a card by choosing a design and uploading their own photos and even choosing the day the Postal Service delivers the card. This year, Apple® introduced Cards, a smartphone application that allows customers to create and mail hybrid greeting cards directly from their iPhones. Still, for those who love the experience of shopping for cards, a number of Postal Service retail locations offer a selection of greeting cards allowing customers to buy, stamp, and send them from the same location. Offering holiday cards through multiple platforms has a number of benefits for the Postal Service and its customers. This type of multi-channel strategy provides customers with convenience and multiple options for using physical mail. If expanded to other postal products, such as Priority Mail or Standard Mail, this strategy could provide the Postal Service with an opportunity to grow mail volume for other mail classes and improve customer satisfaction by making other products and services easier and more convenient to use. Additionally, hybrid holiday cards, whether created from online or mobile platforms, represent a path forward for the Postal Service in the digital world. It shows that digital technology can compliment and not be the enemy of physical mail. So, should the Postal Service make efforts to apply this multi-channel, hybrid mail model to other postal products, and if so which ones? Do you plan to send your holiday cards this year using an online or mobile card builder or are you sending them the old fashioned way? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.