• 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 Mar 31st, 2014 in Delivery & Collection | 4 comments

    That ethereal voice was enough for Ray Kinsella to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield in the movie Field of Dreams. But is this approach a sound business model for same-day delivery providers? It seems to be the model they are following: provide same-day delivery in anticipation that customers will eventually consider it standard practice – and actually want it.

    Study after study shows consumers shop online mainly because of low prices and free delivery. Consumers consistently rank “fast shipping” toward the bottom of their reasons for returning to an e-tailer’s website. And yet e-tailers, brick-and-mortar stores, startups, and even the U.S. Postal Service have embarked on the quest to provide same-day delivery service.

    Amazon, Nordstrom, and Walmart are among retailers offering same-day delivery in select markets for orders placed by a certain time. Startups such as Deliv and Instacart are getting in on the action, providing same-day delivery services for retailers in malls or for grocery stores. And, in an interesting convergence, eBay and Google have partnered with traditional retailers not only to deliver their products within hours of a receiving an order, but also to sell them online through consumer-friendly platforms.

    The Postal Service stepped into this market with a short-lived pilot project in San Francisco and now a refined test in New York City. FedEx and UPS do not appear to be jumping in wholly with a same-day service aimed at the retail e-commerce channel, instead offering individual customers some a la cart same-day options.

    Overall, the prices providers are charging for same-day delivery range from about $6 to $10. This is roughly in line with the value consumers place on these services, according to surveys. The price point is good news for consumers, but raises questions about same-day delivery’s sustainability. According to some analysts, many of the same-day services are money losers. Still, as the late Steve Jobs understood well, consumers’ preferences change as offerings are refined. Demand for same-day delivery could increase in the future, which means those already in the market could have an advantage over late entrants.

    Share your thoughts on same-day delivery service. Is this something you want? Are you willing to pay extra for it? If so, how much and for what types of products? Where is the best opportunity for the Postal Service in this market?  

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