• on Apr 28th, 2014 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 10 comments

    Given the U.S. Postal Service’s significant role in the nation’s founding, it’s probably not surprising that it owns a number of historic properties. But when the historic institution needs to modernize and optimize its network of postal facilities, how should it handle its historic properties? This has proved an especially volatile question for those citizens most directly affected. A property is eligible for historic status if it meets the National Register criteria, which involve the property’s age, integrity, and significance. That doesn’t mean the property can never be sold or renovated, just that the Postal Service must follow certain regulations to consider the effects of its actions and engage in a consultative process to resolve negative impacts. Complicating the matter, the Postal Service can't readily determine how many of the 9,000 properties it owns (in its portfolio of 32,000 properties managed) are historic. It sold 22 historic properties between October 2010 and June 2013. As of last summer, it had another 25 historic properties up for sale and was considering selling another 28.

    The sale or attempted sale of these properties has caused a firestorm of protest and resistance in some communities. Historic properties evoke strong emotions because the building or structure touches people in many ways. They are often seen as a connection with our past and a lesson for future generations. Combine these passions with the attachment that many people have to their local post offices, and it’s easy to see why the sale of historic post offices can be a lightning rod. Another factor is that some of these post offices were built during President Roosevelt’s New Deal and are decorated with murals and other artwork of the era. Citizens worry that they will lose access to the works of art inside.

    The Postal Service is an institution in a time of change. It faces significant financial challenges as it attempts to right-size its network so it has the optimal number of facilities for its current mail volume – an amount that has declined since 2007. Occasionally, it will dispose of a historic property as part of its network optimization goals. Our recent audit report reviewed the Postal Service’s management of the preservation and disposal of historic properties and we found numerous areas for improvement. Notably, the Postal Service did not know how many historic properties it owned or what it cost to preserve them. Also, it did not collaborate with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to improve its preservation regulations compliance.

    The Postal Service finds itself with competing obligations: Operating a less-expensive network to improve its financial footing versus the preservation of culture, history, and art. What do you think is the best solution? If it is to preserve these buildings, how should they be paid for?

  • on Apr 21st, 2014 in Products & Services | 0 comments

    Social media isn’t just for fun any more. Sure, millions of people are still tweeting, posting, pinning, and sharing things with each other online by the nanosecond. But 70 percent of businesses and organizations worldwide, including the U.S. Postal Service, also have active Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media accounts.

    Why? Because they recognize that social media is an important channel of business communication, particularly in light of research from management consultants McKinsey & Company estimating there is between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion in annual value to the economy that could be unlocked by social media technologies. So how is the Postal Service using social media? Last summer we released a Management Advisory noting that the agency is present on no less than 18 social media sites. And now our new white paper – Like, Share, Tweet: Social Media and the Postal Service  – identifies multiple ways the Postal Service could not only improve its current social media activities, but also expand upon them to develop new products and services, such as:

    • Crowdshipping
    • Identification services
    • Hybrid products bridging physical and digital communications
    • Social e-commerce services

    Social e-commerce services, for example, could facilitate the use of social platforms as storefronts, similar to online shops on Etsy or Amazon. The Postal Service could manage those storefronts’ back-end operations by providing services such as micro-warehousing, fulfillment, and delivery.

    The paper ultimately makes the case that an overall stronger and more robust social media strategy could help the Postal Service remain competitive in the digital age by better responding to changing communication needs, improving the customer experience, creating value through social commerce, and cutting costs.

    Tell us what you think:

    • How could the Postal Service improve its social media activity?
    • How might your view of the Postal Service be affected by better social media activity?
    • Do you prefer businesses that engage customers via social media? 
  • 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? 

Pages