You’ve probably heard that the U.S. Postal Service has the nation’s biggest retail network, with more than 30,000 post offices — about as many nationwide locations as McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Walmart combined. Just what does that mean in terms of customer visits, though?
We were curious, so we decided to take a close look. The Postal Service officially lists 877 million customer visits in fiscal year (FY) 2016, but that’s just the number of transactions. It turns out that most visits don’t include a transaction. Instead customers may check their PO Box, grab free shipping materials, or stick a letter in the slot. Add all those non-transaction visits in and you get an eye-popping number: 2.7 billion visits in FY 2016 — about triple the official “visits” figure.
Our white paper, Billions Served: Foot Traffic at the Post Office, breaks down how traffic varies across the network. Spoiler alert: It varies a lot. The average foot traffic for the 450 busiest post offices — dubbed “mega” post offices — is more than 10,000 visits a week, or as much as Best Buy stores. The next 7,000 busiest are “large” and on par with CVS stores. The “small/medium” post offices (about 8,000 locations) see about as much foot traffic as average bank branches. Half of post offices are “micro” locations.
We also did a survey on who visits post offices, how often, and for what purpose. Among the surprises: Millennials actually visit post offices more often than previous generations, though they are less likely than older folks to complete a counter transaction or drop off mail/packages. They are, however, much more likely to use a self-service kiosk, check a PO Box, or pick up a free Priority Mail box. This suggests post offices might need to adjust to accommodate the changing mix of actions.
Our report suggests USPS could take a cue from private sector retailers and use foot traffic information to help improve customer service and sales. For example, USPS could use more lobby assistants during peak foot traffic times, which may differ from peak transaction times. Foot traffic information also could provide a better sense of a particular post office’s value — both to its community and to the Postal Service. USPS also could use the information to assess potential new retail partnerships or initiatives, many of which may only make sense at locations with sufficient foot traffic.
What is the Postal Service missing by not fully measuring retail foot traffic? Should it start tracking it? Does it surprise you that Millennials visit post offices more often than other generations, or that foot traffic varies so much across post offices? Join the conversation in the comments section below.