It’s easy to understand the underlying motivation behind the U.S. Postal Service’s digital strategy: use data to make mail a much more powerful marketing and communications tool. Hard copy and digital working together to make each other better. So what if the Postal Service is a little late to the party. At least it has showed up, which, as Woody Allen reminded us, is 80 percent of life.

A key piece of the Postal Service’s strategy is Informed Delivery, a free email service currently being tested in New York City and Northern Virginia that provides recipients images of the outsides of the envelopes they will receive in their home mailboxes later that day. A “digest” arrives in the participant’s inbox at roughly the same time every morning with simple black and white photos of mail slated for delivery later that day.

For now, Informed Delivery is just for letters, although testing recently got started on flats (larger envelopes, catalogs, and magazines). And postal officials have promised the service will include catalogs and packages by the time it goes nationwide in 2017.

So far, customers are reacting positively to the pilot tests. Postal data shows a 70 percent open rate of the email digest within 3 hours of its arrival. This means users are effectively seeing mailpieces twice – once in their emails and again in their mailboxes. No wonder early testing indicates a higher response rate to mailpieces. An Informed Delivery campaign improves overall response rates between two and 10 times compared to a direct mail campaign without Informed Delivery.

While the program is promising, advertising experts say certain enhancements are necessary to make it profitable. As Direct Marketing News noted, Informed Delivery doesn’t yet provide pictures of catalogs and packages. And it needs color renditions. “Both of those deficiencies need to be corrected for USPS to profit from the service. If brands are going to pay for interactive services linking digital images of mail to sites or landing pages, they're going to demand high-quality creative,” the trade publication said.

Postal officials promise enhancements as soon as technically feasible. They’ve recently started testing added bells and whistles to Informed Delivery, including tests of interactive marketing pieces with a few brands in the New York City Metro Area. Although the Postal Service is not charging the companies in the test, it is able to collect information on click through rates and increased engagement, which should help it sell the product to marketers in the future.

Would you like to test Informed Delivery in your area? If you are part of the Informed Delivery pilot test, what do you like about the product? What other hybrid mail products would you like to see?

Comments (12)

  • anon

    i like the idea of USPS joining everyone else at the table in the 21st century, but think honestly that paper mail is going by the wayside. Packages, okay, I get that. But there is really no reason to use USPS over the much more practiced competition. I'm so tired of junk mail I don't even go into my mailbox but once a week. So it is very disappointing to see USPS pander to that industry. There's just so much waste. Did you know the average adult gets 40 pounds of junk mail a year? Think about how much waste that creates from employee wasted time to wasted fuel delivering, to trash. I mean it's absolutely absurd. It is called junk mail for a reason. The one market USPS has cornered is identity. Being directly tied in with the government gives them special access and rights. Ditch the junk paper, maybe keep packages, I don't know. But go after "official email". Find a way to guarantee who I'm emailing is who I want to email, and now you've got a product. I would pay money to have that security. If someone could get, say, a court document to me immediately by my official email, the world suddenly moves a lot smoother. There's a lot to think about, but I think moving in that direction would be better than sticking with an obviously dying medium.

    Jun 24, 2016
  • anon

    I would like to test informed delivery.

    Jun 02, 2016
  • anon

    This is the beginning of the electronic mail box. I support these postal initiatives. Very very positive

    May 24, 2016
  • anon

    The Mail Moment ÔÇô Twice a Day ÔÇô Informed Delivery┬« Too little and Too Late? The timing on this request for comment is quixotic to say the least. I was discussing Informed Delivery┬« with a USPS industry colleague this week and my observation is that it is almost ÔÇÿToo Little and Too LateÔÇÖ. Informed Delivery has a good potential to add significant value to all classes of lettermail and publications. Unfortunately the opportunity is being lost for reasons yet to be determined, perhaps due to the ÔÇÿnature of the beastÔÇØ; i.e., ÔÇÿbigcompanyitisÔÇÖ and or a not invented here syndrome, aka ÔÇÿlegacy dragÔÇÖ. To the point under discussion, if Informed Delivery┬« is to make any immediate impact on the USPS volume and revenue growth it needs to deliver compelling value add to hard copy mail. Current Scenario - What it does ÔÇó Informed Delivery┬« advises the recipient what is ÔÇ£Arriving soon via USPS┬« Mail:ÔÇØ From a value added perspective, both personally and for my business, it is minimal to nil. For Informed Delivery┬« to have any significant value add in the marketplace, from recipient POV (which is the ultimate driver of hard copy B2C lettermail (if it is of value to me I will use it, if not I will digitize my correspondence and transactions) and the main underpinning of the USPS operations economic infrastructure, and from the sender POV for B2B, it must provide multiple dimensions of information such as the following to add true value and ultimately drive volume growth; ÔÇó Include all classes of non-package mail (Package Services needs to step up its game on a separate level) ÔÇó ÔÇ£Arriving today via USPS┬« Mail:ÔÇØ (not ÔÇ£Arriving soonÔǪ.ÔÇØ). Further to this messaging the images of the arriving pieces can provide hyperlinks to the mailerÔÇÖs messaging to reinforce/promote the communication message or transaction notice (see below) ÔÇó Linking the intelligent barcode downstream data on each mail piece to a commercial mailerÔÇÖs ERP system so that a mailer can see when each mail piece is due for delivery in the recipientÔÇÖs home or business, in order to capitalize on the hardcopy communication message or transaction notice, AND thus be able to integrate a personalized digital message to the recipient to tie in to the hard copy; e.g., a scan code or other marker that activates the mail piece and interacts with the recipientÔÇÖs mobile device. Pricing for these enhanced marketing features of service, FOS, for hard copy mail could be approached from several perspectives; e.g., a.) As value added for additional fees, or b.) As overall features included in the pricing for a newÔÇôsubclass of commercial mail that would fall under a competitive product taxonomy, separate from the USO FCM rate classification structure.

    May 20, 2016
  • anon

    I am so frustrated with my package deliveries being late. Especially considering how hard it is to get help via phone when packages are lost.

    May 19, 2016
  • anon

    I have been trying to find out information about cluster boxes. My mother has one in her neighborhood. Due to the fact that my mail is being stolen out of the regular type of mail box I would like to have one put in my neighborhood. And don't B.S. me about it. So where do I get the information, because your phone directory won't allow this question to be asked.

    May 19, 2016
  • anon

    I attempted to fill out the usps complaint form and when finished- there is no where to submit the form- If you look up my name and email you will see my initial complaint in March 2016 and go from there.

    May 17, 2016
  • anon

    The Bellflower Calif Flower st maildrop drive thru in the post office parking lot is full of sticky substance AGAIN for the second time in 3 months-

    May 17, 2016
  • anon

    Issues: 1) The testing and results being reported are skewed, not objective, thus they are not accurate. 2) Mail owners - the postage payers - currently have no option to opt out of the program, even if their own test results show that they do not want to include a digital representation of their physical mail piece. 3) When pieces are deferred, (or load leveled) delivery cannot be predicted 100% accurately for a particular day. Who will consumers call when there are issues, 1-800-ASK-USPS? (If you love recorded announcement trees and a near-impossibility of reaching an actual human being, that phone number is for you!) 4) There are also privacy concerns. In typical USPS fashion, though, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. With Service Performance issues, PostalOne! issues, etc, USPS should be focusing on these core systems and services rather than dabbling in marketing services that the mailing industry already does - and does well.

    May 17, 2016
  • anon

    Please include me. Most grateful, Sheridan

    May 16, 2016
  • anon

    Not sure the consumer response should be the sole basis for thinking this pilot a success... if you sent the consumer an email with pics of their incoming mail and said they could put a check next to pieces they no longer want to receive...consumers likely would think that's a great service too! But it would not be good for the USPS or industry. More tests are needed, and the sender of the pieces pays the postage, so very important to ensure this "preview" does not take away from the actual physical mail moment these businesses are paying postage (not to mention all the other production costs for using the mail) to achieve! It's all about the ROI...and that's not yet been tested!

    May 16, 2016
  • anon

    From 40202 Wow --- this would be great for our business. We could anticipate and plan according to what we should be getting later in the day!

    May 16, 2016

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