Mobile technology is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. “Mobile” includes multiple devices (cell phones, smartphones, and tablet computers) and platforms (text messaging, applications — or “apps” — and mobile Internet). With all of these new communication avenues available to customers, the U.S. Postal Service must ask whether it is keeping up with the rapid expansion of this market.
Compared to other government organizations in the Postal Service is ahead of the curve when it comes to establishing a mobile presence. It has an app available on both major smartphone/tablet platforms (Apple and Android) that allow customers to find post offices, collection boxes, and Automated Postal Centers anywhere in the country. The Postal Service has also created a mobile-friendly version of its website (http://m.www.usps.com). Just last week the Postal Service launched http://www.uspseverywhere.com, which is a new interactive map featuring dozens of locations for customers to purchase postal services within their neighborhoods by entering a ZIP code.
However, compared to major private sector competitors, such as UPS, the Postal Service appears antiquated. For example, the UPS Android app includes a cost calculator and digital package tracking function not available on the Postal Service app.
Some foreign postal operations provide numerous services that the Postal Service might want to offer. For instance, Denmark and Sweden just initiated a program that allow customers to buy postage via text messaging rather than standing in line at the post office to buy a stamp. Customers text a word, such as ”stamp” or “postage” to a certain telephone number and receive a unique code they can write on the envelope in the area where they normally place the stamp. The code is only valid for a limited number of hours to reduce the possibility of fraud. Sweden’s program even allows customers to receive different denominations of postage based on the weight of their packages.
This is just one example of the way postal operations around the world are leveraging mobile technology to make customers’ interactions with their postal operations more efficient and pleasant. This example underscores the fact that mobile technology presents an important opportunity for the Postal Service to reach out to a generation of technologically savvy customers.
What types of mobile applications should the Postal Service pursue? If you have an idea for a possible postal mobile application, post your ideas in the comment section below.
Update: It has been brought to our attention after the publication of this blog that the USPS Mobile application does include a package tracking feature on the main menu.
This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).