• on Jun 29th, 2015 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 1 comment

    You know you’ve made it when your company name becomes a verb. That’s where Uber is right now – as in, I’m going to Uber over – following in the footsteps of other companies-as-verbs, such as FedEx and Xerox.

    Uber, the technology company that matches car service to rider, has successfully disrupted the entrenched taxi industry. And now pundits are wondering what might be next for the successful upstart. Recent news articles in Marketwatch and Forbes say it could be the package delivery industry.

    The Forbes opinion piece lays out an intriguing scenario: “Imagine you’re about to leave your office for the day and your phone vibrates with a text from Uber: ‘Your next door neighbor Stella has ordered a dozen cupcakes from the Courageous Cupcakes shop next to your office. Would you mind dropping them off at her house? We’ll credit your account $7.50.’” The author goes on to suggest this type of transaction could be repeated millions of times a day and for any and all types of purchases/goods – the hardware store, the automotive store, the department store, and so on.

    The Forbes piece then asks, “Imagine what would happen if a large ecommerce company used local distribution coupled with Uber rather than centralized distribution and FedEx?”

    Imagine indeed. It’s certainly intriguing and altogether feasible. But Uber, and companies based on a similar model, first have to address some issues that could hinder long-term success. First is a tightening labor market. As the economy expands and better-paying jobs are created, Uber may find it hard to staff drivers. And courts are likely to consider cases asking whether drivers are employees or independent contractors. Also, Uber will have to do a better job addressing passenger privacy and safety concerns. Recent press reports suggest female passengers, in particular, are uncomfortable with Uber having so much information about them.

    Even if this Uber scenario is just a notion, it reminds us that package delivery has become an attractive and competitive business. As consumers do more of their shopping online, everything from groceries to pharmaceuticals to clothing is being delivered to homes and businesses. Traditional package delivery companies find themselves competing with new entrants such as Deliv (sometimes called the Uber of the retail world) and Postmates, a company that operates a network of local couriers. And, don’t take your eye off Amazon.com. It is reportedly testing an Uber-like app that would let it use regular people to deliver packages.

    So, does Uber-like delivery sound like a feasible idea? What impact do you think the service could have on traditional delivery companies? As a consumer, do you see benefits from this service? How else could sellers and traditional package delivery companies serve the growing consumer demands of same day and even same hour delivery?

  • on Jun 15th, 2015 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 0 comments

    Talk about getting inside the customer’s head. That’s what we did – quite literally – in our most recent research and resulting white paper, Enhancing the Value of Mail: The Human Response. The insights should help companies better understand the effectiveness of physical advertising mail, particularly as compared to digital ad mail.

    We partnered with Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making to study people’s responses to physical and digital media in the consumer buying process, including memory of products advertised and intent to purchase. But instead of just using surveys, which rely on people’s stated or conscious preferences, we also monitored people’s bodies and brains to understand their subconscious response. Known as neuromarketing, this rigorous scientific method uses technologies like eye tracking, heart-rate measurement, and MRIs to measure a person’s subconscious responses to various stimuli, often revealing preferences people don’t even know they have.

    The results could help companies improve their marketing strategies and also help the U.S. Postal Service better understand the effectiveness of ad mail, one of its most profitable products. Ad mail accounted for over $20 billion — or 31 percent of total revenue — in fiscal year 2014.

    Our study builds on work done by the U.K.’s Royal Mail that showed physical media generates greater activity in certain parts of the brain than digital media. Our study revealed some distinct neurological and physiological responses to digital and physical media, including:

    • People have a stronger emotional response to physical ads and remember them quicker.
    • People process digital ad content quicker, suggesting digital ads can deliver a message more efficiently.
    • Physical ads take longer to get one’s attention at first, but have a longer lasting impact for easy recall when making a decision to buy.

    Each medium has advantages that advertisers could tap for different campaigns. But we see this as the beginning of possible additional neuromarketing research into how companies should use digital and physical advertising together.

    Do you think you respond differently to digital ads than you do to physical ads? How can companies improve marketing strategies given how consumers respond to ads in different media formats? What lessons might there be in all this information for the Postal Service?

  • on Jun 1st, 2015 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 1 comment

    Here’s a question: What percentage of America’s 30 million companies export?

    • 25 percent
    • 10 percent
    • 1 percent

    With global ecommerce topping $1.3 trillion last year, we would understand if you picked the top choice. The answer, however, is 1 percent – considerably lower than all other developed countries – according to the Department of Commerce. And of U.S. companies that do export, 58 percent export to only one country, usually Canada or Mexico.

    Global ecommerce has exploded recently, jumping 24 percent last year and expected to leap another 20 percent this year. So why do so few U.S. companies take the plunge?

    Experts say many companies have tended to think the U.S. domestic market is both large and diverse enough to accommodate steady growth. But with 70 percent of world’s buying power located outside the United States and with emerging middle classes in highly populated countries like China and Brazil, such a parochial view leads to a flawed strategy.

    Of course, challenges abound for companies attempting to expand globally. This is especially true for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), which often don’t have the time or money to figure out how to export. Among the pain points for SMEs:

    • customs forms and procedures are confusing, as is knowing import/export restrictions and the harmonized tariff code;
    • payment and currency in other countries;
    • lack of technological capabilities;
    • logistics challenges; and
    • how to best market in other countries.

    The market is responding with solutions, including marketplace platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba, as well as providers, such as Borderfree, which takes an online retailer’s website and makes it international by localizing content and accepting international payments while displaying total costs and shipping information. Still, more options would be helpful, especially for SMEs that need simple, one-stop solutions.

    Enter the U.S. Postal Service. Some observers see a big opportunity for the Postal Service, especially if it could offer services – either on its own or with a partner – that remove major hurdles like customs clearance, fully landed costs and address verification.

    What services would you like to see the Postal Service offer in global ecommerce? How best might the Postal Service partner with existing providers to give SMEs a complete service offering?

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