• on Aug 1st, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 7 comments
    In December 2009, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) obtained exclusive rights to the “.post” top-level domain for the postal community from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The .post domain joins existing prominent top level domains (such as .com, .edu, and .org), along with recent additions (such as .museum, .biz, and .aero.) The .post domain is intended to provide a secure space for members of the postal community to develop and deploy digital products and services. The .post domain is expected to be available for use by private postal operators, regulators, suppliers, vendors, trade unions, and trade associations. By linking well-established national networks, the UPU hopes .post will allow postal operators and customers to reap the benefits of a global physical/digital network that permits postal service providers and end users to connect quickly and securely to other end users around the world. The .post domain could be an appropriate platform for a variety of services. Common suggestions include: a global track and trace system linking the existing systems of the posts; the creation of an accessible database holding a universal and global addressing system; and a feature allowing consumers to decide whether to have an item delivered to a physical address or an electronic address. One approach, at the core of the OIG Risk Analysis Research Center's (RARC) digital strategy paper, Expanding the Postal Platform, would be to give every postal customer an e-mail address and digital ID. The .post top level domain could be a platform to support implementation of this strategy. The development of the .post top level domain raises a number of interesting questions: •Should the U.S. Postal Service use .post as a platform for offering digital services? •What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the .post domain, rather than .com or .gov? •Are there potential applications for .post that the postal media has not addressed? •Would .post improve the Postal Service brand by helping differentiate the Postal Service from other services in the digital space? •Does the choice of domain name affect the quality of service provided or the effectiveness of marketing such services? Let us know what you think! This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.
  • on May 23rd, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 8 comments
    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).
  • on May 16th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 23 comments
    Advertising mail is a core product for the U.S. Postal Service. It is an important way for businesses to reach their customers, but many local small businesses and others underuse or avoid advertising mail. The rules, rates, and regulations can be complex and confusing. For saturation mailings, simplified addressing allows businesses to use a simple “Postal Customer” address instead of a full street address. While the Postal Service has tested a number of simplified address products in the past, early this year it rolled out a national product available for all “flat-size” saturation mailings. In a recently released white paper titled Simplified Address Mail: An Easier Way for Small Businesses to Reach Local Customers, the Office of Inspector General, Risk Analysis Research Center lays out the advantages of the simplified address mail concept, which could potentially bring in over $1 billion in new revenue if fully implemented. Among the paper’s key findings:
    • Simplified address stems from the Postal Service’s core, hard-copy mail delivery business and could help keep mail relevant in an increasingly digital world.
    • Adding profitable simplified address mail volume could lower average unit costs and make universal service more affordable for all current and potential mail users.
    • Simplified address makes advertising mail easier to use and far less expensive for organizations that have traditionally shied away from directly using the mail.
    • Simplified addressing has long been the standard practice among foreign posts and often accounts for a significant proportion of their mail volume. The Postal Service has been the sole exception.
    The key to realizing all the benefits of simplified address mail depends on how the Postal Service implements the program. It must actively be promoted to small businesses and others and it must be made as easy as possible for customers to use. So, what do you think? Would you be receptive to receiving advertising materials for the restaurants, stores and services in your local neighborhood? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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