• 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?

  • on May 25th, 2015 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 60 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service is best known for delivering the mail. But did you know it’s also the number one seller of the most widely used type of alternative financial service in the United States? We’re talking about money orders, which function like prepaid checks. The Postal Service sold a whopping 97 million of them with a face value of $21 billion in fiscal year 2014.

    The Postal Service also offers international money transfers, prepaid gift cards, and limited check cashing. From 1911 to 1967, it even offered savings accounts through the Postal Savings System, which prompted millions of Americans to move a portion of their nest eggs from under the mattress into savings accounts.  

    In our recent white paper, The Road Ahead for Postal Financial Services, we explore how the Postal Service could expand its financial offerings to benefit Americans and generate much needed new revenue. (This is a follow-up to our January 2014 paper, Providing Non-Bank Financial Services for the Underserved.) We hired financial consultancy Mercator Advisory Group to help us look at the pros and cons of several different approaches the Postal Service could take. But we dove deepest into what it probably is allowed to do under current law; namely, beef up and improve existing products and expand into adjacent, related services like payroll check cashing, domestic electronic money transfers between post offices, and walk-up bill paying. Our analysis shows that – assuming Postal Regulatory Commission approval – a suite of these potentially allowable products could, after a 5-year ramp-up, bring in $1.1 billion in annual revenue while covering costs and contributing profits.

    We welcome your input. 

    • Should the Postal Service look at new business lines that are not directly related to mail and delivery?
    •  Which financial products do you think the Postal Service should provide? 
    • What do you think are the biggest barriers to success in postal financial services?  

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