The U.S. Postal Service’s 2014 Holiday Playbook has a very modern spin. More than just holiday timetables and stamps, it encourages readers to download the Postal Service’s augmented reality (AR) app, “USPS AR.” The app is available through the Google Play store and Apple App Store.
AR allows users to scan physical objects and see them with digital graphics, information, and sounds through an app on a mobile device. AR works by connecting to a back-end library of images, allowing the app to “see” those objects and overlay the real-world images with computer-generated animations. Users must have an Internet connection to access the AR component. For example, in this year’s holiday campaign, the Postal Service added the eagle on the side of blue collection boxes to its library. When a mailbox is scanned, it will show a different animation each week followed by an opportunity to visit the Postal Service’s mobile site.
This leads to one of the biggest challenges of AR – companies must be very clear about how to use the app. They need to indicate what users should scan and what additional functionality the app delivers. Some exasperated postal customers didn’t know what they were supposed to scan or how the app worked.
Reviews on Google Play and the App Store suggest some users have had other troubles with the app as well. But a number of reviews have applauded the Postal Service for doing “something cool.” These positive reviewers have also expressed interest in seeing where the Postal Service takes this technology.
The app is different from past Postal Service forays into AR because it could generate revenue by hosting other companies’ advertisements. Companies could create and implement campaigns using AR mailpieces and allow users to access digital content through the USPS AR app. This would let users download one app rather than a different app each time they want to scan something. If all mail goes through one platform, customers might be more likely to use it.
Have you downloaded the USPS AR app? If so, do you like it? What do you wish it could scan? Do you see an opportunity for the Postal Service to generate revenue with AR?