• on Jun 2nd, 2014 in Products & Services | 1 comment

    If your favorite catalog looks more like the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition or even an issue of Life magazine, there’s a good reason. These high-end photo displays and glossy spreads help retailers sell products online. Retailers are pouring more money into catalog design, including expensive photo shoots, because they find this drives online and in-store sales. Catalogs and other hard copy advertising act as bait to lure the customer into online or brick-and-mortar shopping.

    So it would seem that physical stores and hard-copy ads are not dead; they are evolving to complement a retailer’s digital presence. As a Wall Street Journal article noted, the catalog is like “a store window display, and a source of inspiration, the way roaming through store aisles can be.” Bonobos, a menswear store that advertises better-fitting pants, started to dabble in catalog mailings and found they had a significant impact on sales. The company found that 20 percent of its new customers had received a catalog, and those that do get catalogs spend 1.5 times as much as new shoppers who don’t receive a catalog.

    But the convergence of digital and physical shopping goes beyond the continuing popularity of catalogs. Retailers can no longer view online sales and sales at physical stores in isolation. Customers are browsing and shopping using both mediums jointly. These days many consumers use online research before they make a purchase in a physical store, what is known as webrooming. They also browse physical merchandise in stores before buying an item online, a practice called showrooming. According a report by Accenture, 78 percent of survey respondents have used webrooming and 72 percent of respondents have used showrooming.

    Clearly, the Postal Service benefits from more catalogs in the mail and ensuing parcel fulfillment. But it would also benefit from a surge in advertising directed at both the physical and online presence simultaneously. For example, at the most recent PostalVision 2020 conference, retailers showed how they are embedding digital advertising into physical objects. Marks and Spencer is producing a catalog that customers can scan and go directly to the company’s online catalog where they can make purchases. Ikea has a catalog that allows customers to see what furniture would look like in their house. Advertisers could embed digital coupons into advertisements that allow recipients either to use the coupon in the physical store or scan it and go directly to the website with the discount code activated.

    What do you think? Will embedding digital advertising into physical mail help to maintain or stem the decline in advertising mail? What other opportunities could the Postal Service benefit from related to the convergence of digital and physical shopping?

  • on Apr 21st, 2014 in Products & Services | 0 comments

    Social media isn’t just for fun any more. Sure, millions of people are still tweeting, posting, pinning, and sharing things with each other online by the nanosecond. But 70 percent of businesses and organizations worldwide, including the U.S. Postal Service, also have active Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media accounts.

    Why? Because they recognize that social media is an important channel of business communication, particularly in light of research from management consultants McKinsey & Company estimating there is between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion in annual value to the economy that could be unlocked by social media technologies. So how is the Postal Service using social media? Last summer we released a Management Advisory noting that the agency is present on no less than 18 social media sites. And now our new white paper – Like, Share, Tweet: Social Media and the Postal Service  – identifies multiple ways the Postal Service could not only improve its current social media activities, but also expand upon them to develop new products and services, such as:

    • Crowdshipping
    • Identification services
    • Hybrid products bridging physical and digital communications
    • Social e-commerce services

    Social e-commerce services, for example, could facilitate the use of social platforms as storefronts, similar to online shops on Etsy or Amazon. The Postal Service could manage those storefronts’ back-end operations by providing services such as micro-warehousing, fulfillment, and delivery.

    The paper ultimately makes the case that an overall stronger and more robust social media strategy could help the Postal Service remain competitive in the digital age by better responding to changing communication needs, improving the customer experience, creating value through social commerce, and cutting costs.

    Tell us what you think:

    • How could the Postal Service improve its social media activity?
    • How might your view of the Postal Service be affected by better social media activity?
    • Do you prefer businesses that engage customers via social media? 
  • on Apr 14th, 2014 in Products & Services | 0 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service is going Hollywood in its latest marketing effort – a new partnership with Sony Pictures as it rolls out the promotion of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” This co-branding and multi-channel marketing push for Priority Mail seem to be catching the attention of consumers, even if scaring off arachnophobic philatelists in the process.

    Commercials on television and in movie theaters, ads on the sides of postal vehicles, online and digital promotional banners, and specially designed packages: consumers are getting hit from many sides in this Priority Mail flat-rate-box promotion. And that is the essence of multi-channel marketing -- communicating with your customers in lots of places.

    While not the first cross promotion or even multi-channel effort the Postal Service has tried, this one is notable in a few senses. The Spider-Man image and web on the side of postal vehicles serve as something of a pilot test for selling advertising space on vehicles, a revenue-generating idea explored in many forums, including this blog. What is consumer reaction to images on these iconic vehicles? Would the public accept other images or do they cheapen the brand? Public reaction could help the Postal Service decide whether to pursue other opportunities for advertising on vehicles.

    Also, this promotion is aimed at a younger audience. As with the Harry Potter stamp, the Postal Service is relying here on a pop culture image to resonate with younger consumers and become more relevant among that crowd. While stamps might be a hard sell to digital natives, package services certainly aren’t. Younger consumers tend to shop frequently online or via peer-to-peer platforms, so they rely on timely and inexpensive package delivery. Perhaps a Spider-Man campaign helps Priority Mail become their go-to product?

    Maybe, or maybe there’s more to it than that. Let us know. Do you think cross promotions with popular cultural events and figures help sell the Postal Service brand to a younger audience? What about using postal vehicles as promotion platforms? Should the Postal Service use its fleet to promote nonpostal products or events? 

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