• on Jul 7th, 2014 in Products & Services | 6 comments

    It’s no secret what the advent of digital technology has done to mail volume, particularly First-Class Mail. But there’s an emerging digital technology catching hold that could be a boon to the U.S. Postal Service. It’s called 3D printing, and it’s expected to increase the number of lightweight parcels, a segment of the parcel market where the Postal Service excels.

    3D printers build solid objects usually one razor-thin layer at a time using plastics, powders, metals, polymers, or other materials. Examples include one-of-a-kind jewelry, custom-fit dental implants or hearing aids, unique iPhone cases, and the like. Mostly small-size things, at least so far. But one of the big advantages of 3D printing is the ability to customize just about anything to anyone’s taste or whim, and people increasingly like custom-made products.

    Retailers are already using 3D printers to make these kinds of goods, which consumers are buying and having shipped to them. The total 3D printing industry was valued at around $3 billion in 2013 but is expected to grow to $16.2 billion by 2018. And as it grows, 3D printing could lead to more single-item parcels being shipped to consumers over shorter distances, instead of hundreds of thousands of identical items sent by containerized cargo over vast distances.

    In our new white paper, If It Prints, It Ships: 3D Printing and the Postal Service, we explore how 3D printing could lead to an increase in packages delivered by the Postal Service representing $485 million in new annual revenue. Emerging 3D printing businesses could take advantage of the Postal Service’s unique and ubiquitous first- and last-mile network: Carriers already delivering mail every day, making the addition of lightweight parcels easy and cost-effective. And the Postal Service could partner with 3D printing businesses, perhaps using excess space in postal facilities, to help streamline the fast delivery of 3D printed goods.

    Tell us what you think:

    • How much experience have you had with 3D printing?
    • In what areas do you think 3D printing will have the most impact?
    • How could the Postal Service adapt its business strategy to handle a rise of 3D-printed goods?
  • 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?