Tea leaves, crystal balls, palm readings: There are lots of ways to try to predict the future . . . and most of them are useless. Still, careful examination of measurable indicators — and a little imagination — can yield some clues as to what may lie ahead. That’s good news for the U.S. Postal Service, because if there’s anything that faces an uncertain future right now, it’s the nearly 240-year-old institution that delivers your mail every day.
To get a sense of what America’s postal needs might be a decade from now and how the Postal Service could fulfill them, we recently undertook a study that included (a) researching projections for more than 80 social, technological, and industrial trends, (b) reviewing hundreds of articles, and (c) interviewing experts.
Some indicators are fairly certain. The ongoing demographic rise of the Millennial generation – now larger than Baby Boomers – means that the wants and needs of those born largely after 1980 will profoundly affect the economy as previous generations retire. Others are less certain, such as how much of a role 3D printing will play and to what extent it could affect the package-shipping industry.
We then used scenario planning, a common methodology for understanding and exploring possible futures by designing and evaluating hypothetical situations based on different combinations of trends. Result: Four possible ways the world could look in 10 years, and ways the Postal Service could serve its customers in each scenario. It’s all detailed in our newly released white paper, The Postal Customers of the Future.
Can you predict how you will use the mail 10 years from now? Could you imagine the Postal Service saving you time and money by helping you share, say, power tools with people in your city? Would you pop into a Post Office to check out a new product a local entrepreneur 3D-printed there?