• on Nov 5th, 2012 in Products & Services | 9 comments
    As one of the most hotly contested election campaigns in years comes to a close tomorrow, the media is filled with campaign ads. Whether in the morning newspaper, through social media websites, or during commercial breaks on television, we hear constantly about various candidates and ballot referenda. The mailbox is no exception -- direct mail continues to be a widely used political advertising strategy. Recent reports indicate that nearly 2 billion pieces of political mail have been sent this election cycle, and the Postal Service projects it will earn nearly $400 million in revenue from this volume.   If you live in a swing state, such as Colorado, Ohio, or Virginia, your mailbox might have been full of political campaign mail all year long. In these battleground states, no single candidate or party has overwhelming support in securing that state's Electoral College votes.  Political campaign mail is a targeted and cost-effective way for the candidates to get their message to their intended audience. If you live in an area with hotly contested state or local elections, you've probably received a great deal of mail from their respective campaigns as well.  The boost in political mail volumes is a testament to the power of direct mail. More dollars may be spent on television advertising, but the ability of mail to pinpoint a message to voters at a reasonable price is especially attractive to candidates and the national parties. However, using this method too much can backfire. Voters report that the barrage of mail prompts them to tune out the message altogether. They throw away or recycle the mail without even opening the piece. Did you find the mailings effective? Did they help to inform your views of a candidate or a voter proposition? Or did the increased amount of political mail cause you to tune out the message? What advantages and disadvantages do you see over newspaper, television, or Internet advertising? Let us know what you think.
  • on Aug 13th, 2012 in Products & Services | 29 comments
    More than 40 million Americans change their address each year, which means the U.S. Postal Service forwards an awful lot of mail. In fiscal year 2010, it forwarded 1.2 billion pieces. Under the Postal Service’s regulations, customers who fill out a change of address form have their mail forwarded to their new address for 12 months after the move. Mail forwarding costs the Postal Service almost $300 million a year. The cost to return mail to sender is another $800 million. The cost of mail forwarding – and returning to sender and treating as waste -- is baked into the overall First Class Mail rates, so all customers effectively pay for this service whether they use it or not. Canada Post has taken a different approach to mail forwarding, charging recipients either an annual or semi-annual fee when they move. Residential customers pay $75 for 12 months of forwarding and business customers pay $235. These prices increase slightly if the person or business moves to another province. The Canada Post model extricates the costs from the overall First Class Mail rate and is structured so recipients pay for the service, but only if they use it. Some U.S. business customers have requested that the Postal Service explore new pricing and product options to reduce the costs of forwarding and returning mail to sender. Would a model similar to the Canada Post one work in the U.S. or would residential recipients, in particular, feel like they were being charged for a service they thought was free? Should the sender pay for forwarding instead of the recipients? What would happen if recipients or senders decided against paying for forwarding? Would total costs merely go up since return to sender mail costs more than twice as much as forwarding per piece? Are there other alternatives? Share your thoughts below.
  • on Dec 12th, 2011 in Products & Services | 6 comments
    Every year, millions of Americans send holiday greeting cards through the mail to friends and family around the country. Usually this means a trip to the store to pick out cards, the Post Office to get stamps, sometimes even a photographer to capture that perfect holiday photo, and another trip to the Post Office to mail the cards. But now there are many options for creating a holiday greeting card that save both time and money. Not only are these options a potential boon to consumers, they are an opportunity for the Postal Service. Several years ago, Hallmark® introduced a hybrid greeting card that customers can order online. For one price, customers create a card by choosing a design and uploading their own photos and even choosing the day the Postal Service delivers the card. This year, Apple® introduced Cards, a smartphone application that allows customers to create and mail hybrid greeting cards directly from their iPhones. Still, for those who love the experience of shopping for cards, a number of Postal Service retail locations offer a selection of greeting cards allowing customers to buy, stamp, and send them from the same location. Offering holiday cards through multiple platforms has a number of benefits for the Postal Service and its customers. This type of multi-channel strategy provides customers with convenience and multiple options for using physical mail. If expanded to other postal products, such as Priority Mail or Standard Mail, this strategy could provide the Postal Service with an opportunity to grow mail volume for other mail classes and improve customer satisfaction by making other products and services easier and more convenient to use. Additionally, hybrid holiday cards, whether created from online or mobile platforms, represent a path forward for the Postal Service in the digital world. It shows that digital technology can compliment and not be the enemy of physical mail. So, should the Postal Service make efforts to apply this multi-channel, hybrid mail model to other postal products, and if so which ones? Do you plan to send your holiday cards this year using an online or mobile card builder or are you sending them the old fashioned way? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.

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