• on Aug 3rd, 2015 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 3 comments

    Imagine ordering groceries and having them delivered to a mailbox that signs for them, monitors and controls temperature to prevent spoilage, and alerts you that your food has been safely delivered.

    Meet the connected mailbox.

    Sounds like something George Jetson and his family might have, doesn’t it? Actually, it could be something you have in the not-too-distant future, given the growing interest in the so-called “Internet of Things” – essentially interconnecting digital networks of physical objects embedded with sensors that do everything from collecting data to switching things on and off.

    Think of existing systems that wire up your home so that you can remotely adjust lighting, temperature, even door locks and more via computer or mobile device. As we note in our new white paper, The Internet of Postal Things, the U.S. Postal Service has a vast and rich infrastructure that could be similarly wired to create what we call an Internet of Postal Things (IoPT), which could benefit both the Postal Service and its customers. We identify more than a dozen IoPT applications that could be developed in four key categories:

    • Transportation and logistics – Sensors on postal vehicles to increase efficiency through predictive maintenance, fuel management, and real-time dynamic routing.
    •  Smart postal buildings – Sensors to not only increase security and reduce energy consumption, but also improve customer convenience by, for example, equipping clerks with wearables (clothing/accessories incorporating computer technology) to help them find what customers need.
    • Neighborhood services – Sensors on postal vehicles, carrier devices, and mailboxes that could perform tasks useful to local authorities, such as monitoring air quality or identifying potholes.
    • Enhanced mail and parcel services – More applications like the connected mailbox, providing greater customer convenience and increased postal efficiency.

    You can check out the paper for more details, including suggestions on how the Postal Service could start building an IoPT. Meanwhile, what do you think? What IoPT applications would you most like to see?

    To get an idea how the IoPT might work, we created this video.

     

  • on Jun 15th, 2015 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 0 comments

    Talk about getting inside the customer’s head. That’s what we did – quite literally – in our most recent research and resulting white paper, Enhancing the Value of Mail: The Human Response. The insights should help companies better understand the effectiveness of physical advertising mail, particularly as compared to digital ad mail.

    We partnered with Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making to study people’s responses to physical and digital media in the consumer buying process, including memory of products advertised and intent to purchase. But instead of just using surveys, which rely on people’s stated or conscious preferences, we also monitored people’s bodies and brains to understand their subconscious response. Known as neuromarketing, this rigorous scientific method uses technologies like eye tracking, heart-rate measurement, and MRIs to measure a person’s subconscious responses to various stimuli, often revealing preferences people don’t even know they have.

    The results could help companies improve their marketing strategies and also help the U.S. Postal Service better understand the effectiveness of ad mail, one of its most profitable products. Ad mail accounted for over $20 billion — or 31 percent of total revenue — in fiscal year 2014.

    Our study builds on work done by the U.K.’s Royal Mail that showed physical media generates greater activity in certain parts of the brain than digital media. Our study revealed some distinct neurological and physiological responses to digital and physical media, including:

    • People have a stronger emotional response to physical ads and remember them quicker.
    • People process digital ad content quicker, suggesting digital ads can deliver a message more efficiently.
    • Physical ads take longer to get one’s attention at first, but have a longer lasting impact for easy recall when making a decision to buy.

    Each medium has advantages that advertisers could tap for different campaigns. But we see this as the beginning of possible additional neuromarketing research into how companies should use digital and physical advertising together.

    Do you think you respond differently to digital ads than you do to physical ads? How can companies improve marketing strategies given how consumers respond to ads in different media formats? What lessons might there be in all this information for the Postal Service?

  • on Dec 29th, 2014 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 9 comments

    With 1 billion smartphones shipped in 2013, it’s safe to say mobile devices are the future of shopping, banking, and transactions – if not everything. Retailers and technology companies certainly agree, as they race to provide consumers with the ideal mobile payment system.

    Before the holidays, Apple unveiled Apple Pay, a wireless payment system. Thanks to near-field communication technology, Apple Pay lets owners of the newest Apple phones and products pay for goods by scanning their phones on a payment terminal. The Apple Pay account links to a customer’s credit or debit card.

    The company has teamed up with a number of major credit card companies and banks, and therein lies the first potential limitation to the system’s success. Users must have a debit or credit card with one of the approved partners. And they must own a newer Apple device.

    Moreover, some retailers aren’t accepting Apple Pay, including CVS and Rite Aid. Why? Possibly because they – along with Target, Walmart, and others – are developing their own mobile wallet and payment system that would avoid swipe fees and other transaction fees retailers pay to credit card companies. Google Wallet is another option in the mobile payment market, but it, too, only works on newer devices and users still need to link the app to a credit card. This might just be the biggest obstacle of all – developing a mobile wallet that offers consumers more value and ease than just pulling out a credit card.

    Finally, security of data and access to consumer data remain key elements. Do mobile payment solutions protect a consumer’s bank account and credit data? And who has access to the valuable consumer data?

    Still, experts expect mobile payment systems to eventually flourish. Indeed, The Guardian recently suggested the Postal Service “could serve as the backbone” for a new payment system by incorporating a mobile payment app into a basic financial services offering.

    What do you think? Is there a role for the Postal Service in mobile payment apps? Or is this an area best served by the private sector? 

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