• on Apr 27th, 2015 in Delivery & Collection | 5 comments

    The Midwest is the nation’s “breadbasket.” New England has its Patriots. Appalachia loves its bluegrass music. And it never rains in Southern California. We all associate certain things with different regions of the country. Now, it seems, one of those things is mail volume. 

    The decline in mail volume may be more nuanced than some realized, data in our new white paper suggests. Take the drop in First-Class Mail (FCM), for instance. The math clearly shows that from fiscal years 1995 to 2013, FCM single-piece volume fell by a total 61 percent nationally. But a close look into the geographic details reveals the rate of FCM decline varies widely by location. So widely, in fact, that the U.S. Postal Service should keep it in mind as it right-sizes its network and considers new products and services. 

    Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? In Dallas, the percent of FCM volume lost was far greater than 61 percent, while in other areas – like Charleston, WV – it was close to zero. Moreover, the rate of decline is slowing or has even stopped in many of the areas that have lost the most mail volume. The details are all in Declines in U.S. Postal Service Mail Volume Vary Widely Across the United States.

    We know from the most recent Postal Service Household Diary Study that college graduates consistently send about twice as much mail as people without high school diplomas, and mail use in general increases substantially with income and age. However, the rates of mail decline are very similar across these demographic groups. We’ll need to look elsewhere for a good explanation of why mail use varies so much by region.

    As the Postal Service continues to adjust its network and its strategy for the future, it must be mindful that the needs of its customers vary at least as widely as these differences in mail volumes. Simply put, there is no average or typical postal customer. Strategic planning designed around average mail volume data will inevitably result in inefficient solutions. The Postal Service would therefore do well to try gaining a better understanding of why these varying rates of FCM decline are occurring.

    Tell us your thoughts: Why do you think mail volume declines vary by region? Do you see an opportunity to launch “regional” strategies of any kind?  

  • on Apr 20th, 2015 in Delivery & Collection | 1 comment

    Are all mailboxes equal? Not when it comes to advertising mail, which seems to invoke three critical factors normally associated with real estate – location, location, location.

    It costs the U.S. Postal Service less to deliver mail to curbside mailboxes or neighborhood cluster boxes than to your door. That’s why there’s been talk of possibly eliminating door-to-door delivery as Canada Post has recently announced. But the move could cut more than costs; it could also cut the effectiveness of ad mail, which provides about $16 billion of revenue annually to the Postal Service.

    We worked with the market research firm InfoTrends in surveying 5,000 households across the country to determine how much people engage with advertising mail. What we found was intriguing: People with to-the-door delivery had a much higher “read-and-response” rate to ad mail than people with curbside or cluster box delivery. A related trend: People with to-the-door delivery are less likely to throw their ad mail away than those who collect their mail at the curb or cluster box.

    It’s all detailed in our new white paper, Modes of Delivery and Customer Engagement with Advertising Mail, in which we suggest that the Postal Service and ad mailers work together to understand these delivery trends, which could have a critical impact on how much mail advertisers continue to send.

    In the meantime, tell us your experience: Do you have to-the-door, curbside, or cluster box delivery, and how much time would you say you spend with ad mail? If you have experienced a change from one type of delivery receptacle to another, did your behavior change? If so, how?

  • on Apr 13th, 2015 in OIG | 5 comments

    If you’ve rummaged around our website lately, you may have noticed a new tab on our home page entitled Audit Asks. “What is Audit Asks?” you might ask. It’s where you can read about some of our upcoming audits in their early stages and respond to questions that can help us develop more complete and useful audit reports.

    Audit Asks is actually an update of our audit project pages, initially launched about 6 years ago to get feedback from our readers. With the new Audit Asks format, we have added some eye-catching graphics and changed our writing style to prompt more feedback.

    Engaging stakeholders is important to us, as this blog attests. Your comments provide valuable insights and can help guide the direction of our audits, as well as our findings. This is also your opportunity to send links to documents you think will be useful during the audit planning phase. During this phase the audit team learns about the subject, collects a broad range of data, contacts key experts and stakeholders, and develops the specific objectives of the audit. This is when we decide on the breadth and depth of the topic of the report.

    Right now, for example, you can let us know about your experience with reduced window hours at select post offices and whether you think this will generate the intended savings. Or you can tell us what you think about voting by mail or your views on the new mobile delivery devices used to track packages and communicate with local post offices.

    Are you following us on Twitter and Facebook? It’s a great way to be informed when the audit announcements are posted in Audit Asks.

    And while we’re asking, are there specific issues you believe merit a U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General audit? We conduct objective, independent audits of Postal Service programs and operations to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and misconduct, and to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. If you have an idea for an audit along any of these lines, we would love to hear from you. 

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