September 11, 2017 (RARC-WP-17-012)
- Customers visited post offices an estimated 2.7 billion times in fiscal year (FY) 2016, though most visits did not include a transaction. Instead, customers checked their PO boxes, picked up free shipping materials, or put letters in the collection slot.
- Post office foot traffic varies widely. The 450 largest locations have on average about as much foot traffic as Best Buy stores, while the next 7,000 largest have about as much traffic as CVS locations.
- An OIG survey shows that Millennials visit post offices more often than older generations, but for different purposes.
- Following on the footsteps of the retail sector, USPS could use proven foot traffic measurement solutions to make better retail decisions and improve customer services and sales.
How many people visit the more than 30,000 post offices each year? The U.S. Postal Service officially lists 877 million customer visits in FY 2016, though this is based only on the number of transactions. In reality, most visits do not include a transaction. Instead, customers may check a PO Box, pick up shipping materials, or deposit a letter in the slot. These actions are key elements of the Postal Service’s value chain, and omitting them dramatically underestimates customers’ use of post offices. A more complete foot traffic estimate could help USPS better manage its retail network for the benefit of the American people.
To provide that estimate, the OIG used a variety of proven methods to measure foot traffic, which we defined as any time a person goes inside a USPS-run post office. The result: about 2.7 billion customer visits in FY 2016 — roughly triple the Postal Service’s official statistic.
The OIG also segmented post offices by size, categorizing them into Mega, Large, Small/Medium, and Micro locations. This could help USPS assess the viability of potential retail initiatives that may only make sense at locations with sufficient foot traffic.
The OIG also used a nationally-representative sample survey to gain insights on how different groups use post offices. In addition, we examined how other retailers use foot traffic information to help improve customer service and boost sales. The Postal Service could use such data to monitor and adapt to the changing mix of customers and activities at post offices, enabling it to better service the American people.