Smartphones, smart cars, smart cities…our culture is enjoying a technological and digital tsunami that seems limitless. We are more connected, more informed, and more in touch than ever before. Nearly 84 percent of Americans have access to the Internet and 66 percent have smart devices.
In January 2014, mobile devices accounted for 55 percent of Internet use – surpassing access by personal computer for the first time. A year later, 75 percent of shoppers use a mobile device to comparison shop while in a retail store. Clearly, we have experienced a sea change in how people communicate, shop, and get information, and the U.S. Postal Service – like all other businesses, organizations, and agencies – has customers who expect an on-demand, mobile, and interactive digital experience. How, then, does our neighborhood Post Office fit into this picture of a quickly changing, increasingly digital future? This paper explores opportunities to optimize post offices in the future.
The Postal Service is in a unique position to adapt and contribute to this changing environment because of its distinct advantages, including a broad and well-developed logistics infrastructure, presence in over 31,000 locations, and a highly recognized and trusted brand. The Postal Service faces financial and operational challenges due to the rapid decrease in First-Class Mail® volume caused largely by a cultural preference for digital communications. But it has an opportunity to respond to this upheaval by leveraging one of its most familiar and a ubiquitous asset – the Post Office – to ensure it has a future of relevancy and financial security.
Post offices can provide convenience and connectivity in a virtual world that still requires both real-time and physical interaction. With renewed focus on innovation, the Postal Service can use its Post Office network as the interface for customized and personalized offerings of services and experiences for its customers. With this in mind, we identified five areas of retail opportunity for the Post Office:
1. The Community Hub – an exploration of how the local Post Office can serve as a “one-stop shop” of community and government services and resources.
2. The Future is Now – a summary of ideas to address potential platforms, services, and products that might provide greater service to the public and improve the Postal Service’s outlook.
3. Innovative Post Office Facilities – creative enhancements at local Post Office facilities can enrich the customer experience.
4. Post Office in Your Pocket – digital and mobile products and services to go.
5. Getting There – fundamental restrictions, including philosophies, laws, and regulations to overcome.
These opportunities would compare with those of certain Foreign Postal organizations that are rapidly transforming into organizations that provide a range of business and innovative offerings and using mobile devices to create value for existing products and services.