December 11, 2013 (Report Number RARC-WP-14-002)
Advertising mail provides a big chunk of revenue to the U.S. Postal Service every year — almost $17 billion in fiscal year 2013. It has also been surprisingly resilient despite the digital revolution, holding a constant share of the advertising market. The Postal Service, however, cannot afford to be complacent. Although advertising mail has important strengths, particularly tangibility, the ability to enable a two-way communications link between recipients and mailers is not as robust as current digital advertising. Using new technologies to gather recipient feedback would allow more precise targeting for mail campaigns. It could present a “win-win-win” opportunity for everyone — mailers, recipients, and the Postal Service.
The Postal Service could digitally enable hard copy mail by building a digital feedback loop. Mailers would place a code or symbol on advertising mail pieces. Recipients would be rewarded for scanning the code with their smart phone and providing feedback. Mailers could use the feedback to tailor ads more precisely, increasing their revenues. Participation would be strictly voluntary, and privacy guidelines would be established.