So, what’s new at the US Postal Service (USPS)? The short answer: growth in meeting parcel volume due to e-commerce and Informed Delivery. Advertising mail is still strong, but First-Class Mail continues to decline. The USPS remains focused on keeping rates down by increasing efficiency through plant consolidations and legislative reform to recapture $54 billion of balance sheet debt (and the annual six-billion-dollar drain going forward).
Informed Delivery is a new USPS service, which has been rolling out across the US for about a year. As the USPS sorts the mail, an image of the front of the envelope is captured. Informed Delivery users then receive an email in the morning that contains black and white images of the mail piece expected to be delivered that day, thus, getting an advanced preview of the mail. I started using this service when it first rolled out. While it is not perfect (sometimes the email arrives after my mail, and it does not currently scan flats), it is an email I open nearly every day.
In its attempt to blend physical mail with email, the USPS may be on to something. They hope to be able to scan every piece of mail by the end of the year. Today, only letter mail is scanned and presented, but the addition of flats will be useful for mailers and customers alike. Currently, there are 6.2 million users of Informed Delivery, and amazingly, those emails are opened 70% to 75% of the time.
How Can Your Customers Use Informed Delivery?
Informed Delivery is free, easy to sign up, and gives a preview of what to expect in the mailbox that day.
- Go to usps.com, and click on “View My Mail”
- Set your preferences
- Opt in to the service, and confirm your information
- The emails will start arriving within a few days
How Can Businesses Use Informed Delivery?
For businesses looking to take advantage of Informed Delivery, there’s not a lot they have to do, unless they want to benefit from Informed Delivery’s expanded capabilities. All mail will still be scanned, and the images will be delivered daily to registered consumers. However, a business can add a color image and a hot link, which is associated with the mail piece, creating an appealing call to action. Today, there are only 35-plus mailers actively using this service, and they have run over 250 campaigns. While the results vary, one campaign achieved a 6.1% click-through rate—which is remarkable considering the much lower success rates of regular direct mail and email marketing.
It’s a fact that businesses inundate us with email marketing messages. According to a July 2107 Constant Contact survey of their customers, the average open rates of marketing emails are 10% to 21%, depending on industry (e.g., brick and mortar retail got 10.5%; insurance received 13.16%; government achieved 18.98%; and religious organizations stand out at 21.09%). Now, here comes this new Informed Delivery email from the USPS with much better open rates—one which can complement and enhance a multi-channel marketing campaign to grow sales and stay in touch with customers.
Today, the enhanced Informed Delivery service for mailers is free, though it was hinted at that this may not always be the case. Hopefully, the USPS will come to their senses and realize that the value of keeping mail relevant is worth more than the small, incremental revenue they might earn.