Postal Service to test home delivery product sampling program in May

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The US Postal Service will test a home delivery product sampling program next month to determine if the service could be a revenue source for the financially strapped organization.

“Samples Co-Op Box” deliveries will contain various health, beauty and snack food products from multiple consumer packaged goods companies, which will share the postage costs. The USPS is working with Start Sampling Inc. on the initiative, according to Marc McCrery, executive manager for the Postal Service's sampling program.

The agency will deliver about 200,000 sample boxes for delivery to homes in Charlotte, NC and Pittsburgh as early as May 1.

“Product sampling is big business, and I think the US Postal Service has the best infrastructure to get the products into people's homes,” said McCrery. “The finances have driven us to be more creative and to look at more opportunities wherever they exist, no doubt.”

The Postal Service will complete the deliveries within a week, then analyze the results. Including research and analysis, the USPS expects to finish the initiative in a few months.

The agency will measure operational costs; the program's scalability; if it is well received by consumers; and whether it provides the required value to the CPG companies, according to USPS filings with the Postal Regulatory Commission. The Postal Service will also measure cost of delivery, per-box costs and the effect on brand awareness and product purchases.

After it completes the initiative, the USPS will also distribute surveys to consumers, measuring purchases of the specific products in the test areas and retail sales data.

The USPS will prioritize consumer purchases as its top measurement metric, said McCrery.

The USPS could conduct additional tests to determine appropriate rates for the co-op boxes, or it could forego them and launch the program permanently on a national scale.

The agency does not expect to create revenue from the test. However, a permanent program could make millions of dollars in additional revenue for the Postal Service, according to PRC filings. A product can not undergo a market test if the USPS expects to make more than $10 million in revenue.  

The Postal Service is also seeking information from private companies on a possible direct mail service to “enable access to a comprehensive, end-to-end, online direct mail solution targeted at small- and medium-sized enterprises.” McCrery said the two initiatives are not related.

UPS also stuck its toe into direct marketing last September, testing a home delivery insert marketing service. The program included offers from brands such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Men's Warehouse and in boxes delivered with customer orders.

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