No Packaging of Mail Is Best, Consumers Tell USPS

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Most consumers surveyed about the U.S. Postal Service's Delivery Point Packaging initiative, which would simultaneously sort letters and flats into delivery order then bundle them into individual delivery packages, prefer no change to the way their mail is packaged, according to results released last month.


The USPS conducted focus groups and interviews last fall to gauge interest in DPP, one of two programs the agency is considering for flats. The 16 focus groups were held in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Dallas and Fort Lauderdale, FL.


DPP would sort letters and flats into delivery order simultaneously. The USPS has said this will let postal carriers be on the street earlier and deliver the mail faster. The postal service is working on prototypes of DPP sorting machines that would let the agency use one machine to process both flats and letters.


The USPS asked focus group participants for their reaction to various containers or packages that would hold the packaged mail, including a plastic bag, rubber band, belly bag or paper sleeve or a folder around the mail. Of the choices offered, consumers preferred receiving mail in a clear, sealed, biodegradable plastic bag with a handle, said George Hurst, USPS manager, product management, flats.


But in discussions, Hurst said, the most popular option among consumers was to receive mail as they currently do with no packaging.


Further research is beginning, with results expected by year's end.


"Now we want to go out and try to do quantitative research where we truly measure if people react differently to the mail that they would review in the package," he said. "So, does it really affect open and read rates? Would it really affect how much time you spend with the mail? Would it really affect the value that you place on mail, and would it really affect your response rates?"


Another proposed program, the Flats Sequencing System, would sort magazines, catalogs and other flats into delivery order but would not bundle them with letters. This program is less desirable to the USPS than the DPP system.


The decision to proceed with one or both initiatives likely will be made this year. If approved, FSS would deploy in 2006 and DPP would debut in 2007 or 2008.


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