Where the Mailstream Meets the Inbox

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4 Components of a Complete Direct Mail System
4 Components of a Complete Direct Mail System

The convergence of print and digital has been much-discussed in recent years, but what exactly does that mean? There are of course QR codes, near field communications (NFC) and augmented reality solutions—all in various stages of market maturity. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is working on solutions of its own. The goal: to digitize mailboxes.

Here's the scenario: Consumers use a mobile app to preview what's arriving the next day, or the day after, in their mailbox. Picture an email inbox that lists upcoming mail and package deliveries.

The project to enable this, alluded to by USPS Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe during his keynote at the National Postal Forum (NPF) in San Francisco, is called MyPost. MyPost is currently being tested among a small, 300-strong group of postal employees and their friends and family members and uses Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb) to determine the location of mail pieces. In two or three months the USPS aims to expand to a beta program with 1,000 participants. Currently, the project is iterative and there's no set time-to-market for a finished product.

But for marketers, the benefit is that they can not only determine whether mail arrived at its destination, they can also send personalized, anticipatory messages to customers that add value or increase engagement: “Your package is coming in just two days! Hope you enjoy it!”

The MyPost project comes out of the USPS's secure digital solutions department, a new division that's the brainchild of former USPS CMO Paul Vogel.

“We're a very small organization in the USPS,” says Randy Miskanic, the division's VP, who was appointed to the post last February and reports to current CMO Nagisa Manabe. “They've likened us to a start-up. We've developed an incubation process (for projects) using an innovation lab.”

For MyPost, the USPS has already built the prototype and will continue to update it based on the comments of its limited sample users. It will then expand the project to see if there's demand and, if so, the USPS will begin investing in building the underlying technological infrastructure to support it.

Currently, the USPS is looking to improve data sharing among mail providers so they can more precisely target individuals within a household to ensure that a notification from, say, Teen Vogue doesn't clutter Dad's MyPost inbox. And to do this effectively, the USPS needs to understand both what consumers want and what senders want.

“These are all concepts we have that we want to test out,” says Douglas Glair, manager of digital partnerships and alliances. “See if they resonate with the consumer. See if they resonate with the mailer. Then build out the business case.”

For Miskanic, projects like MyPost are evolutionary. “We're not building something and assuming (customers) will come,” he says. “The key for us is developing solutions that enhance the physical mail experience.”

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