The latest results from the U.S. Postal Service show that it has sold 595,000 subscriptions of its Delivery Confirmation service during the less than four weeks since it was introduced, and, according to some sources, the service may be the reason for the recent switch of mailers from the United Parcel Service to the USPS.
“We think the results are spectacular,” said USPS spokesman Jerry McKiernan. “Especially since the service was really just introduced.”
But although Delivery Confirmation received a lot of attention when it was first tested in several U.S. markets in 1997 and even more when the UPS began an anticipatory public relations strike in February against USPS because it offered a similar but more robust in-transit tracking and tracing service, it's uncertain whether companies are switching to the USPS because of it.
The Spiegel Group, Downers Grove, IL, for example, which as of April 8 switched approximately 50 percent of its outbound catalog ground packages for its Spiegel and Eddie Bauer lines to USPS Priority Mail from UPS, decided to switch because it believes the service lowers Spiegel's costs, increases its service to its customers and speeds up delivery.
“Delivery Confirmation certainly did play a role, because it is important for us to track out products for our customers,” said Sandra Crotteau, vice president of transportation for DFS, the distribution and fulfillment arm of Spiegel. “But Delivery Confirmation was not the decision-maker.” The UPS is still handling the other 50 percent of its volume.
Greg Jacobs, director of marketing of CTC Distribution Direct, St. Louis, a leading parcel consolidator and one of the USPS' main customers, said there's been a lot of interest from customers about Delivery Confirmation, specifically because it offers shippers proof that a package was delivered, and therefore addresses consumer fraud.
Jacobs said that one of the main reasons customers choose companies such as UPS — as opposed to the USPS — is fraud-protection. But now that the USPS offers fraud-protection at lower costs, it may become more attractive to shippers.
In addition, Jacobs said that customers are interested in Delivery Confirmation combined with CTC's DirectTrac service, which tracks packages individually from the time they reach any of CTC's distribution facilities to the point of entry into the USPS' delivery stream.
“Delivery Confirmation for large-volume shippers and consolidators in a solo shot doesn't add much to the equation,” said Jacobs. “But, the fact that we offer tracking all the way through to DDUs as a result of reclassification, mailers are deciding that this offers a powerful punch. DDU delivery means companies can save money through worksharing and also receive deeper tracking.”
The service is expected to receive more interest when the USPS launches a business-to-business direct mail and vertical print advertising campaign in early May for Delivery Confirmation, aimed at small and large companies in the apparel, financial, pharmaceutical and software and peripherals industries. The USPS is planning to target about 100,000 businesses with direct mail.
In addition, the USPS will air 30-second television spots to add to the current 15-second spots that began highlighting the service earlier this year. The company is using Foote, Cone and Belding, New York, for advertising and The Colography Group Inc., Marietta, GA, for market research.
According to Chet King, USPS marketing specialist, FCB will gather lists of companies to target and base this list on research from The Colography Group.
Delivery Confirmation, which was introduced on March 14, allows all mail carriers, mail clerks and mail-delivery employees to carry hand-held scanners that record the date and time of delivery for Priority Mail and Standard-B mailings. Carriers scan barcoded mail when deliveries are made at a customer site. The time and date of the delivery is sorted in the scanner's memory and downloaded into a postal-service server when the letter carriers return to their post offices. Business customers can receive electronic manifests with their information, and individuals can check delivery status on the Internet or by calling a toll-free number. Delivery information, which also includes attempted deliveries and forwarded or returned shipments, is updated each evening.
The retail rate for senders of the service is 35 cents for Priority Mail and 60 cents for Standard-B Mailers.