Postmaster General Megan Brennan with the State Farm mail team, which won the USPS’s 2016 Partnership Award.
Though postal reform that would relieve the U.S. Postal Service from severe financial duress is unlikely to pass in this election year, Postmaster General Megan Brennan said she would invest billions over the next five years on capital projects that would bring about a “transformation of mail” that would bring it “fully into the digital age.”
The Postal Service’s intensified commitment to implementing a digital strategy was the overarching theme of Brennan’s remarks to members of the mailing industry at the National Postal Forum in Nashville. She noted that data and technology—such as the Mobile Delivery Devices now used by every carrier—spurred double-digit growth in USPS’s package business and that it can do the same for direct mail.
“This strategy will elevate the role of mail in marketing communications, earning us a bigger slice of the marketing pie,” Brennan said.
The Postal Service intends to emerge as a digital player among consumers in 2017 with a national rollout of Informed Delivery, a free email service that provides people images of the fronts of the envelopes they will receive in their home mailboxes that day. For now it’s confined to letter mail, each piece of which is photographed in the sorting process. But Brennan promised it would include catalogs and packages by the time it goes national.
“Informed Delivery can be a launch pad into other channels. It gives the marketer the opportunity to attach a digital offer to mail pieces and, eventually, packages,” she said. “This is game-changing for the industry.”
Currently only about 66,000 beta testers in Connecticut, Virginia, and New York use the service, but their engagement with it has been promising. Ninety percent of them read the emails four times a week, and a survey found that those opens took place within 52 minutes of having received the message.
Brennan posited that Informed Delivery could prove a major boon to one of the vexing challenges of marketing—cross-channel attribution. “We’ll be better able to demonstrate when a consumer has viewed the digital version of the mail and what action they took,” she said.
Bringing more immediacy to mail, she said, is also a goal of the Informed Delivery data platform launched last summer that provides mailers with customer insights to aid personalization and proper timing of mail pieces. “The next evolution, “ Brennan revealed, “is giving you planning tools that enable you to estimate when that mail piece will arrive—even before it’s entered the mail stream—based on our current network cycle times.”
In a press conference following her keynote address, Brennan said the Postal Service intended to push ahead with investing in digital technologies despite an estimated $1 billion hit it will take in revenues due to the removal of the 4.3% exigent surcharge next month. Though the odds are small for passage of the iPOST reform bill in the current congressional term, she says advances have been made on a plan for the future with unions and at least a portion of mailers. And she’s not entirely ruled out the bill being passed.
“I remain cautiously optimistic,” she said.