Q&A: Gary Reblin, VP of domestic products, USPS

USPS launched promotions that give discounts on direct mail that includes QR codes, connected to mobile websites. In November USPS will offer a 2% discount on postage for mail that includes a mobile 2D barcode. Gary Reblin, VP of domestic products at the USPS, says that campaigns like this one will be a large part of the future of direct mail.

Q: How did 2D code promotions first come about?

A: Two years ago we recognized the power of mobile barcodes and how they could integrate mail with digital by providing [customers] additional information. One thing we noticed in 2011, when we began this, was that although other mediums started to use QR codes, marketers hadn’t started to use them in direct mail. We realized that to encourage [marketers to do] that, we were going to have to promote it ourselves. In July and August 2011 we ran our first-ever [QR code] promotion. Our objective is long term. If print can connect with digital, customers will be more likely to use direct mail in the future.

Q: Other than QR codes, what are some ways that direct mail marketers are connecting print and digital media?

A: There’s watermarking. You’re still looking at the [image], but there’s an invisible watermark that when you take a picture of it on your phone, it will take you to a website, like a QR code does. Microsoft also has a tag like the QR code. Augmented reality is something that’s also being used. It uses image recognition and will take the image and launch a video that’s related to that content. It can distort that image and make it interactive, as well. For example, if you see a pair of shoes in a catalog, the image could, using a smartphone app, trigger something that shows you a 3D image of the shoes. There are a lot of creative things that people are doing with mobile phones and with new technologies.

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Q: What are examples of QR code best practices in direct mailers?

A: People drove response rates when they did it correctly. You can’t drive somebody to a website that isn’t mobile optimized. Nobody’s going to want to buy from a website that isn’t optimized. We also noticed that people got more clicks when they had directional copy. [Scan here to get a promotion, etc.]

Q: After this holiday season, will the USPS continue to run these types of promotions?

A: What we’re trying to do now is put together a calendar and run these more frequently. We want to go out with three or four promotions throughout the calendar year. We think using coupons in the mail and being able to upload them onto smartphones is also a great idea. [Marketers will] realize, heck, it’s a good return on investment and also makes our channel viable in the long term.

Q: Why should marketers continue to use direct mail?

A: If you look at all the studies that have been done, direct mail is still an extremely effective way of advertising. It’s ranked No. 1 as an acquisition strategy for companies, in terms of effectiveness. It gets your message in front of people and gets people to act on offers when they’re ready to act on them. They’re at home; they’re looking at the mail. With QR codes, what we’re doing is making it easier for people to interact with their mail.

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