USPS pitches print catalogs

The US Postal Service (USPS) is targeting e-commerce merchants with an integrated marketing campaign emphasizing the potential of print catalogs. The effort includes direct mail, webinars, instructional DVDs and web banner ads. The USPS created the campaign internally.

The “Getting Started in Catalogs” initiative emphasizes that companies can double online transactions and achieve revenue lifts of more than 100% by adding print extensions to their e-commerce operations. The

DVDs feature testimonials from companies such as Zappos and Dell, which have translated online success to print catalogs.

“The goal is to convince or persuade companies that have relied on the Internet to grow their businesses through catalogs.

Many have gotten to a point where growth is limited,” said Tom Foti, manager of marketing mail at the USPS. “What we found was that many companies who went beyond the traditional online model, such as Zappos or Dell, when they expanded into print, their businesses grew in ways they had not thought of.”

The direct mail element of the campaign, launched last month, incorporates Business Reply Mail.

The three webinars were scheduled for July 20, July 28 and August 24. The Postal Service will follow up with companies that express interest, said Foti.

The organization also created an informational microsite for the initiative. Businesses can request more information from the USPS and order informational DVDs on the site. The USPS is also running Internet banner ads in online retail publications “We see catalogs as a valuable part of the mail stream and an important part of what consumers want in their mailboxes,” said Foti. “There is a growth opportunity there. Although a lot of people see momentum going the other way, there is value in the consumer getting the catalog in the mailbox.”

The USPS, which saw a net loss of $3.8 billion last fiscal year, has asked the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to allow it to enact several rate increases in 2011.

It has also asked the PRC and Congress for permission to reduce home delivery to five days per week. The possible service reduction has drawn the ire of catalogers and direct mailers, many of whom have said they will have to cut back on their mailing volumes as a result. The proposal has also drawn considerable blowback from the two major postal unions. The USPS has argued that the rate increases are necessary for restoringfinancial health to the organization.

Foti said that the USPS worked with the American Catalog Mailers Association (ACMA) before it launched the campaign to hear the industry’s ideas on encouraging the use of catalogs.

Hamilton Davison, president and executive director of the ACMA, said that his group’s goal for the initiative is to raise catalog volumes and lower mailing costs, and also to increase consumer interest.

“The more interesting catalogs there are in the mail, the more interested catalog buyers there are,” he said. “You get hooked on the things you find interesting and exciting and that makes you pay attention to everything in the mailbox.”

Davison added that e-retailers who have contacted the ACMA about launching catalogs are mainly trying to broaden their revenue streams.

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