Earlier this year, the USPS rolled out Informed Delivery, a service that gives postal customers a digital sneak peek at their mail before it’s delivered to their home. And although this important initiative is still in its infancy, this integration of the digital and physical worlds offers marketers and printers a powerful new opportunity to reach a target audience.
The Postal Service is not establishing a digital strategy for companies to reach customers. Rather, it’s giving marketers and brands more tools to reach customers across several channels. “We have a strategy in a digital world”, says Postal Service Chief Customer and Marketing Officer and Executive VP Jim Cochrane.
How It Works for ConsumersCustomers can enroll online for a verified, free, password-protected Informed Delivery account that uses a digital mailbox for the direct mail they receive at their house. Before an actual delivery to their house, they can log in to the portal (or check their email) to view a scanned grayscale image of the address side of a letter-sized mail piece, like a #10 envelope or postcard. Jumbo mailers, catalogs, and packages aren’t included in the mix at this time.
The USPS sees Informed Delivery as a big step towards bridging the gap between the instant convenience of a digital experience and the tactile value of a physical direct mail piece. With banking, shopping, and so many other routines increasingly controlled via digital devices, it creates a space for mail, which even many digital-first native consumers can appreciate. Now, customers can get an advance notice – from any place with an internet connection - of bills, personal letters, legal documents, and other important or meaningful mail pieces. As of late October, over 6.4 million users have enrolled in Informed Delivery, with just 2/10 of 1% opting out later.
What I Experienced with Informed Delivery
Every day, usually before 9 a.m., I get an email with “Informed Delivery Daily Digest” as the subject line.
Each letter-sized piece (up to 10) that gets scanned by USPS’s automation equipment shows up in the body of the email. Because only the address side of the envelope or self-mailer appears, you can understand why it’s so important to use a good teaser or a compelling image (even though it’s in gray scale) to get the customer’s attention.
But to make more of an impression in the Informed Delivery Daily Digest or web dashboard, USPS gives marketers another way to directly drive customer action: the Informed Delivery Campaign.
A few weeks ago, my Daily Digest included, for the first time, 2 campaigns with color images, and much more.
The first was a RedPlum mail package consisting of retail store and supermarket inserts and coupons. Because of their large size, flats like FSIs don’t get scanned. So the company deployed a large “representative” image in the email/portal, and it really stands out.
Instead of the busy address side ad on the direct mail piece (a Domino’s promo with multiple coupons and photos), it used a version of an interior page that showcased a build-your-own candy apple bar at a supermarket.
But that’s not all.
The email included a smaller “ride-along” image that ran with a call-to-action, and a trackable URL.
The website link clicked through to RedPlum’s home page, where lots of coupons, recipes, and articles awaited. However, none of the content was local, unlike the direct mail ads.
The second mail piece, from Progressive Insurance, was one of its controls. The company chose to use a gray scale image of the outer envelope, but here, the ride-along shows spokesperson Flo urging people to “Get a Quote Now.”
When tapped, the link led to a simple screen to set a price, enter a zip code, and get a quote. A button provided another option (and channel) for a response: a phone call.
In each case, the consumer can immediately take action with their digital device rather than wait until they get home to examine the mail piece in its entirety.
The Opportunities for Marketers
Remember, mail in Informed Delivery is being viewed through a screen – and often a small one if it’s a smartphone.
Even if you have lot more to say to the prospect on the other side of the mailer or inside the envelope, the front face is where you can first engage them. At the very least, until the customer gets home, your copy and graphics can build anticipation for what the rest of the mailing may reveal and offer to them.
So: use clear, high-definition images, and easy-to-read, intriguing copy. You’ll be getting an additional bang for the buck from the impression your outer creates.
And keep in mind that your customer doesn’t need all that much from you.
By putting a web address, discount code, or phone number on the part of the mailing that gets scanned, you can make it more convenient for them to respond immediately. Remember that small screen? All of these elements should be in a legible, large font as well.
This is real integrated marketing. And because it’s all built on data, mailers have a variety of production elements and reporting options to choose from at any point along one of these synchronized campaigns.
According to USPS officials, as of mid-September, over 35 mailers have so far signed up, mailing more than 250 multichannel campaigns, with an average (and astounding) 70% open rate for these campaigns. While nearly 25% of the 6.4 million enrollees go to their personal portal to view their mail, the majority look at their email notification.
Do you want to know the best part? For now, it’s free. That alone makes it worth testing. In the words of the late marketer Mal Decker: “Rule No. 1, test everything; Rule No. 2, see Rule No. 1.”
To participate in the program, get information on reporting options, and much more, visit the USPS Informed Delivery website for business mailers.
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