2018 USPS Rate Hikes Challenge Direct Marketers

On January 21, the U.S. Postal Service bumped up its rates for almost all mailings by direct marketers and publishers: Marketing Mail (formerly Standard Mail), First Class Mail Retail, First Class Mail Discount and Periodicals. Most of the increases are small, but volume mailers among Acculist USA’s direct marketing clients could feel the pinch. What are some of the strategies to offset the effect on marketing budgets?

Look for Savings Opportunities!

Before panicking, mail marketers need to check out the whole USPS rate change grid. A 1% to 2% overall increase will be higher or lower depending on the class, weight, zone, density and special services required, and there are actually some savings to be had. For example, while the First Class stamp is going from $0.49 to $0.50 for a 1-ounce letter, a 2% bump, the USPS did not increase the additional ounce rate, so the percentage change gets smaller as items get larger. Meanwhile, metered letters are increasing from $.46 to $.47 in postage, which offers a significant savings of $0.03 per piece for those using a postage meter or PC postage, points out a recent Mailing Systems Technology post. Although most USPS discounts are tied to doing more work, such as barcoding or sorting, this metered rate savings is automatic for just using a system to print postage that costs as little as $20 per month, the article notes.

Even More Value for Presorting, Package Changes

There are other savings to be had via presorting, adds the Mailing Systems Technology article. For example, last year the USPS increased the weight limit for letter rates from 2 ounces to 3.5 ounces. Now, with the rate for a 3-ounce metered letter at $0.89 and a commercial rate of $0.378, there’s a potential 58% savings from using presort services. Package changes can help the budget, too. Folding a flat (9×12 or 10×13) package into a 6×9 envelope could mean significant savings with the new rates. A three-ounce flat at $1.42 now could cost as little as $0.378 if it can be put in an envelope and automated through in-house software or presort services. Plus, mailers sending Priority Mail items at retail rates using Click-N-Ship or a postage meter can switch to a PC Postage solution using commercial rates to save 10% overall, or 2% to 40% less based on weight and zone.

Importance of Targeted, Quality Data Underscored

As data brokers, AccuList USA stresses that these postal cost changes also should push marketers to use data-driven direct mail in more strategic and creative multi-channel campaigns. To maximize mailing ROI, marketers should cut wasted mail by improving targeting, mailing list selection, and data/address quality, as well as apply response-boosting creative tactics, such as personalization and special printing effects.

 

For rate tables and more advice on the USPS rate hikes, see the Mailing Systems Technology post.

 

 

Making the Case for Direct Mail Power in Multi-channel Marketing

As our multi-channel marketing clients polish their 2018 marketing plans, it’s a good time to remind them of the continued value of direct mail in this digital era. A recent infographic from direct marketing agency US Presort puts together data from The Data & Marketing Association (DMA), Social Media Examiner, Epsilon, Experian and Marketing Sherpa to make the case for a direct mail commitment.

Why Connect Digital & Direct Mail?

The majority of marketers (71%) say they believe in an integrated multi-channel approach. After all, a smart multi-channel strategy can combine the pervasive impact of digital (96% of consumers say they were influenced online in making a purchase decision) with the effectiveness of direct mail (digital can’t beat mail’s 80% open rate or its consumer trust rating  of 76% compared with 61% for Google search, 43% for social and 39% for online ads). And marketers who combine direct mail and e-mail in a single integrated campaign report better results than when running standalone efforts, with overall response increasing by 35% or more. So why are so few marketers (just 29%) actually implementing those integrated multi-channel campaigns?

Addressing Direct Mail Myths

Lingering misconceptions may cause some marketers to hesitate over integrating direct mail with digital. As the infographic points out, direct mail has a high perceived cost. Yet while direct mail costs more to produce and distribute, its response rates are also much higher than other channels, so its ROI remains competitive. For example, per the DMA’s 2016 data, direct mail response rates averaged 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, compared with online display ads at 0.9%, e-mail at 0.6% for house files and 0.3% for prospects, social media with 0.6%, and paid search at 0.5%. As a result, median ROI for direct mail, while behind e-mail, is on par with social media at 29% and 30%, respectively, and ahead of other digital channels such as mobile, search and online ads. Others assume difficulties in connecting and tracking combined paper and digital promotions. But technology and U.S. Postal Service discounts are making direct mail easier and cheaper to integrate with digital via mobile device-scanned coupon links, QR codes, PURLs (Personalized URLs), and landing pages. Plus, direct mail is now much easier to track in real time thanks to the U.S. Postal Service Intelligent Mail Barcode that lets marketers follow every single piece from the postal DSCF unit to the prospect’s door.

Making Direct Mail Part of a Multi-channel Solution

Successfully leveraging the power of direct mail in a multi-channel strategy requires a few key steps. As suggested in the infographic, include the USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode on all mail to track delivery and coordinate with other channels, and then gather measurable response from multiple channels via tactics such as reply cards, 800-number call tracking, as well as mobile-scanned QR codes and PURLs. Create campaign-specific landing pages and make sure they are mobile-friendly. Integrate e-mail and direct mail messaging and lists, and coordinate e-mail blasts with mail delivery; plus create Facebook ad campaigns to target the same audience as your direct mail lists (see our Digital2Direct programs). Finally, consider IP Direct Mail or Web Direct Mail to target the same mail audience on Google with coordinated ad banners.

To share the full infographic, go to https://www.uspresort.com/posts/direct-mail-how-to-succeed-in-digital-era

 

 

USPS Informed Delivery Injects Physical Mail in Digital Mailstream

The U.S. Postal Service has implemented Informed Delivery, a program that e-mails consumers’ sneak previews of mailing pieces before that mail even lands in their physical mailboxes. The USPS considers the program an innovative “integration of digital and physical mail,” and AccuList USA definitely is intrigued on behalf of our many direct mail list brokerage and marketing services clients. What are the issues for direct mailers?

Integrating Direct Mail and the Digital Lifestyle

Under the USPS Informed Delivery program, consumers can enroll online for free and get a password-protected account that creates a digital mailbox for the direct mail they will later receive at home. Before the mail is physically delivered, it is scanned so that users can log in and see a grayscale image of common-sized mail pieces, such as a #10 envelope or a folded self-mailer. Mailers can complement that digital touchpoint with a color image added below or in place of the grayscale scan, and can add a click-through URL. Even flat-sized mailings (which aren’t scanned) can participate by supplying two custom images and a URL. Now, there may be some in the direct mail business who are nervous about further digital inroads into traditional mail’s marketing space. But it’s self-defeating to ignore the reality that consumers have made digital platforms a part of their daily lives, many looking at digital mailboxes more often than physical mailboxes. And it’s hard to argue against the potential benefits: the ability to use the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) to reach target audiences in digital and physical mailboxes simultaneously; potential tracking of when and which e-mails are viewed, and actions taken, to improve personalization and targeting;  and finally, a welcome boost to audience engagement for participating marketers. Per USPS data, there’s a 70% open rate for Informed Delivery e-mails, and 88% of users check their Informed Delivery notifications every day or almost every day.

Scripting for Mail With a Digital Cue

However, Informed Delivery will require some marketing adjustments to successfully inject traditional mail directly into the digital mailstream. Marketers who don’t opt for enhancing with color images will need to consider how images and copy work in grayscale, for example. And all mailers will need to re-think how they use outer mail design both to gain click-through/interaction and to build anticipation for the physical piece–and then the physical piece will still need to deliver ROI. Plus, since many folks view their e-mails on mobile devices, marketers need to think about how their mail translates to mobile viewing. Marketers also need to think through how and why an e-mailed preview fits the target audience. Some industries seem especially suited, and the USPS cites retail, financial services, insurance, government, and telecoms as potential beneficiaries, but other markets may gain less from an advance digital touchpoint. Mail marketers who are interested in testing the program have two ways to submit an Informed Delivery campaign to the USPS–via e-mail using an Excel file or via PostalOne!–and should also check with direct mail vendors about interfaces with presort and post-presort software that allow setup of Informed Delivery campaigns at the piece version level or at the piece detail level. For more information, see both the USPS overview of the program and its more detailed interactive campaign guide.