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.