My colleague, Bob Rosser, and I attended last week’s Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) meeting in Washington D.C. As seems fitting for the end of summer, it was a quieter meeting, but we covered a number of topics of importance to the mailing industry.
Real Mail Notification
USPS Innovation VP, Gary Reblin, provided more details on the recently announced expanded pilot of the Real Mail Notification program in the New York metro area. Real Mail is a pilot program in which participants receive a daily email showing images of mailpieces they will be receiving in that day’s delivery. The initial pilot in northern Virginia showed a doubling of response rates to marketing mail when the mailpiece is reinforced by the Real Mail notification. As well as taking the concept to a larger audience, the New York pilot, scheduled to begin this November, will allow mailers to provide links to the Postal Service that will make the images presented in the notification emails interactive.
While there are still many details to resolve regarding this concept, it confirms the Postal Service’s commitment to linking physical mail to electronic experiences, making it an integral part of multi-channel marketing.
USPS VP Mail Entry and Payment Technology, Pritha Mehra, shared information about the USPS’ new initiative to modernize its payment system. This initiative will use existing retail payment software as the basis of a system that will eventually expand and replace the current CAPS (Centralized Account Processing System) program. The new system will better accommodate electronic payments, allow payment for a wider variety of products and services than can be paid through the current CAPS system, and allow payment of postage in locations other than where the mail is presented. As planning starts for this new initiative, an MTAC Workgroup is being established to provide industry feedback to the Postal Service on the design of the system.
USPS EVP and CFO, Joe Corbett, shared third quarter financial results with the group. The USPS’ YTD net loss was $2.8 billion (down from $4.2 billion last year). However, “controllable” income was $1.2 billion, compared to $1 billion last year. (The USPS excludes accruals for retiree healthcare and workers compensation adjustments and looks only at operational revenue and costs when calculating controllable income.) The Postal Service liquidity position has improved, as it now has 26 days of cash on hand.
Both First-Class and Standard Mail volumes were down slightly in the quarter, but Standard Mail volume is still up for the year. Shipping services continues to grow both volume and revenue by double digits, but hasn’t yet become large enough to offset losses in mail volume.
USPS EVP and COO, Dave Williams, provided an update on USPS service performance. Although much improved over the surprisingly disappointing performance this past winter, USPS operations are still struggling to return to the consistently solid performance we had been experiencing as recently as last fall. Service performance continues to be the focus of the operations team, and Williams said the Postal Service is well positioned to meet and exceed service standards as we enter the fall mailing season.
2016 Postal Promotions
The Postal Service has planning well underway for its 2016 promotions. It expects to have the promotions approved and announced by early fall, so they can begin in early calendar 2016. While he couldn’t share many specifics, Reblin did say that next year’s promotions would run for longer time frames, as they did this year. He also noted that the portion of the Emerging Technology promotion focused on physical engagement devices in the mailpiece has been very popular, and would likely be split off into a separate promotion next year.
We will be sure to let you know as soon as details of next year’s promotions are announced, so stay tuned to SpeakingDIRECT for updates on this and other postal initiatives.
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