As regular readers of SpeakingDIRECT will know, IWCO Direct is a strong advocate for the enhanced marketing results driven by combining direct mail with other, often digital, channels. A new option available to marketers to link physical mail with online experiences is the Informed Delivery product recently introduced by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
What Is It?
Informed Delivery is a subscription service offered by the USPS that allows mail recipients to see grayscale images of much of what will be in their mailboxes later that day. These images are currently available through a daily email feed or an online dashboard. This service, first piloted in the Washington, D.C. and New York City metro areas, is now available in almost all parts of the country, and it is proving very popular with subscribers. According to a January 2017 survey of pilot users, 91% of respondents are satisfied or very satisfied with Informed Delivery, with 9 out of 10 saying they would recommend Informed Delivery to family and friends. In addition, 88% of respondents said they check and view their notifications every day.
I’ve been a subscriber since Informed Delivery became available in the Minneapolis area this spring, and have found it to be an excellent way of staying connected when I’m on the road (not to mention the fascination I have as a postal geek with any new technology related to the mail).
Where Do Marketers Come In?
So you may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with linking my marketing channels?” What I’ve described so far is only the consumer side of this program. What the USPS is offering marketers is the opportunity to replace the grayscale rendering of the mailpiece with a more compelling full-color image. In addition to a color image, marketers can also provide a relevant link to online content related to the mailpiece. As Informed Delivery moves from pilot to full rollout over the next six to twelve months, the USPS will offer more automated tools to manage more targeted messaging, allowing marketers to provide even more relevant images and links (like pURLs) for each mailpiece recipient.
Things to Think About
Clearly, there’s a lot of potential for marketers with Informed Delivery, but here are a few caveats to be aware of with the current state of the service:
- The number of subscribers is still small. Although Informed Delivery has more than two million subscribers, that’s still a very small proportion of the total households in the United States. The subscriber base is growing rapidly—the USPS reports new subscribers are being added at a rate of more than 10,000 per day. To date, clients who have matched their mailing lists to the Informed Delivery subscriber list have seen at most a 1% match rate of mail recipients who are also subscribers. (Also note that due to privacy regulations, the USPS can currently only tell marketers the number of subscribers on their lists; it can’t identify specific matches.)
- Tools are still being developed. During the pilot phase, setting up an Informed Delivery campaign was a very manual process. Later this month, we anticipate the USPS will launch a self-service mailer portal to allow marketers greater flexibility in creating new Informed Delivery campaigns, and in the fall, PostalOne! upgrades will allow more flexible submission of granular campaign information as part of the mail.dat data set.
- More research is needed. As our Marketing Services team frequently recommends to clients, the path to success in direct marketing is built on a strong foundation of testing. We don’t yet fully know how Informed Delivery will affect consumers’ interactions with mail or what the potential impact of multiple impressions of a mailpiece (physical and digital) will have on response rates. The USPS has promised more testing as the program rolls out, and will make their findings available so marketers can design effective Informed Delivery programs. We look forward to seeing this evolve.
Connection to Mobile Shopping Promotion
One thing marketers considering testing Informed Delivery may want to leverage is that this year’s Mobile Shopping Promotion will allow Informed Delivery as one of the techniques to qualify for the 2% postage discount offered through the promotion. This would happen when the link presented through an Informed Delivery campaign connects to a mobile-optimized website from which the product or service offered in the mailpiece can be purchased. In most cases, the Mobile Shopping Promotion is for physical/tangible products that could be fulfilled using the USPS, but there are exceptions for services, depending on other USPS products used in conjunction with the qualifying mailing.
In past years, to qualify for the promotion, the mailpiece itself had to carry a scannable element (such as a QR code) that connected the recipient to the website to make a purchase. QR codes and other scannable elements continue to qualify for the promotion this year as well, but adding the Informed Delivery component offers an opportunity to test an additional pathway into your purchase site.
If you haven’t signed-up as a subscriber to Informed Delivery, you can check it out here. And if we’ve whet your appetite to test a new way to link direct mail with a digital experience, be sure to reach out to me or your IWCO Direct account team. We’ll help you explore the opportunities Informed Delivery may offer for your marketing program.
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