San Antonio lived up to its billing as a great place for the mailing community to gather for the 2018 National Postal Forum last week. Great history, a beautiful environment, and exciting nightlife made the city a vibrant backdrop for discussions of data-driven mail and how digital channels “need mail to seal the deal.”
The 2018 National Postal Forum Outlook: “The Eagle Always Faces Forward”
In her opening keynote address, Postmaster General Megan Brennan acknowledged mail as the “core product” of the U.S. Postal Service, although she made several references to “the mailing and shipping industry.” She commented on the growing importance of parcels in the Postal Service’s volume mix by noting that eCommerce deliveries are projected to grow 70% over the next five years.
Brennan firmly positioned the Postal Service as a future-oriented agency, saying, “the eagle always faces forward.” She cited new opportunities for mail growth in the Experience Economy, but cautioned the audience that we need to up our game because we are always competing with “the last best experience” of our customers and prospects.
Brennan described how Informed Delivery “strengthens the omnichannel future of mail” by broadening the definition of the mail moment, making it part of consumers’ daily digital experience. She noted that mail’s role is amplified by adding a digital or mobile dimension, concluding, “Mail is indispensable because it is the ultimate closer.”
Moving Mail Forward Together
Chief Customer and Marketing Officer Jakki Krage Strako led the second general session. She also focused on the ability of Informed Delivery to enhance the mail moment to create additional impressions for the mailpiece. She noted that with Informed Delivery, mail isn’t the endpoint of the customer experience, but an entry point: in Strako’s words, the “mailbox is the marketer’s launch pad.” Strako observed that the Informed Delivery program now has 10 million subscribers, with the goal of 40 million by 2020. Notification of delivery to supplement the electronic view of what’s in the mailbox is among the features to be added in the coming year.
Strako called mail a “proven channel,” and said the Postal Service will be working to expand mail’s role in the media mix. In the coming year, the agency will be launching a campaign designed to engage marketing decision makers about mail, with the goal of changing how they think about mail as a marketing channel. She said this campaign will engage the entire mailing industry to promote the value of mail, commenting, “Over the next year, we will do this together.”
“ACE Scores” Provide Insight into the Value of Mail
Strako also introduced the audience to Kevin Keane, CEO of Brainsights, a company that uses neural scanning to provide insights on messaging and media. He observed that his work is driven by three basic concepts:
- Changing the brain changes behavior;
- Branding can change the brain;
- Attention is the currency on which brands trade.
In Keane’s research, he creates an “ACE Score” to measure how subjects react to marketing messages through a variety of media to measure Attention, Connection, and Encoding in their response to the messages they’re exposed to.
He demonstrated the technique by presenting marketing messages to three members of the mailing community in both physical (mail) and digital (tablet) formats. He noted that all three subjects in the small sample had higher ACE Scores when interacting with a physical mailpiece than when they interacted with the same messages digitally. He also noted the cumulative effect of presenting the messaging through both types of media drove even higher ACE Scores than either media alone. Keane described physical media as creating a “halo” around digital media, saying that “Physical experiences amplify digital experiences.” He asserted that combining traditional media with new technology provides seamless cross-channel customer experiences—something we’ve known to be true for a long time.
What We Took Away from the 2018 National Postal Forum
The 2018 National Postal Forum in San Antonio provided our team there with lots to think about and many learning opportunities. As my colleague Nancy Garrison observed, it also provided a good reminder of how staying at the cutting edge of new programs and technologies is in IWCO Direct’s corporate DNA: we engage our USPS counterparts in making sure we are ahead of the curve for any new mail enhancements they will be introducing in the coming year.
I also wanted to congratulate Nancy and her collaborator Anne Skroch on leading their first training session at a National Postal Forum, entitled “How Can I Make Informed Visibility Work for Me?” They had a fully engaged, standing-room-only audience as they shared their knowledge of navigating through all the mailing data available in the Informed Visibility portal. As one client told Nancy after the session, “It seems like IWCO Direct is always two years ahead of everyone else.” Well done!
We look forward to working with the industry to promote the power of mail in the coming year and seeing everyone next year in Indianapolis for the 2019 National Postal Forum.
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