As we approach the new year, SpeakingDIRECT will be taking the opportunity to reflect on important marketing trends from 2018 and look forward to what we might expect for 2019. In the coming days, my colleagues Karen Weil and Debora Haskel will examine ongoing trends in the evolving paper market and changes we can expect for data-driven marketing in 2019, but today we’ll take a look at what’s happening in the world of postal.
President’s Task Force Report: Licensing the Mailbox and More
The big year-end news in the postal world is that the Trump Administration released the report from its task force on reforming the U.S. Postal Service on December 4. Among other items, the report advises:
- Providing a more detailed definition of the Universal Service Obligation (USO);
- Licensing the mailbox monopoly as a way to raise revenue;
- Redefining mail classes and separating products by the type of sender and declared purpose of the mail item;
- Improving the cost allocation model;
- Eliminating collective bargaining over compensation by craft employees; and
- Expanding regulatory oversight of the USPS.
It’s important to keep in mind that this report just lists recommendations, and in many cases, those recommendations will require legislative or administrative action to be adopted. We expect continued robust discussion of this report among all postal stakeholders throughout 2019.
Postal News: USPS Business Model and Governance Updates
- Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) Rate and Regulatory Review: This review, which was the hot topic at this time last year, has essentially been on hold through 2018, pending release of the report from the President’s task force. Now that the task force report is out, we may see movement from the PRC as it reacts to comments made on its original proposal, as well as recommendations from the task force.
- Legislation: Postal reform hasn’t made much progress in the current Congress despite consistent efforts by postal stakeholders to move it forward. It is unlikely to be included in any legislation being discussed in the current lame duck session, but incoming House Government Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has been a strong supporter of reform legislation this session, and postal stakeholders are optimistic he will be able to bring to fruition a number of needed reforms.
- Governance: Some of the good postal news from 2018 was that after more than 18 months without independent Governors on the USPS Board of Governors, the Senate confirmed nominees Robert Duncan and David Williams in August. Although Duncan and Williams don’t provide enough members to bring the board back to a quorum, they do reconstitute the Temporary Emergency Committee, which allows for more normal USPS governance. We expect to see additional nominations and confirmations to fill out this board in 2019.
In addition, the PRC has been functioning with an open commissioner’s seat for the past three years. Michael Kubayanda has been nominated to fill that seat and is awaiting Senate confirmation. We are hopeful that Kubayanda will be confirmed before the end of the Senate’s lame duck session so the commission will be back to its full complement.
Good News—Promotions are Back!
With new Governors in place, the USPS was able to implement a price adjustment for both Market Dominant and Competitive products that will take effect on Sunday, January 27. Although price adjustments aren’t always popular, the good news is a calendar of 2019 mailing promotions was approved as part of the pricing package.
The promotions are largely the same as those offered in 2017, with the addition of a promotion designed to encourage use of Informed Delivery. Some of those that we expect to be most popular with direct mail marketers include:
- Tactile, Sensory and Interactive: February 1 – July 31
- Emerging and Advanced Technology: March 1 – August 31
- Earned Value: April 1 – June 30
- Informed Delivery: September 1 – November 30
To learn more about 2019 promotions and how to leverage them as part of your postal optimization strategy, contact your IWCO Direct account team.
Expansion of USPS “Informed” Programs
Informed Visibility (IV) has become the default information-sharing platform for the USPS. As well as mail tracking data, the IV platform has become the source for detailed Mail Quality Data, reports related to the new Enterprise Payment System (EPS), and Informed Delivery reports.
Informed Delivery (ID) now has nearly 14 million subscribers, and the USPS continues to build out the infrastructure needed to support the program. We expect to be able to automate ID campaigns using mail.dat tools in place of the more manual online campaign portal in early 2019. It is likely to be the end of 2019 or early 2020 before we’ll have the tools to create fully one-to-one campaigns. Look for a spike in ID campaigns next fall when the first stand-alone ID promotion is launched.
Other “Informed” programs being developed by the USPS include:
- Informed Address is a technology that replaces a consumer’s physical address with a unique code to allow the USPS to share consumer addresses, while maintaining consumer privacy. The USPS wants to use this technology to implement a number of new applications that will be rolled out in the coming years. The first application is slated to be a “targeted offers” program that will enable consumers to access digital and physical offers through ID.
- Informed Mobility is a program that uses GPS data to track movement of mail transportation (by trucks and planes) around the country to better predict when mail will arrive at USPS facilities. IWCO Direct is participating in a pilot program to share mailing industry transportation data with the USPS to supplement the data about USPS transportation.
- Informed Facility is a new series of dashboards that provide USPS facility managers with a greater array of data to ensure their facilities are operating efficiently and meeting mail service standards.
The IWCO Direct postal team will continue to monitor these issues and other postal news and advocate for mailing industry-friendly outcomes as we move into 2019. Contact me if you want to share your thoughts on the postal trends outlined above, and be sure to check out SpeakingDIRECT tomorrow when Karen Weil will share what to look forward to in the paper market next year.
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