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Ken Magill

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What Everyone is Missing in the USPS's New Email Service

12/8/15
 
By Ken Magill
 
The United States Postal Service is rolling out a program that on its face would seem to be of no real benefit to consumers. However, the USPS may have an ace up its sleeve.
 
Through a service called Informed Delivery, the USPS is offering to send images via email of 10 pieces of letter-sized mail scheduled to arrive at the recipient’s home that day.
 
The USPS tested the service in Northern Virginia in 2014 and is reportedly rolling it out in New York and Connecticut.
 
“Part of our intent here is to make mail part of your daily digital experience, and we plan to at some point include catalogs and packages in the service. We're looking to onboard 100,000 people in New York,” said Postmaster General Megan Brennan during an earnings call last month.
 
While it’s difficult to see any real benefit for consumers in getting a preview of letter-sized mail the morning it is supposed to arrive, the service may have marketing implications for the USPS that may translate into benefits for consumers, according to trade reporter and loyalty-marketing expert Richard H. Levey.
 
[Full disclosure, Levey is a friend.]
 
According to Levey, Informed Delivery may be an attempt by the USPS to link primary email addresses to physical postal addresses.
 
“Data companies have been trying to do this for years with varying levels of success,” said Levey. “However, they don’t have direct access to the postal-mail infrastructure that the USPS has.”
 
One of the challenges of email appending—where a data company attempts to link an email address to a physical address on a marketer’s house file—is whether or not the email address is that of the proper person within the household.
 
Not that the USPS plans to go into the appending business. But with Informed Delivery, the USPS can be 100 percent certain it has the primary email address of the person who checks the mail in a household. Plus it can be reasonably certain it has an email address that gets checked on a regular basis.
 
With the reasonable certainty of having active email addresses, the lack of engagement that plagues so many marketers in email would theoretically be significantly less of a problem.
 
Levey also said that if the USPS started sending special Informed-Delivery-only offers to consumers’ email addresses on marketers’ behalves, the service could stand a chance of taking off.
 
By linking primary email addresses with 100 percent accuracy to residential addresses, the USPS could offer advertisers dual-channel marketing “like nobody’s business,” said Levey.
 
Moreover, geographic targeting is a USPS strength that could lend itself well to email marketing, said Levey.
 
“Plus the email list would be 100 percent opt-in,” he said.
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