Earlier this fall, USPS announced its intended list of promotions for the coming year. The yearly promotions and incentives are intended to help both USPS and mailers understand what types of mail are most effective, and to experiment with new technology and processes. Along with the information generated by these incentive programs, mailers usually receive a postage discount or credit for trying out the mail content or design.

    In previous years, USPS proposed up to eight promotions, while 2015 will only include four.

    Earned Value Promotion Available for First-Class mail, this promotion offers a rebate to mailers who encourage mail recipients to use Business Reply Mail (BRM) and Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM). The intent with this promotion is to keep more First-Class Mail in the mix, including both outbound and incoming mailpieces. This promotion has run in 2014 and 2013 as well, and mailers who participated in previous years will likely get an additional rebate. This rebate can be used to pay for postage on additional mailings later in the year.
     
    Emerging and Advance Technology Promotion First-Class and Standard mailings that contain some of the fancier mail features, such as augmented reality and Near Field Communication (NFC), could be eligible for a discount on their postage during this promotion. The ultimate goal with this promotion is to encourage the use of interactive technologies to keep mail relevant in this digital age. This promotion was run in 2014 as well, with mixed results. The price to embed NFC in mailpieces has reduced significantly over the past year. Unfortunately the new iPhones have only limited NFC capabilities, so it's unlikely that mailers will want to use that part of the promotion.

    Color/Transpromo Promotion In another effort to stem the loss of First-Class mail, mailings of bills and statements that use color on the statement itself to educate or advertise services will be eligible for this discount. Bills and statements are one of the biggest segments of First-Class mail, and have been quick to migrate to digital notifications and payment. The hope is that these mailers will see that color information on the mailpiece can drive customer behavior, further illustrating that mail is relevant.

    Mail Drives Mobile Engagement Promotion Repeating the "holiday sale" promotion for the last few years, Standard mailers can claim a discount for pieces that link to mobile shopping carts, with an additional discount when the order is fulfilled using Priority Mail. This will encourage more use of USPS parcel shipping services, one of the highest margin and fastest growing services USPS offers.

    Reviewing the Timeline The proposed timeline shows the first promotions starting in April. This is in part due to the announcement that there will be no price increase in January. Another interesting takeaway is that each of the promotions will be active much longer in 2015. In previous years, most promotions were only active two months at a time (some were only active a few weeks). After some feedback from the industry, USPS is giving mailers additional time to get their accounts set up and design the mail pieces for these promotions. The shortest promotion for 2015, Earned Value, will be active a full three months.

    Additional thoughts
    The choice to only offer four promotions this year is interesting. It creates an easier message and fewer moving parts for the industry to keep track of. However, USPS may be missing some opportunity here. There are no promotions that are targeted for Periodicals mailers, and all of the ideas are recycled from previous years. This shows that USPS does not see growth in Periodicals volume, and the well of ideas that are innovative enough for a promotion has run dry. At the time of this writing, the 2015 promotions had not been proposed to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). However, since these promotions are well-known, it will be easier for the PRC to review and approve them without a price change to go along with it. Perhaps in 2016 we'll start to see some additional variance in the promotions that are offered, but only time will tell.

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