Informed Delivery is a USPS service that proposes to provide consumers with an email displaying the letter-size mail they will receive each day in their physical mailboxes. The digital notice will include an image of the mail pieces and, optionally, links to more digital content provided by the mailer. According to Postal Service FAQs, the standard monochrome images may sometimes be replaced by color versions. Magazines, for example, might supply a color image of an issue’s cover (scans for magazines and flats are not currently supported, but may be added later).
Most of what we know about Informed Delivery comes from the US Postal Service itself. According to the press releases, tests in New York and Virginia have resulted in positive reviews and acceptance among the mail recipients taking part in the evaluation. I don’t recall reading any accounts of the new service written by the test subjects themselves though. Opinions from a broad audience of regular people would be helpful.
The tests are being expanded to include other geographies, so perhaps we’ll be hearing from the new batch of volunteers soon.
Linking Mail and Digital
I hope Informed Delivery works out. It is an interesting way to connect paper and electronic communications. Up to now, marketers have linked mail with electronic content by printing URLs or QR codes on mail pieces. These methods force recipients to take extra steps to view the digital material.
As I understand it, links in Informed Delivery notices can be accessed by clicking or tapping them. No extra device or action by the consumer is required. Even better, if consumers don’t take action from the emailed notice, marketers get a second chance to get their customer’s attention when the physical mail piece is delivered.
Variable Data on Envelopes?
If tests continue to be successful and Informed Delivery is rolled out to consumers, envelope design will become more important than ever. Printing relevant personalized content on the outside of envelopes should make them stand out from other mail presented in the digital notices. Outside envelope messaging can encourage customers to click through or pique their interest to open the envelope when it arrives later in the day. The USPS is rumored to be investigating camera upgrades, which will enable color imaging, making the scanned mail even more compelling.
Though not publically announced, we must assume the US Postal Service intends to charge marketers for automatically doubling mail piece exposure. A revenue source based on digital image delivery would be fairly easy to implement. The basic components of scanning and tracking already exist. Making more money from Standard Mail would be a good thing for the financially challenged Postal Service.
Marketers and the USPS aren’t the only ones who can benefit from Informed Delivery. Assuming cluster mailboxes will eventually become more common in some communities, Informed Delivery will help consumers decide if it is worth a trip to the mailbox each day. No one likes to trudge two blocks through snow or the hot sun to a mailbox that might be empty. On the other hand, checks, new credit cards, or bank statements are items a mail recipient might want to retrieve promptly.
Knowing when important mail is arriving can also be useful for people with disabilities. Just getting up and down a steep driveway to a personal mailbox can be challenging or dangerous. If important documents are likely to be in the day’s mail, neighbors or caregivers may be called upon to fetch it. Less important mail can wait.
The latest USPS estimates predict national implementation of Informed Delivery in 2017. If it goes as planned, this capability may represent new opportunities for organizations communicating through the mail. Find more information and the FAQs at realmail.usps.com.
Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants. He helps his clients get the most from their document print and mail centers and prepare strategies for the future. Visit www.printmailconsultants.com and sign up for his free newsletters written especially for document industry professionals or follow on Twitter @PMCmike.