This article originally appeared in the September/October issue of Mailing Systems Technology.
Every day you go to work, you are asked to come up with new ways to add incremental value — already a momentous task in this day and age. To make things even more challenging, the senior management team often wants you to add that value while reducing budgets and improving the overall customer experience. In addition, they want to replace the current communications that have been traditionally printed and mailed by turning them into digital messages that implement multi-channel and cross-channel communications.
This trend driving communications digital is not that new; it’s been coming for 20 years. However, we are on the cusp of another plateau breakthrough. We saw early adopters jump on the electronic presentment and payment bandwagon at the turn of the century, but numbers were modest – five to eight percent. Now we are seeing 20-25% adoption. With the prevalence of mobile devices and some new technology introduced by the USPS, we are poised to see another increase in digital communication adoption.
Before we go further, let’s establish a few facts and definitions. The USPS has seen a steady decline in First-Class mail volume over the last few years. To combat this decline, it has introduced some promotions to incent mailers and marketers to send more mail by reducing postage costs. The 2017 promotions included:
1. Earned Value
Earned credits, once approved and accepted, will be credited to the permit accounts and can then be applied to future mailings when business reply envelopes are used
2. Personalized Color Transpromo
When personalized color transpromotional messaging is used in bills and statements, an upfront postage discount is provided
3. Emerging & Advanced Technology
Mailers who create mail pieces that use at least one form of approved emerging or advanced technologies will receive a postage discount
4. Tactile, Sensory, & Interactive Engagement
Eligible mailers who incorporate a multi-sensory experience into their mail piece may receive a postage discount
5. Direct Mail Starter
This promotion is for first-time mailers to promote offers that incorporate the use of print-mobile technology (up to 10,000 mail pieces)
6. Mobile Shopping
Eligible mail pieces that integrate mobile technology that direct customers to an online “Buy Button” may receive a discount on postage
Each of the promotions above, except for the Direct Mail Starter, runs for six months. USPS’ strategy to drive more volume has slowed the pace of decline, but mail volumes are still going down.
While the USPS was trying to revitalize printing and mailing, organizations were trying to establish a variety of customer communication methodologies beyond printing and mailing, such as email, SMS (short message service), web portals, and mobile applications. These other channels, in conjunction with print, established a multi-channel protocol. However, in many cases, these were produced within their own silos in organizations. In addition, many of these were not bi-directional communications. This left the customer saying, “You’re halfway there.” They could “hear” the company, but the company could not hear them, or they would have to work hard to get in touch with the organization to conduct business with them. Therefore, the next level would be bi-directional communication via multiple media – also known as cross-channel communications.
All of these things sound great, so why isn’t everyone taking advantage of this combination of multi-channel communications and promotions? There are three categories of challenges to overcome to actually execute one.
• Never heard of it
• Poor planning, too late
2. Stakeholder collaboration
• IT, Lines of Business, Marketing, Project Management, USPS, Print Center and Mail Center staff
• Dealing with legacy applications
• Lack of IMb control
• Old mail software on mainframes; hard to adjust
• Hard to make changes to/re-engineer a document
• Don’t know how to get started
You know where the organization wants to go – cross-channel. You know USPS wants to keep mail volumes up, and it is incenting your organization to do so, which has created a competitive communication alternative, so now what do you do? Both! But how?
Integration and collaboration with the stakeholders are critical to getting a multi-channel promotion off the ground. The good news is that USPS has established a program called Informed Visibility, which will be rolled out in full by the end of 2017. This program allows mail recipients to sign up to see what is going to be delivered to their mailboxes that day via notifications to their computer desktops or mobile phones. A picture of the outside of the envelope will be displayed in the notification area of the app. Even better, mailers can replace or augment images of the envelopes with other images that can be clicked on to drive them to another touchpoint.
Let’s connect the dots now with a promotion combination of earned value, emerging & advanced technology, and personalized color transpromo example. For illustration purposes, this is a phone bill. It is assumed that the organization sends out 100,000 bills per day.
• Mailing Operations – Educate the team about the USPS promotions – October
• IT/Finance – Create a color bill – November-December
• Marketing – Get IT to add a marketing message on the mail piece; not inserts – January-February
• Marketing/IT – Establish an online place for customers to land once clicking on a link – January-February
• Marketing/Mailing Operations/USPS – Approve the outbound mailpiece – February
• Operations – Print and mail the bills; include a business reply envelope or two-way envelope with IMb – All year
• USPS – Scan each mail piece and provide images and links to mail recipients – March-August
Now the magic happens…
• Set up to receive credits from the BRM usage – January-June
• Set up to receive a two percent discount on postage since Informed Delivery is included in the emerging & advanced technology promotion – March-August
• Set up to receive a two percent discount on postage according to the parameters of the personalized transpromo promo – July-December
• Increase in business due to promotions
• Added or integrated multi-channel communications established
• Improved customer experience and engagement
Please note that organizations can only take advantage of one promotion at a time per application/mailing. There is no accumulation of discounts even if your mail piece qualifies for more than one as illustrated above.
Simply put, with a little work and collaboration, everybody wins! Win-win-win… for your organization, USPS, and your customers.
Paul Abdool is Vice President Sales – CFI, Doxim. He is the on the Board of Xplor International - an electronic document systems association - and is the Treasurer of Xplor Canada. He has also earned his M-EDP (Master Electronic Document Professional) Certification from Xplor, his CCMP (Certified Change Management Professional) certification from Prosci, & his ECMS (Enterprise Content Management Specialist) certification from AIIM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.