Informed Delivery, the United States Postal Service program that sends consumers images of their mail before they receive it, presents some great opportunities for mailers. Informed Delivery is a fast growing program with one million new consumers signing on monthly. Mailers can place their own links and images into that email, thereby creating an Informed Delivery campaign that could increase every mailing’s chance for success.
Informed Delivery: The Big Numbers
As of the beginning of 2019, Informed Delivery had almost 15 million registered users, and that number only continues to grow. Some registrants access their Informed Delivery feed from the web, but most have elected to receive an email from the Postal Service every day. Of those who get the email, about 65% open it. That is an exceptional open rate – just ask any email marketer you know. Consumers open their Informed Delivery email because they like it; the information within is personal and relevant to them. This is exactly the type of information mailers should be salivating over.
Adding Your Mark to Their Informed Delivery
As a mail creator, you can have more than a black and white image of your mail piece appear in your prospects’ feed. You can replace that image with a full-color image and add a “ride-along” ad underneath it with a link to your website, or, better still, a web landing page. The benefits to doing this are clear:
• You can create anticipation for the mail piece, boosting response rates
• You can drive your ID ad viewers to online resources such as catalogs, coupons, special offers, and more
• You can give your prospects a simplified response path. One hurdle direct mail faces is getting prospects to take action. It takes effort to respond; recipients are often asked to call an 800 number, go to a website, or mail back a form. ID allows you to give your prospects another path to response — they can just click a button and be on your website. ID doesn’t replace other response channels — it just provides one more
• You can create an additional brand impression, reinforcing your brand while associating the ad to your mail piece
• And, from September through November of 2019, the Postal Service is offering a two percent postage discount for mailings that have an associated ID campaign
Clearly, ID campaigns offer some significant advantages to mailers, so let’s discuss the nuts and bolts of creating one!
The Elements of an Informed Delivery Campaign
The Mail Piece: Every ID campaign is centered on a mail piece — without mail, there is no ID. One appealing aspect of ID is that it requires no changes to the mail piece – no special barcodes, PURLs, or endorsements. You can add an ID campaign to any mailing without touching the piece design.
The Representative Image: This is the image that replaces the grayscale image provided in a consumer’s ID feed. The representative image is required on flat-size mail since flat sorting equipment does not capture an image, so there is no grayscale image to display. It is optional for letter-size mail. Some mailers find it more effective to leave the grayscale image as is, and just add a ride-long ad beneath it. We’ll take a deeper look at ride-alongs in a moment.
If you do use a representative image, keep in mind that the image must be a color reproduction of the address side of the mail piece without an address showing or the non-address (obverse) side of the mail piece.
The Ride-Along Ad: One item that is not optional is the ride-along ad, as this is a required part of every ID campaign. The ride-along is a smaller image that appears beneath the grayscale image or replacement image. The ride-along is a clickable link; there needs to be a web address to which it directs consumers.
The ride-along ad needs to contain a strong call-to-action, encouraging users to click on it. Calls to action might include:
• Click Here to Donate!
• Donate Now!
• Click Here to Save!
• Order Now!
Remember that most consumers will be viewing the ride-along on a mobile device, so make your call-to-action big and bold. Furthermore, if you are hoping for the two percent discount, remember that the ID promotion has specific requirements for the call-to-action in order to secure your discount.
Web Links: Of course, it’s no fun to click on a link if it doesn’t take you anywhere. Along with every ID campaign, you need to provide a URL (web address) that tells the ride-along ad where to send clickers. In some cases, this can be as simple as your homepage, but, as most campaigns relate to a specific offer, I always suggest using an offer-specific link. Here’s a look at the different types of URLs:
• General URL: This is the general corporate website. Of course you’d love people to visit it, but it generally does not apply to a specific offer you may be promoting.
• Offer-Specific URL: This links to a specific page built for a particular offer, and luckily, custom URLs are inexpensive and easy to obtain.
• Trackable URL: You might have seen URLs like these in the address bar after you’ve clicked on an email you’ve received; it might look something along the lines of www.swuc6444.swreply.com?eid=9114&rtype=18. This is a more complicated and coded URL that will also direct users to the same landing page as the offer-specific URL. The customer usually doesn’t see this ugly thing since it is “hidden” behind the ride-along ad, but this URL allows you to track who is hitting what page. Eventually, you will be able to create unique URLs for every mail piece (although not yet, unfortunately).
If you have an e-commerce website to which you are directing prospects, a general URL may be fine. If you want prospects to sign up for a specific offer, one of the offer-specific URLs that (generally) lead to a landing page is better. Please note, the USPS recently announced that the URL supplied with your campaign must be to a secure site. Luckily, if you are directing readers to a corporate site, the chances are good that the link is already secure.
Web Landing Pages: As we said above, a landing page is optional, but it is always a good idea to direct prospects to an offer. The landing page, sometimes called a microsite, is just a simplified web page that doesn’t need all of the links and navigation of a full-blown corporate website. It should place the offer front and center for your prospects. Ideally, there should be an order form right there for them to complete, or an inquiry form if you’re doing lead generation. The landing page can have its own domain, such www.XYZ.com, or it can be a subdomain: www.YourCompanyPage.com/XYZ. Each has its advantages: The unique domain is easier to track, while the subdomain doesn’t require a new domain and can use the security certificate of the primary domain.
This gets beyond postal regulations, so make sure you consult with your marketing and IT teams before making any decisions.
Measurement and Reporting
Informed Delivery provides excellent granular reporting, although you need to know how to navigate and manipulate the data.
Pre-Mailing: You can generate a pre-mailing report that will show you how many people on your list are ID subscribers. You need to pull only the 11-digit routing code from your address file. There is no detail provided – just how many subscribers, and how many of them are email subscribers. Generally, the data returned is not worth the effort, but sometimes we will run it for a new client to set expectations.
Post-Campaign: After the mail begins to deliver, you can get a detail and summary report of who has received an email notification, who got it by email, and whether they opened to email or not. A detail report is also provided that proves those same data points by IMb serial number. By itself, it’s not so useful, but married back to your mailing file, it is pretty wonderful data! You will know exactly who on your list is a subscriber, if they clicked on the link, and how many times they did. This data can also be joined to mail tracking data.
You also want to be sure to track the delivery of your mail using Informed Visibility. You really can’t see what is happening with your campaign without knowing when the mail is being delivered — which is when Informed Delivery ads are “fired.”
Creating Your ID Campaign
The mechanics of setting up an Informed Delivery campaign are relatively straightforward. There are two primary methods of setting up a campaign:
• Through the Mailer Campaign Portal (MCP) in the Business Customer Gateway (BCG)
• Via eDocs through PostalOne!
Using the MCP: To date, the MCP is the dominant means of creating ID campaigns. The mailer logs into the portal through their BCG access and creates an ID account. From there, you’ll need a campaign name, one or two images, depending on whether you will be using a representative image, and a URL to which you wish to direct your prospects. This can be as simple as a home page address or an offer-specific landing page created just for this campaign, as discussed above.
You will also need to provide the range of IMb serial numbers in your campaign. This needs to be a contiguous range, so you need to think through your numbering strategy before creating the mailing job or the campaign.
The MCP can be slow and finicky, but the USPS is working hard to make it better all the time. Just be sure to bring a little patience along with your images and URL.
Creating Campaigns in PostalOne!: Informed Delivery does provide for creating campaigns directly in you eDocs, by assigning image and web page URLs in your detail file. Ultimately, this method may allow mailers to use non-contiguous IMb ranges. Today, the failure rate on this method is pretty high — well over 50%. It’s a complicated, touchy system. Most mailers will be better off with the MCP for today.
The Informed Delivery Promotion
The Postal Service is trying to encourage the use of ID by running a promotion September through November of this year. Like all promotions, it has its own set of rules and some specialized requirements for the representative image and ride-along ad. You can get details by searching for “Informed Delivery Promotion” on PostalPro.com.
Informed Delivery is one of the most exciting programs put forward by the Postal Service. It creates an entirely new means of coordinating direct mail with other online marketing channels, it’s relatively easy, and it’s affordable. Expect to see it become an important component of every successful mailing campaign.
Dave Lewis is President, SnailWorks. He has a proven track record in product development, brand building, marketing, and sales. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in the September/October, 2019 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.