Back in 2014, the Postal Service was developing something called Real Mail Notification as part of its continuing effort to keep hard-copy mail relevant in an increasingly electronic world. A free feature, it sent a digital preview of the day’s incoming mail to participants’ computers, smartphones, and other devices. To assess the viability of the concept, the agency initiated a limited pilot test in Northern Virginia, getting 5,700 to register out of about 37,000 who were invited. Encouraged by participants’ satisfaction, the pilot expanded to the metropolitan New York area in 2015.
When rolled out nationwide in 2016 as Informed Delivery, the objective of the service was simple: stimulate greater engagement with hard-copy mail by giving addressees an advance look at what’s in their mail that day. In turn, the USPS hoped, advertisers would recognize the value of having their messages in that daily preview.
As the record has shown, Informed Delivery has been a success; subscriptions grew rapidly. According to the Postal Service, at the end of 2019, Informed Delivery had 22 million subscribers and reached 13.5% of eligible households and, by the end 2020, it had more than 33 million subscribers and reached more than 19.8% of households. In 2020, a total of 6.05 billion Informed Delivery daily emails were sent, representing more than 19 billion mail pieces. More than 4.25 billion of those emails were opened by subscribers, an open rate of over 70%.
Are Mailers Taking Advantage?
But has the program been as well-received by advertisers, and has it encouraged them to use the mail? Businesses and organizations can add interactive content to the notifications that consumers receive, allowing them to click through to the company’s website to receive offers, coupons or more information. Has that capability been used successfully?
The USPS reports that, in 2020, 1,907 mailers used Informed Delivery to deliver content, up 53% over 2019, and conducted 80,322 interactive campaigns, 85% more than in 2019.
Even the Census Bureau used Informed Delivery in 2020 to provide customers with a link to where they could complete their census questionnaires.
A loan company reported that customers who opened its messages through Informed Delivery were 13% more likely to respond, and applied at a six to eight percent higher rate. Their test didn’t reveal whether it was their Informed Delivery advertising that caused the improved response, or if people who open Informed Delivery messages are inherently more engaged with — and more responsive to — their mail. Either way, they concluded that using Informed Delivery to promote their service improved response.
A commercial mailer also noted that its customers’ use of Informed Delivery has increased dramatically since 2019, and the volume of campaigns increased even after the annual promotion ended. Apparently, many came for the two percent discount, but stayed for the improved performance. The mailer also reported that its nonprofit clients, who are its heaviest users of Informed Delivery, felt that response came more quickly for mailings with an associated Informed Delivery advertisement. Commercial service companies also were pleased with the click rates on their Informed Delivery ads.
Given the growth in Informed Delivery subscriptions – by about 800,000 a month – Informed Delivery and what it presents to subscribers has become increasingly relevant, not just to postal customers, but to businesses who want to contact them effectively.
With all that in mind, when asked whether the combination of hard-copy mail and Informed Delivery is a worthwhile channel through which businesses can reach potential customers, the answer would seem to be a definite yes.
Leo Raymond is Owner and Managing Director at Mailers Hub LLC. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2021 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.