The United States Postal Service just experienced what it projected as its busiest day of 2015. Of course in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the post office is on the minds of many as they await the delivery of gifts purchased online and from catalogs. This year, in addition to an ever-growing quantity of mail-order purchases, the USPS is also delivering some interesting gifts to direct mail marketers.
Although it is only available as a pilot in certain New York City ZIP Codes, the USPS has rolled out what it is calling the Informed Delivery app. App users will be able to see images of their mail each day before it arrives in their mailboxes. For now, the app uses the basic black-and-white photos the USPS captures of the front of every letter it handles.
However, according to a recent article in Direct Marketing News, services could be expanded. One of the possibilities mentioned is a value-added service where direct mail marketers can have links placed in the photos of their mail that the recipient can click. In the near term, the article cites the ability for recipients to see the mail that is intended to reach them before someone else in the household disregards it as unimportant. During an earlier, smaller test of the service, response rates to direct mail were said to be nearly twelve times higher among app users compared to non-users.
On broader scale, the USPS has also planned promotions for direct mail marketers in the coming calendar year. Building upon the promotions it offered in 2015, the 2016 plan includes incentives for the use of advanced printing technologies as well as crossovers between print and digital.
In the Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mailpiece Engagement promotion, the USPS will offer a postage discount for registered marketers employing innovative use of advanced printing techniques. Techniques including specialty inks, sensory elements, textured papers, folds, die cuts and other elements can be interacted with and manipulated by the recipient.
As part of the Emerging and Advanced Technology/Video in Print promotion, mailers incorporating Near Field Communication (NFC), Augmented Reality (AR), or integrated video in their mailpiece can earn an upfront postage discount of 2%. In addition, mailers will be able to receive the same discount for A-B testing of response rates between versions with and without the advanced technologies.
Aside from a nice discount, what does this mean for organizations that rely on direct mail for marketing communication? For one it provides a strong sense of encouragement for marketers, designers and print buyers to think outside of the box. Additionally, it further proves that print is not only adaptable to today’s digital society, but that it actually helps drive it. As the demands and expectations placed on printed marketing communications become more complex, so do the specifications, schedules, files and production needs that bring them to fruition. Managing all of this is no simple task. It requires the flexibility, power and know-how that only specialty training and purpose-built tools can provide. It’s another page in a long history of print leading the way in graphic communication innovation and one that those of us dedicated to it are excited to turn.