Of the myriad of industries affected by the shift to digital, the postal service may have been amongst the hardest hit. With the introduction of email and texts in the early 2000s, hand-written letters became increasingly antiquated and the decline of traditional mail began. It continues today as short digital communications – IMs, Snapchats, tweets and Vines – become the preferred method of interaction amongst younger, and increasingly older, demographics. It’s becoming more and more apparent that today’s generation sees personal mail as a thing of the past, right up there with newspapers, fax machines and VHS recorders.
The United States Postal Service (USPS), however, is optimistic about the future for two reasons: e-commerce and direct mail. Harte Hanks had the pleasure of meeting with the 74th Postmaster General, Megan Brennan, at the National Postal Forum a few weeks back. We had many interesting discussions about the future of the postal service, why direct mail is still relevant and what innovations are coming down the pipeline for the postal industry.
It’s About Personalization, Not Volume
The key takeaway is this: direct mail in 2015 and beyond is going to be all about personalization, not volume. Gone are the days of blasting out millions of identical flyers to every region and human being you have an address for in your database. Fortunately, this is where Harte Hanks exceeds—cleansing data, analyzing it and translating that into smarter, more personal customer interactions.
With today’s sophisticated data analytics and insights, we can actually geo-target and create customized materials for our customers. For example, perhaps Bed, Bath & Beyond wants to target all females 45 years of age or older who are married with kids, who actively post on their Pinterest “Party & Gatherings” type board – and who live in a certain postal region. The conversion rate – and the potential revenue produced – for Bed Bath & Beyond’s direct mail flyer for discounts on family party supplies for the summer is going to skyrocket when it reaches the right mailboxes. Getting the right message, to the right customer, at the right time is our legacy at Harte Hanks.
The Future of Direct Mail
When used correctly, direct mail continues to be an extremely relevant and cost efficient channel. And it’s a win-win-win for USPS, brands and consumers. Consumers want to receive personalized and relevant direct mail pieces, which also drives business for USPS. Furthermore, economies of scale apply in terms of efficiencies and discounts for both brands and USPS, especially for direct mail flyers delivered in the same postal routes. For this to all be possible, someone like Harte Hanks needs to be behind the scenes delivering the magic of actionable insights that match preferences and behaviors with real people and addresses.
There will always be a demand for postal services, and with the continued rise of e-commerce and relevant direct mail that consumers find useful, this trend will continue. The Postmaster General and USPS are clearly thinking about the future of postage and how they can deliver the best experiences to senders and recipients. The conversation we had was a useful glimpse into the future of how we can continue to innovate and personalize the experience for smart customer interactions – an area that Harte Hanks knows all about.
So how did we thank the Postmaster General for meeting with us and posing for this selfie?
Why, a hand-written thank you note, of course.