The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) maintains an ongoing push to use better data and technologies to improve services amid digital competition, said Patrick Donahoe, Postmaster General and CEO of the USPS, during the keynote at the National Postal Forum in Orlando, Fla., on April 2.
“I don’t think we’re old school, nor do I think we can afford to be,” Donahoe said. “We need to change and evolve. I think of mail as a data and technology center.” He added that mail, unlike other marketing channels like digital, print and television, is chiefly about driving ROI. “When it’s targeted,” he said, “it gets to every household. It is the best way to drive a consumer purchasing decision, the best way to get people to go to the website, and to connect with customers to strengthen brand relations.” In a video presentation on direct mail at the USPS booth at NPF, the agency claimed that 98% of consumers bring mail in every day and that 77% look at their mail immediately. usps hold mail service
Because mail is a tactile medium, it is a fundamentally different way of communicating than other channels, Donahoe said. He emphasized that it is important to keep that key differentiator, while at the same time integrating services with other communication channels. He alluded to Apple’s continuing work developing smart television sets. “But what if your mail can interact with a smart TV?” Donahoe asked. “What if it can interact with your brand? What if people can manage their mailing information on a smartphone?”
To drive these changes, Donahoe said the USPS is focusing on four key business challenges: strengthening the business-to-consumer channel by promoting to businesses the value consumers see in mail; growing the package business by improving scanning and adding services, such as product returns for retailers; becoming “leaner, faster and smarter” with technologies such as the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB), which enhances tracking information; and improving the customer experience by investing in training and adding new, technology-based capabilities. change of address of usps
The USPS has been consistently adding services, such as 2D codes on mailers and improved services targeting SMBs, to drive business, especially given its recent financial troubles.
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Online video editing services firm StudioNow has partnered with e-mail marketing services firm Emma to bring digital image and video editing services to e-mail marketing.
As part of StudioNow’s newly launched partner affiliate program, Emma will recommend StudioNow’s Web-based video editing and post-production services to clients who use Emma to power their e-mail newsletters and campaigns.
As small to medium marketers are looking to include more mixed media options in their e-mail content, including links to videos, this partnership will address this need.
“This is kind of like version 2.0 of e-mail marketing-type campaigns,” said David Mason, CEO, StudioNow. “We are trying to go up the food chain and provide a more interactive way to communicate with customers through video. A marketer can now embed video within e-mail to drive better conversion rates.” certified mail of usps
Under the agreement, Emma customers will receive a 15% discount on StudioNow video editing and creation services to use in online campaigns. StudioNow lets marketers looking to create content directly connect with the Web-based StudioNow Editor Network of professional video editors, directors, producers and animators.
The StudioNow affiliate program lets other Web sites, in this case Emma, sell StudioNow’s services to a variety of target audiences. The partnership is monetized through commissions or a trade in services.
“Through our model, we are able to partner with people like Emma to help clients create video and then distribute through more traditional channels of distribution like e-mail,” Mason said.
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On August 24, the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) filed an emergency injunction seeking to block a deal between the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and direct marketing services provider Valassis, which the USPS hopes will create $107 million in new revenue over the next three years. The deal enables Valassis to provide at discounted pricing—provided certain conditions are met—a printed advertising supplement for big box retailers, delivered in the USPS mail stream.
The NAA argues that this deal will disrupt newspaper advertising revenue.
Steve Mitzel, SVP and GM of shared mail at Valassis, discusses the deal and gives his thoughts on the newspaper industry’s complaints.
What is Valassis’s role in this deal?
We provide a saturation mail program in our existing markets. We will open up a second, late-week delivery package to help [big box] clients supplement or convert print advertisements and reach those households. We’re providing that at a very targeted level.
What exactly is the nature of the deal between Valassis and the USPS?
[Valassis] gets a discount after we hit four ounces. We pay standard rates up to four ounces, then it’s tiered to different weight bands, which range from 20 to 34% depending on [location]. It’s a significant discount, but we have to clear a hurdle to get to four ounces and bear the entrepreneurial risk getting there. We need enough clients to pay. And the USPS [required] a certain number of clients and we need at least three inserts.
And how did this deal come about?
We [approached the USPS] several years ago with a package that would target late-week delivery and really get those clients that aren’t in the mail stream—the big retailers—and they became very interested. We really started the conversations in early 2010. Then the USPS had to go through their internal discussions.
What were the marketplace drivers that inspired Valassis to initiate these talks?
There was a sense that the big retailers were looking for alternative distribution because newspapers subscribers had declined. They were missing key households. We wanted to bring an alternative distribution to clients we felt the market was missing.
The postal service was very interested and had been working independently [to address this]. They felt [most] options were too cost prohibitive. The marketplace has changed since 2010. Subscribers have continued to decline. Though it took two years, the USPS felt if they didn’t move, they would miss the boat completely on print and circulars.
Which clients specifically?
These are the big box retailers: Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, Staples, Home Depot. All of those larger clients that aren’t typically in the mail stream. What they’d been targeting over the years was paid subscriber newspaper delivery. The pain point they felt was that those subscribers had dropped. They weren’t reaching those guys with their print advertisements. We spoke with some clients and they were interested in a different distribution, or a supplemental distribution, in addition to newspapers.
There are a lot of companies that specialize in direct mail. Why did Valassis get this deal?
The postal service can engage with any particular client and any particular company, to be honest. We have the marketplace knowledge, the scalability, the client relationships to make this deal work.
We’re one of the larger clients of the postal service. There were different iterations of how [the deal] would look and how it would be priced. It took us a couple of years.
What are your thoughts on the disgruntled newspaper industry?
It’s the reaction we anticipated from the newspapers. Even the PRC, in their filing, called the newspapers a defacto monopoly on distribution for big box retailers. Not surprisingly, [the newspapers are] trying to protect their core business.
[Ed: After this conversation concluded, a Valassis spokesperson said that despite the NAA filing an emergency motion to stay, Valassis will continue moving forward with its plans.]
So is this injunction basically the newspapers flexing?
I think they are flexing their muscles. They’ve done a marvelous job creating new products and we’re still a huge partner of the newspapers, but they now have to do their full diligence to protect that defacto monopoly.
[The PRC] flat-out said that the newspapers could take advantage of the offer [between Valassis and the USPS]. It’s interesting to note the newspapers never went to the postal service when they created a “Sunday Select” program. [Ed: “Sunday Select” is a pre-print advertising program, introduced in 2009, and delivered to non-subscribers in targeted zip codes.]
They didn’t approach the postal service at all. They went to a lower cost-structure product. They used their existing carrier force or hired carriers at a much lower cost.
And what do the big box retailers make of this spat?
They’ve been neutral and staying out of it. We’ve been waiting for [the deal] to be approved by the PRC.
Now that it’s been approved, what’s your timeline for rollout?
We’re hoping to be in market within the next few months.
And what barriers do you foresee?
Our biggest barriers will be to gain enough client interest to meet the [USPS’s] requirements. To get enough inserts to make those four ounces.
We’re optimistic that there’s interest, that there’s a need in the marketplace. We won’t roll out nationally, of course. We’ll find select test markets to engage client interest that way.
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