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USPS to flaunt mail’s smartphone potential with summer sale

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Direct mailers in the United States are to see for themselves the benefits of linking smartphone technology with the physical mail, under a special promotion from the US Postal Service this summer.

The world’s largest postal operator is set to offer a special 3% discount in July and August for any letters or flats if they include two-dimensional mobile barcodes that can be read by consumer smartphones.

Already in use within other sectors of print advertising, the barcodes – which include so-called Quick Response (QR) barcodes – allow a householder to scan items with their iPhone, BlackBerry or Android phones in order to access extra information.

This might link them through to online content, special offers or competitions.

The USPS hopes its summer sale will help to highlight the potential for mobile technology to be used in conjunction with the physical mail to offer better response rates for direct marketing campaigns.

Thomas Foti, the Postal Service manager of marketing mail, told Post&Parcel yesterday: “We firmly believe that mobile barcodes add significant value to mail – they help increase response rates and they help establish relationships with those that don’t have necessarily already have a relationship with mail – for instance those in younger generations.”

The 3% discount will apply to items in both First Class Mail and Standard Class Mail, sent using a permit imprint payment methods.

But, to qualify for the lower postage rate, mailers must display the mobile barcodes either outside or within all mailpieces in a mailing, using the barcodes to “market, promote or educate” mail recipients – rather than for internal tracking purposes.

Awareness

USPS filed for approval of the Mobile Barcode Promotion this week with the Postal Regulatory Commission, with plans for the discount to run from July 1 through to August 31.

Foti said the discount would not be extended beyond July and August, but added that hopes were the summer sale would provide enough awareness of the effectiveness of mobile barcodes to help drive up usage rates in the long-term.

“As customers continue to use QR codes, we think this increases the effectiveness of mail, which encourages the demand for mail, and hopefully longer term it increases our volume,” Foti said.

“We recognise that the online world will continue to grow and thrive, and we just want to make customers aware that mail can be an integral part of that communication, and in fact online campaigns that do utilise direct mail are more effective.”

Some USPS customers are already using mobile barcodes in their direct mailings, although Foti suggests it is a relatively small number at present. During the discount period, the Postal Service will be tracking how many customers use the barcodes, and the volumes from those customers, to help gauge the potential demand for the technology.

Industry figures suggest smartphone penetration of the mobile phone market in the United States hit about 30% last year. Around 40% of those buying new phones at the moment are opting for a smartphone model, according to research from The Nielsen Company.

Foti said the role of USPS in the booming popularity of mobile communications technology in the US was yet to be fully determined. But, he said the Mobile Barcode Promotion would lead to more developments in this area.

“We believe this is just the first of things to come,” he said. “We believe that the innovation is just going to continue.”

Source: James Cartledge, Post&Parcel

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