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USPS reveals details of summer’s mobile barcode promotion

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

This year’s big summer promotion from the US Postal Service will offer a 2% discount for mail that sports a mobile barcode that sends consumers to e-commerce or personalised websites.

For the second year in a row, the USPS will be “giving money away” in July and August to demonstrate the value of physical mail in an increasingly digital world, and encourage its customers to try out technology linking physical mail to online content via mobile phone scanning codes.

But while last year’s campaign had little quality stipulations for the online content consumers accessed via their QR codes, this year will require the codes to link through to either a mobile-optimised e-commerce website or a personalised webpage.

Postal Service executives said yesterday that this year’s campaign aimed to demonstrate the powerful marketing that the physical mail can offer e-commerce merchants, and also the ability for mail to be personalised to individual recipients to build brand loyalty.

USPS outlined the details of the campaign to major customers at the latest quarterly Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee meeting in Washington yesterday.

Eligibility

Machinable letters, cards and flats in both First Class Mail and Standard Class Mail using Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb) will be eligible for the 2% discount, with the intention for metered mail to be eligible as well, although the details of how to apply the discounts are still to be ironed out.

Non-profit mailers will be eligible for the promotion, but periodicals will not.

Eligibility for the discount will extend beyond the use of Quick Response (QR) codes to any code on a mailpiece that a consumer can scan with their smartphone to take them to the required online content.

This could things like snap tags and even invisible digital watermarks, but there will be the stipulation for mailpieces to bear “directional content” in the form of text instructing a consumer how to access the online content through their phone.

Gary Reblin, the USPS vice president of domestic products, told Post&Parcel: “We’re really pushing the promotion of mail, and particularly new uses for the mail.”

Reblin said last year’s campaign, based on a 3% discount, had been “very successful” with around a third of eligible standard mailers taking part and about 5% of First Class mailers.

Only around 1% of the mail had included QR codes before the promotion, he said.

This year, Reblin said hopes were for mailers to add mobile barcodes to as much as 25% of the eligible mailstream during July and August.

Evolving

Reblin explained that the campaign was all about showing how the mail could evolve in the light of new technology and the rise of digital content.

“I expect the Postal Service to be here in five, 10, 20 years from now, but we also have to evolve,” he said. “We can’t look at the mail and we can’t look at our business and say it’s not going to evolve. We either evolve or we can’t survive.”

New technologies offered new opportunities for the Postal Service and its customers, he said.

Explaining the decision to require mobile e-commerce websites or personalised webpages in this year’s promotion, he said it was about the best way to show the value of the barcode technology.

For mobile commerce, he pointed out that mobile phones were the source of about 5-11% of e-commerce sales in the US over the winter already, with high growth rates.

Reblin said: “E-commerce tends to happen through a search by people with an idea what they want to buy. The great thing about hard copy is it is a good way to present people with ideas. Now, if they can purchase direct from that hard copy, that’s even better.”

The idea behind the personalised webpage option in the promotion is about demonstrating the benefits of personalised direct mail, Reblin explained, adding the claim that personalisation meant an average 5% purchasing rate for direct mail.

However, to get the discount a “personalised” webpage will need little more than a unique page per consumer bearing an individual name or address.

Reblin said ultimately for the Postal Service, the promotion was about building mail volumes. He said last year’s campaign had seen a jump in volumes from those mailers taking part in the promotion, and he claimed around half of those mailers had continued using QR codes after the promotional period had ended according to mail samples.

“We look at ourselves as not just being here to deliver the mail, but we also want to work to promote the value of the mail,” he said.

Source: James Cartledge, Post&Parcel

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