The US Postal Service is now inviting commercial mailers to take part in its hotly anticipated summer promotion, which offers a 2% postage discount for letters, flats and cards bearing barcodes suitable for reading by consumer smartphones.
USPS is hoping the campaign can help to increase mail volumes during a traditionally low period of the year, after advertising mail volumes have so far this year been seeing a slowdown in the US, thanks in part to a “muted” economy.
The 2012 Mobile Commerce and Personalization Promotion follows up last year’s popular summer promotion, which also promoted the use of two-dimensional smartphone barcodes such as Quick Response (QR) codes.
This year’s promotion will once again take place in July and August, with First Class Mail and Standard Mail letters, flats and cards eligible, including presort and automation mail.
Once again, the Postal Service is seeking to highlight the good response that the physical mail can achieve when integrated with the online communications channel.
Mobile barcodes on mailpieces can be scanned by consumers using smartphones and a suitable application, which then points consumers towards a website associated with the content of the mailpiece.
This year mailers taking part in the promotion will be expected to produce online content linked to their mailpieces that go beyond the kind of simple websites seen last year. To qualify, mail recipients will have to be pointed to mobile-optimised websites that either allow a product to be purchased, or include content individually tailored towards the specific consumer visiting the website.
Gary Reblin, the vice president domestic products at USPS, said mobile technologies were currently one of the fastest-growing technologies in the marketing sector.
Mobile purchases were up from 5.5% of ecommerce sales in the US in 2010 to 11% in 2011 during the festive season, he said. Almost half of Americans owning a mobile phone now own a smartphone, according to industry figures.
Reblin said: “The integration of direct mail with mobile technologies will not only improve the long-term value of direct mail but also increase returns for merchants.”
For those not looking to tie their mobile barcodes to ecommerce websites, the Postal Service said personalising mobile technology was also a strong return on investment for direct mail.
“Studies show it improves return on investment,” Reblin said. “Tying personalisation with mobile technology is the next obvious step to enhancing the value of both mail and mobile marketing.”
The Mobile promotion is one of this year’s big efforts by the Postal Service to boost its flagging mail volumes by highlighting the effectiveness of marketing through the mail, particularly in the digital age.
The Direct Marketing Association suggests for every $1 spent on marketing through the US Mail, a mailer would receive a $12.75 return.
Total mail volume in the Postal Service in the three months up to the end of March 2012 was down 5% compared to the same quarter in 2011, with average daily volume slipping from 554m to 526m items per day.
Overall, not including packages USPS saw its mailing revenues drop by $415m in the latest quarter compared to the first three months of the 2011 calendar year.
First Class Mail revenue has declined 3% in the last six months, while Standard Mail revenues – dominated by advertising materials – have declined 5.1% in the six months, compared to the same period the previous year.
The Postal Service said last week that advertisers have become “more selective” in their mailings, and the fact they now have more communications channels to use is also having a negative impact on mail volume.
“Standard Mail volumes were significantly impacted by the decline in advertising spending resulting from the recent recession and also by the continued muted growth in the economy,” the Postal Service reported.
“In addition, advertisers continue to become more sophisticated in the targeting of their mailings and utilising alternative media, which also offsets some potential volume growth.”