Volly prepares to take America's mailboxes online

Mail technology firm Pitney Bowes is preparing to launch a new service that will provide a “level playing field” for high-volume mailers to communicate digitally with US consumers. Volly – as the new service is called – will offer an internet-based alternative to physical mail for transactional communications and direct marketing later this year.

On the consumer side, the new service will be presented later this year as an easy and secure way for Americans to manage their lifestyles through a single online application – from paying bills to receiving statements, catalogues and coupons, as well as alerts to imminent obligations and opportunities.

For mailers, it will mean transactional activities and direct marketing can move from the physical mail to a secure, paperless online system, to achieve “significant” cost savings.

The cloud-based digital platform is set to be made available to consumers from the second half of 2011.

PB has been involved in developing digital mailing systems in Denmark, where more than half the population is now receiving their mail through a secure electronic mailbox known as e-Boks.

The Volly system builds on this experience to provide a platform for the US, which could eventually spread to other countries.

Campaign

Over the next several months, PB is mounting a “disciplined” marketing campaign to carefully build targeted interest among mailers in the US, to be followed by efforts to target early-adopter consumer groups.

Yesterday saw the technology services corporation Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc., named as the first in a “very active pipeline” of mailers signing up to use Volly. The New York-based company handles about one billion shareholder communications each year.

Doug DeSchutter, President of customer communications at Broadridge, said: “Consumer preferences are rapidly shifting towards the use of technology to improve their access to information and their ability to act upon it.

“The Volly secure digital delivery service will increase our clients’ flexibility, choice and control over how they communicate with their customers and shareholders.”

Bernie Gracy, vice president of business development for Volly, told Post&Parcel today that mailers were “excited” by the consumer buy-in suggested by research underpinning the new platform.

“People are pushing back against having to log in to 10-15 websites a month just to manage their bills,” said Gracy, explaining the consumer attraction to Volly. “It’s about the workflow that happens within the home. It’s a better payment experience – they can archive content, retrieve content, receive alerts about how to manage their lives.”

Technology

On the technology side, PB said Volly will work seamlessly with mailers’ existing physical mailing infrastructure.

Installed behind mailers’ own firewall systems, the cloud-based appliance will offer the option of sending communications via Volly, physical mail or both – without the need to alter documents, addressing systems and CRM systems.

With Volly’s central pledge to make life easier for consumers and mailers alike, a key aspect being promoted is its security and anti-spam credentials.

A triple opt-in system will keep consumers in control of what they receive, while communications from mailers will be subject to encryption before it is uploaded to Volly. For payment systems, PB already has PCI certification in place to offer peace of mind.

Mr Gracy said Volly would still allow mailers an opportunity to attract new business, by providing a place for consumers to go to find promotional offers of interest based on what they have already signed up to receive.

Mail decline

With Pitney Bowes known for developing technology for the processing of physical mail, the company said Volly was more about consolidating the “fractured” nature of online communications than further accelerating the decline of mail volumes.

“We’re all about the mail,” Gracy explained. “Our customers have told us they are in the middle of a lake as far as communicating with customers – we are allowing them to better connect with the consumer.

The Volly business development vice president suggested there could even be situations where Volly would lead to an increase in mail volumes, for example offering consumers options to have items mailed to them.

He added: “The research is saying some people want paper and always will – it’s digital that’s fractured, that we are bringing together.”

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