USPS approved to run smartphone barcode mail promotion

The US Postal Service has been cleared to run a promotional campaign this summer encouraging mailers to make use of mobile phone technology to link physical mail with internet communications. The Mobile Barcode Promotion will run during July and August, offering a 3% discount for mailers including two-dimensional barcodes that can be scanned by consumer smartphones to link through to online promotional campaigns.

The barcodes – which include so-called Quick Response (QR) barcodes – must feature on the inside or outside of Standard Mail or First-Class Mail letters, flats or cards to qualify for the discount.

Recipients would be able to use iPhones, Androids or BlackBerry handsets to scan the code, offering them access to additional information or offers related to the mailing.

The Postal Service received the go-ahead from regulators at the Postal Regulatory Commission last week, on the understanding that the USPS will extend the promotion to allow non-profit mailers to claim the 3% discount for using mobile barcodes, although it is expected that mainly for-profit direct mail companies are likely to take part.

To qualify for the discount, the mobile barcodes used on mailings must be for the expressed purpose of engaging with consumers on educational or promotional grounds, rather than for internal tracking or processing purposes, and link through to information relevant to the mailing.

Today, the Postal Service issued its required notices alerting the public to the promotion.

The initiative is expected to cost USPS up to $4.63m, but the Postal Service is hoping it will highlight to advertisers the possibilities of combining mobile technology with the physical mail – as well as the response from consumers – to encourage long-term use of the technology.

Tom Foti, USPS manager for Marketing Mail, said today that consumers have become more comfortable with digital devices and online technologies, and that it was time for the mailing industry to consider incorporating the technologies into their campaigns.

He said: “This promotion is another step in our long-term strategy to ensure mail remains relevant as a key element in the overall advertising mix for an increasingly interactive marketplace. By creating a promotion for placing mobile barcodes on mailpieces, we’re providing marketers with a compelling way to reach an internet-savvy customer base.”

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1 Comment

  1. Neil Jackson

    At first glance this seems a good intitiative but I don’t see what is to stop every large mailer adopting it simply for the cost saving. Their only motivation need be the 3% reduction in mailing costs rather than a real expectation that the mailer will use the technology to read an multi-channel marketing message. In that event it’ll cost the USPS a lot more than $4.63m.

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