US digital postal mail provider Zumbox to close down

US digital postal mail provider Zumbox to close down

US digital mail company Zumbox has announced that it is shutting down after five years of business. The Los Angeles-based firm emailed account holders of its “free, forever” Digital Postal Mail service this week to ask them to remove any stored digital documents before Monday (14 April).

One of the early entrants into the secure digital “postal” mail market, Zumbox started up in 2009 to provide digital mailboxes for every physical address in the United States.

The theory was that residents of these physical addresses could “claim” their existing mailboxes and have physical letters including bills and statements diverted into the digital version.

Five years on, the company has struggled for widespread acceptance, even after running a campaign offering a $1m prize draw. This week confirmed to its account holders that time has run out.

“We are sad to announce today that after more than five years of working to revolutionize the way mail is delivered, we have made the very difficult decision to shut down the company,” the company said.

“At this point, the time and cost required to deliver on the vision is more than the market is prepared to invest.”


Having offered its service “free forever”, Zumbox still struggled to attract consumers

Zumbox is yet to announce its closure beyond this email, and has not yet responded to queries from Post&Parcel. Its Digital Postal Mail website appears to be still accepting registrations at this time, but other parts of its website have been removed.

Struggled

Despite its head start, Zumbox has struggled for visibility in the United States as more well-funded and well-positioned rivals came along including Pitney Bowes’ Volly digital mail business and Hearst Corporation’s Manilla. Manilla is benefiting from exposure through Hearst’s publishing empire, and currently claims to have 4,000 businesses using it to communicate with customers.

Volly was originally intended for a consumer launch in late 2011, but despite new Pitney Bowes boss Marc Lautenbach stating this time last year that he believed the launch would take place in 2013, it is yet to transpire.

As well as its attempt to “revolutionize” the US mail market through its digital postal mail offering, Zumbox developed a white box version of its technology it was attempting to sell to companies outside of the US. New Zealand Post signed up to try out the Zumbox system, along with two other rival technologies, in April 2011. But by December of that year it had decided not to use the Zumbox system and instead to develop a bespoke platform.

Zumbox did partner with Australian investor communications specialist Computershare to launch a digital mail service for Australia, called Digital Post Australia. That business was dragged into court by Australia Post over claims its brand was too similar to the national postal service’s name, but ultimately won the case last year.

Computershare and Digital Post Australia are yet to comment on what will happen to the joint venture following the closure of Zumbox, and have not yet responded to queries from Post&Parcel.

“Difficult”

Matt Swain, the digital mail expert and director of advisory services at customer communications consultancy Infotrends, who first broke the news publicly about Zumbox closing down, said what Zumbox and other digital mailbox services were trying to achieve in the US was “extremely difficult”.

He said he believed it was “unlikely” that any of these companies were profitable.

“Consumers will not use the service without relevant business content,” he explained, “and businesses will not partner unless the service has consumers.”

Swain, who is among the speakers at tomorrow’s postal industry future-gazing conference in Washington DC tomorrow, PostalVision 2020, stated his belief that digital mailbox services needed some form of government support or mandates to gain the required traction. He added that in the past 12 months there has been a market shift toward engaging with consumers via the digital locations in which they are already visiting, rather than encouraging them to engage with new aggregator services.

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