The 2017 National Postal Forum in Baltimore was a roaring success, as always. The sessions, the speakers, the networking in the exhibit hall… it all added up to four days of intense, mail-focused education. Postmaster General Megan Brennan’s session on Monday morning was packed; not only was every chair filled, but it was tough for latecomers to find room to stand along the walls! If that doesn’t indicate excitement about what is going on in the mailing industry, I’m not sure what does… after all, it can be a hard task to lure attendees to an event that starts at 8:00 AM.
Like last year, PMG Brennan’s session focused primarily on the exciting opportunities surrounding Informed Delivery and Informed Visibility. I’m sure almost all of our readers have heard about these new offerings, but in case you haven’t, I’ll briefly recap.
Informed Visibility turns data — which is precious gold to marketers — into useful insights. It provides visibility into the system, as well as an organization’s mailings. It allows the USPS to fully measure and report on — for the first time ever — its last mile operations, which provides visibility of a mail piece all the way to a customer’s door. This means an e-commerce organization, for example, can know that its catalog arrived in the mailbox of one of its customers at 4 PM on a Tuesday. Perhaps they want to drive a quick sale by sending an email or text message, alerting the prospective buyer that they could save a percentage off their purchase if they order within the next 48 hours.
Informed Delivery, meanwhile, creates an opportunity for mailers to bring their mail onto the phones or other electronic devices of their consumers. A recipient can receive an alert with an image of the mail pieces that are waiting for them in their mailboxes at home. This can be especially useful in cases where one lives with roommates, for example. No more worries that your mail will be snagged by the wrong person; the correct recipient will know it’s in the mailbox and will therefore be able to plan for it accordingly.
PMG Brennan also touched on the fact that, despite common belief, the younger generation is just as engaged with the mail experience (if not more so!) than the older generations. There is a legitimacy to hardcopy mail that is lacking in digital channels. This means that, while mail volumes have dropped compared to previous decades, mail is still a viable, important channel to reach the customer.
Networking & Education Was the Name of the Game
The excitement felt in the Monday morning presentation spilled over into the exhibit hall and sessions, as well. And speaking of the sessions… wow. Sometimes I get so busy in the exhibit hall, connecting with our readers and writers, that it’s hard to find the time for all the sessions that I’d like to attend! Now, I still (sadly) did not get to every session I had hoped to, but for the ones I did… I can see why NPF is the show to attend in the industry (not that I ever doubted it!) Industry experts touched on a variety of topics, from making your mail process lean and streamlined, to understanding the Move Update methods available, to optimizing your print shop (just to name a few). No matter what responsibilities your job entails, there were multiple sessions to help you succeed as a mailer.
There were a few new happenings this year, as well. One idea that I thought was phenomenal was a live webinar broadcast from the floor of the exhibit hall. Mailing Systems Technology writer and President of BCC Software, Chris Lien, conducted his “Lien In” webcast with a panel of industry experts: Maureen Goodson, Executive Director of National Postal Forum (NPF), David Steinhardt, President and CEO of Idealliance, and Glen Swyers, Director, Marketing Integration and Analytics for Classic Graphics. I thought this was a fantastic idea as it allowed even those folks not at NPF to get a glimpse and a feel of what was going on, in real-time. I certainly hope BCC Software will choose to do this in 2018, as well!
All in all, it was a fantastic event; no wonder that attendance was up by over 25% over the past five years, and the number of exhibiting companies were at a level not seen since 2009. I look forward to hopefully seeing many of you in San Antonio at next year’s event!