On July 30, 2018, the OIG released a study entitled Millennials and the Mail. Millennials, defined as adults between 18 and 34, check their mailboxes less frequently than older generations, yet they enjoy getting mail just as much, especially personalized First-Class Mail. Additionally, Millennials “want more convenience and customization, suggesting that USPS provide more self-service, advance knowledge of mail and parcel deliveries, and customer loyalty and benefits programs.” Perhaps Informed Delivery will be the tool the USPS is seeking to keep physical mail relevant to future generations.

As many in the mail industry are aware, Informed Delivery provides eligible residents the ability to digitally preview up to 10 greyscale images of incoming mail being delivered to the household. This is an opt-in program, and subscribers can view the images via email or through the online dashboard or mobile app. Only images of letter-size mail are available. Flat-size mail may only be viewed if the mail owner participates in an Informed Delivery campaign and provides the mail piece image to the USPS.

Subscriptions have risen from a couple of million to just under 12 million subscribers (in 10 million households) since the April 2017 national rollout Informed Delivery. Of those 12 million subscribers, seven million have opted to receive the daily email. The USPS has set goals of reaching 20 million subscribers by the end of this year and 40 million by the end of 2019. These are lofty enrollment goals, and even if they are reached, these numbers would only account for roughly a third of the 125 million residential households.

Informed Delivery allows the mail owner to provide a representative image, a ride-along image, and a clickable URL in lieu of the greyscale image. The representative image can be the actual mail piece in color or a representation of the mail piece. Presently, there is no cost for running an Informed Delivery campaign; however, if the program is successful, the USPS will likely want to monetize it. Success would mean no decrease in response rates from the physical mail piece and an additional lift from the digital campaign.

The Process

Campaigns are set up via the Business Customer gateway. Mail service providers (MSPs) will either need to educate their clients on the process or enter the campaign for their clients. Although setting up a job is simple, a current drawback is the inability of all parties involved to have access to the data and images within a campaign. In addition to a campaign name, code, and date ranges, you will need to provide the mail piece Mailer Identification (MID), unique number range, representative and ride-along images, and the URL. You have the ability to test the URL and even send a test email. This feature allows the service provider the ability to send a test email to their client as part of the approval program. Unfortunately, the URL link doesn’t work on this email, but is on the USPS’s “to fix” list.

Campaigns with non-sequential unique number ranges can be run; however, those need to be set up using Mail.dat and help from the USPS. These types of campaigns are still being fine-tuned.

Two Informed Delivery reports, the pre-campaign and post-campaign, are provided by the USPS. The pre-campaign report matches the IMb on your file to the USPS subscriber list. The report will provide the number of subscribers on your file. However, the report will not provide information about who on your list is a subscriber because the USPS states that providing this information before the mailing violates their privacy rules. The industry feels that being able to identify subscribers before the mailing will allow for better testing. I have been running Informed Delivery campaigns monthly since May 2017, and I have seen pre-campaign match rates climb from around one percent to as high as 5.5%.

The post-campaign report provides the quantity of delivered mail, emails sent, emails opened, and click- through rates. As of July 2018, the USPS also provides the 15-digit MID, which includes the unique number of the mail piece. This allows for post-mailing match-backs to identify subscribers. This information can then be used in future mailings, which is great for house files that are mailed regularly, but no so good for prospecting where you may not mail that individual again. Again, I have been seeing open rates of about 65% on average and click-through rates of around one percent. It is important when sharing these reports to be sure to include the digital managers. All too often, service providers are dealing with their clients’ print/lettershop production people who are used to dealing with large quantities, so having 200 click-throughs might not impress them. However, to a digital manager, 200 click-throughs presents a big opportunity.

Informed Delivery still has a long way to go to prove it can be a viable USPS product that keeps mail relevant for future generations. It also needs to establish that it can be a viable tool for digital managers in conjunction with the physical mail programs. The two must work together.

Remember, the industry needs input from mail owners on what features are needed to make Informed Delivery a viable tool for them. During this development phase, now is the time for both marketers and service providers to get involved in the MTAC Informed Delivery User Group. You can email me directly at scolella@calmarkgroup.com for more information on how to help shape Informed Delivery.

Steve Colella is Vice President of Postal Affairs, The Calmark Group. He can be contacted at scolella@calmarkgroup.com or 708.728.0101.