The US Postal Service (USPS) has begun testing a new concept known as MyPost that lets consumers and small businesses preview electronically what’s in their physical mail box that day.
The application, which was unveiled by USPS at the National Postal Forum (NPF) this week, leverages Intelligent Barcodes to not only provide a list of the pieces in the mail box that day, but also the packages, letter and post cards that will be there tomorrow or the following day.
The initial test of MyPost began earlier in the year with 300 consumers – many of them either USPS employees or friends/associates of those workers – in the Washington, DC area. Plans are to grow this initial pilot program into a MyPost beta test with thousands of consumers in the coming months.
“We believe that it’s an enhancement of the physical mail piece, but it will also be complimentary to that mail experience,” Randy Miskanic, USPS VP of Digital Solutions, told reporters during a sit down at the NPF. “You’ll anticipate that physical mail piece as a result of receiving that electronic message.”
Rather than being an email or SMS alert, Miskanic explained that MyPost will be a secure application, similar to a customizable dashboard, that consumers will be able to opt-in to receive and then access via mobile device, laptop or PC.
He added the target audience would be consumer and small business, noting: “We’d like it to be customizable for that small business for both inbound and outbound items.”
The USPS is also looking to partner with UPS and FedEx so the single MyPost app can help consumers track packages and printed letters in their respective systems as well.
Miskanic suggested the USPS does not have a timetable for when MyPost might be launched nationwide, but the plan right now is to move slowly and incorporate feedback not just from consumers, but also from direct mail and packaging companies as the technology advances.
If and when MyPost does become a nationwide reality, it will no doubt hasten the transition of many US commercial printers to integrated communications firms.
“We’re looking at how we can include additional content (in the MyPost app) that you may not have in that letter,” Miskanic said, explaining that for example a catalog to a consumer could be augmented with a MyPost notification that includes an offer of an additional 10% off.
“That would give you two channels to reach that customer. We’re stressing that there has to be a physical mail piece to generate (MyPost) content. But the intent is offer a high level of granularity to the sender – you would know if it’s a Sprint credit card or a Sprint bill for instance.”
Doug Glair, USPS manager of digital partnerships and alliances suggested the mobile MyPost app could conceivably allow a direct mailer for instance to include augmented reality viewing software in with the notification that an augmented reality enabled mail piece is arriving in their physical mailbox that day.
Glair added the scheme could end up providing an insight into how consumer view direct mail and whether adding what is in effect a real-time additional channel for that printed mail piece will lead to better direct mail ROI or satisfaction. “This is going to continue to expand the need for data sharing across the entire industry – and what we’re working on right now is getting those in place,” he said.
Asked if this concept is being rolled out in other parts of the world, Miskanic said Denmark has worked with electronic notification of mail pieces from the government and Canada Post has done some email notification of printed letters – but neither of those efforts were part of a print-driven, dual-channel marketing initiative.
Even though it’s early days, the USPS is keeping large commercial mailers abreast of how the MyPost tests are going, Miskanic said, adding: “We’ve received a lot of positive reaction because they see this can really enable another channel for them – and another channel that’s trusted.”