The U.S. Postal Service,
which is seeking ways to boost the appeal of direct mail for marketers in a changing technological landscape, is considering including scannable codes on advertising mail. It would allow recipients to
interact and provide feedback to advertisers, according to a new report from the USPS office of the inspector general.
In the proposed system, direct mail recipients would be able to
use their smartphones to scan a code or symbol -- such as a QR code, image recognition code, or “intelligent mail” barcode -- to access a feedback form or other response mechanism, with
coupons or other rewards offered as an incentive.
Inclusion of an interactive element would help make direct mail more competitive with digital advertising by offering greater measurement
capability and more detailed information about consumer preferences. That, in turn, will enable better targeting.
In addition to increasing ROI for advertisers, better targeting could
help reduce the amount of unwanted “junk mail,” which the OIG report concedes “can appear wasteful to recipients and lead to concerns about mail’s environmental
Environmental concerns don’t appear to be paramount, however, as the USPS announced in September 2012 that it was looking at ways to increase the volume of
standard mail, including direct mail, which remains a key source of revenue as first-class mail volumes decline.
Advertising mail generated revenues of $16.9 billion for the USPS in 2013,
according to the OIG, up 3% from $16.4 billion in 2012. That represents a quarter of total USPS revenues of $66 billion in 2013.
Over the holidays, the USPS announced that it had
received permission from the Postal Regulatory Commission to raise rates for first class and standard mail, effective Jan. 24. Standard mail rates will increase 5.9%, including a 1.3% adjustment for
inflation, while the cost of a first-class “Forever” stamp will increase from $0.46 to $0.49. According to the PRC, the rate hike is only temporary, and should be phased out after two
years, when the effects of the economic downturn are expected to have passed.
However, the PRC didn’t set a definite date for the phase out.