Royal Mail is the primary postal service for the U.K. (think USPS, but with cute British accents). It was founded -- get this -- in 1516 by Henry VIII, so it is not like they are newbies to the world of customer service. But that doesn't protect them from dumb-assed ideas.
Through Royal Mail’s partnership with an undisclosed "well-known U.K. retailer,” homeowners who click on a product on the retailer's Web site and add it to their shopping basket will be sent “targeted” junk snail mail selling them similar stuff or urging them to reconsider if they didn't hit the buy button.
The unnamed retailer is apparently collecting data on which products customers look at on its Web site and matching this to customers’ postal addresses. This will result in personalized marketing letters. From a privacy perspective, this is pretty much throwing hamburger into the cage of a starving dog.
Now, if you are the chief revenue officer of Royal Mail, you think this is a peachy way to generate more revenue, since clearly the retailer is going to pay for the junk mail (probably at a reduced bulk rate). Maybe if the retailer only has to pay for junk mail that is opened and acted on, it would see its costs drop to about a .0000005 CPM.
Now, we would all be naive if we didn't already know that lots of snail mail catalogues and flyers are addressed to us because of data trails we leave online. With purchase and browsing data being sold like reefer in a high school bathroom, there should be no expectation that what happens over there doesn't influence what is pitched over here. This is how the world works today. But you don't think of the postal service as being a player in any kind of Big Data scheme -- since they not only have your address, they walk up to your door nearly every day.
One of the great sadnesses of the Internet and mobile world is that hardly anyone sends written correspondence anymore (at least with a stamp on it), so every time you open your mailbox, about the best you can hope for are bills, an anemic magazine or two and, yes, junk mail. Raise your hand if personalized junk mail from an online retailer would somehow brighten your day.
If you think online retargeting is “creepy," what will you think of snail-mailed, retargeted junk mail?
I suspect somebody at USPS is kicking themselves for not thinking of this dumb-assed idea first.