The U.S. Postal Service, the grand institution that dates back in one form or the other to Benjamin Franklin, is in dire straits, by all accounts. Last year alone, the USPS had a net loss of $8 8 billion, and it is often bashed by the President for allegedly being snookered by Amazon.
We won’t comment on the politics, except to note that The USPS is suffering from the twin challenges of declining mail volume and legislative inattention to its needs, compounded this year by the spread of COVID-19.
Have you been in a post office lately? Ours is mostly empty.
But there is one sign of hope: The USPS has entered the digital age with its Informed Delivery program, a service that lets customers “preview mail and packages scheduled to arrive as a means of merging digital and physical mail,” according to the USPS Annual Report.
Informed Delivery and the other digital programs are “powered by an amazing digital infrastructure that processes approximately 3 billion scan records daily and 700,000 images hourly to deliver digital mail content to more than 20 million subscribers while also providing a wealth of real-time information to our customers and employees about the movement of mail through our network,” Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan and Board of Governors Chairman Robert M. Duncan write in the introduction to the Annual Report.
That’s quite an email list. And the USPS is also sending text alerts on delivery.
Maybe the USPS was late to this game. Maybe it needs further investment and relief from its “non-controllable expenses.” But the future for the USPS clearly is digital mail delivery.
We were skeptical of Informed Delivery at first, but you can’t argue with success. The USPS “delivered 12 billion digital images to 24 million consumers in 2019 with a growth rate of more than 200,000 customers a week,” through Informed Delivery, FedScoop reports.
It's not clear how much, if any, of that volume is direct mail. But the potential is there.
A far cry from the days when you had to pick up your mail at a dark general store with tools and bacon slabs hanging from the ceiling, and pay the postage to boot.