Every morning, my friend Sid Haas, a veteran marketing executive in Peru, Ill., checks his e-mail, and gets a notification from the U.S. Postal Service, telling him – in some cases showing him — what will be in his mailbox that day.
This relatively new and little-advertised development in the drive to deliver information faster and more accurately, is called Informed Delivery.
Informed Delivery (“ID”) isn’t just the Postal Service’s latest push to heat up competition and survive against UPS, FedEx and other delivery services. It’s a new tool that can be used by community banks in efforts to market their services in an increasingly volatile arms race against online banks, as well as the big Wall Street players like Chase, Wells Fargo and Capital One.
My friend Sid is a believer. He is vice president for business development at LKCS, a company on the leading edge of end-to-end marketing, graphic design and other services, including statement processing for financial institutions nationwide.
And while ID hasn’t had a major impact on his company’s business yet, Haas sees a huge upside for Informed Delivery, not just for firms like his, but for the Postal Service as well, making the mail more relevant in a fiercely competitive landscape.
“I think it’s a tremendous service that the Post Office has available,” he said “I think the Postal Service needs to make mail in general more relevant. Obviously, they’ve been struggling with a decrease in volume . . . which is affecting their profitability. To make mail more relevant and to drive more volume they’ve been adding additional services.”
Those services include parcel delivery for firms like Amazon.
What is Informed Delivery?
According to the Postal Service’s own definition, “Informed Delivery is a consumer-facing feature offered by the USPS that provides users with digital previews of their household mail arriving soon. Mailers can integrate digital campaign elements to enhance and extend the mail moment.”
To elaborate on the campaign aspect, the USPS says that “Informed Delivery interactive campaigns can show supplemental content for letters/postcard or flats.” Those campaigns can show custom images and a target URL that directs recipients to a digital experience.
From a mailer’s or marketer’s perspective, ID offers the ability to incorporate a full color image that links back to a website or a campaign landing page instead of just a static scanned image of an envelope or post card. That is a tremendous advantage for community banks, Haas said. That link, and your campaign, moves to the top of the email.
Imagine the possibilities for your community bank as it markets loans, new accounts, investments and other services. Remember the days when double-digit open rates with your email were considered gold? Consider these numbers for Informed Delivery:
The Postal Service says that ID email notifications have a 70 percent open rate, over double the industry average. As of now, about 14 million residents have signed on for Informed Delivery, Haas said.
Critics claim the new free service increases customer vulnerability to identity theft, creating another front in the cybersecurity wars. Haas, who has signed on as an individual customer for Informed Delivery, disagrees.
“The banks that I talk to don’t know about Informed Delivery yet,” Haas said. “We know that banks and their customers are tremendously concerned about security and identity theft. This is a way that banks and their customers can combat identity theft at no cost.”
That protection comes in the form of multifactor identification. In short, it will take more than a password to crack ID, Haas said.
Haas added: “Obviously, it’s as secure as your email password. But I think people are more savvy to that and I think email technology now is encouraging multifactor identification and all of those types of things to protect people’s email accounts. The post office also has an app available for Informed Delivery, so you can receive all that information there, but you still have to have an email address for that. But even to sign up for Informed Delivery in the first place, you have to verify your identity with your credit information. It’s not just a matter of giving them an address and your email address.”
“It’s just like signing up for a bank account online. It’s the same process. You have to answer a series of questions correctly and the USPS verifies information that only you would know,” Haas said.
Barcode technology bundled with ID and other services allows customers to track mail pieces through the process from the mailbox to your local mailbox. Every mail piece can be tracked, another piece of the pie.
Haas’s firm has created a new bundle, combining ID with other tracking and online advertising and other services not offered through the USPS. It’s called Campaign Suite.
“As a whole, it makes direct mail much more relevant, attractive and improves the ROI of a complete campaign,” Haas said.
As part of its array of services, LKCS mails millions of statements for its financial institution customers. The bundle allows the financial institution to go to an online dashboard and see the statement’s location. This helps mailers solve delivery glitches.
Haas was asked for a critique of the service.
“As far as strengths, first it’s highly accurate,” he said. “I get the USPS e-mail around 9:00 am to 10:00 am every morning, probably earlier than that. It shows me what’s going to be in my mailbox and . . .it’s there.”
“There are still some mail pieces that don’t have a scan available. So, there’s still probably about maybe 10 percent or a little less of the pieces that get delivered that don’t have an image. The post office will tell me how many pieces there are, and, in that e-mail, they’ll tell me there are one or two pieces they don’t have an image for. The service isn’t perfect.”
It may not be foolproof, but it’s the best idea I’ve seen from the Postal Service in quite some time. Low costs, as well as the high open rates mean this is tailor-made for banks.
Given we’re on the cusp of the holiday season, it may be the best delivery idea since the reindeer-propelled sleigh.
Please share your thoughts or experiences with Informed Delivery.