Now Delivering: Print Mail to Your Inbox

deadtreeThe post office is testing a new service that lets residents see what’s coming in today’s mail. And the impact on the direct mail industry could be huge. But are we ready for it?

It’s been called a game changing moment by some, says  D. Eadward Tree in Publishing Executive.

The USPS is rolling out its new Informed Delivery program, which Tree writes “could create huge opportunities for our industry. The possibilities are probably bigger than even postal officials realize.”

The program works like this: Residential customers who sign up for the service (currently free and being tested in NYC and Washington D.C.) receive an email every morning with electronic scans of each piece of letter-sized mail scheduled to arrive in their mailboxes that day.

So far, so good, Tree notes. The service has been popular with consumers and appears to be boosting direct mail response. Even more interesting, the Post Office is beginning to add “mailer-provided links to the images, so that a recipient may see not only the envelope but also an invitation to click through to the sender’s web site,” Tree says.

This is where the impact truly could be game changing for our industry.

“Imagine what this could mean for magazine publishers: Direct-mail subscription offers could link to a digital sample issue, with anyone who clicks on the link but doesn’t subscribe getting a ‘cookie’ that would lead to follow-up offers via ads on other web sites,” he writes.

“For subscribers, a link could provide a look at what’s in the copy of the magazine that will be delivered to their home later in the day. Or maybe bonus content like related videos and additional photos,” he continues.

It doesn’t take too long to come up with any number of ways this could be a huge boon to direct mailers: The amounts and types of first-party digital data collected – and the intelligence derived from it – would be massive. With more than half a billion pieces of mail delivered every day, the USPS could begin to rival Facebook in the amount of user-generated data it collects and – presumably – sells to its DM customer base.

All good so far, but Tree sees the sticking point: “Capitalizing on the opportunities that Informed Delivery presents will mean getting two disparate groups into the same room: We’ll need the print-magazine experts who understand the Postal Service and the ad-tech specialists who track what’s happening with programmatic advertising and data exchanges.

“Unfortunately, at most publishing companies and industry gatherings, the ‘Gutenbergs’ and the ‘geeks’ are rarely on the same planet, much less in the same room. Will our own institutional silos prevent us from reaping the benefits of Informed Delivery?” he asks.

A valid question. Maybe this will be incentive enough to break down those silos and come together, right now, over mail.