The USPS Halts Saturday Mail Delivery: How Will This Affect Marketers?
By now you've all heard the news: the United States Postal Service announced that they will stop delivering first class mail on Saturdays starting this August. Whether this means an increase in other channels such as email, mobile, radio, and so on, is obviously not yet known.
Rest assured, though, marketers across the country who currently include direct mail as part of their integrated marketing strategy are busy making plans for the switch.
A little over a year ago I wrote a piece entitled Direct Mail: Alive And Kicking. In that article I touched on survey conducted by Target Marketing magazine, the channel that delivered the strongest ROI for customer acquisition for B2C marketers was direct mail. Direct mail also scored the highest among B2C marketers for customer contact and retention.
More recently I wrote Direct Mail Now Integrated With Google in which I essentially laid out the fact that direct mail, the uncool kid at the marketing party, is going digital, in a matter of speaking. The point of both of these articles was that I believe that there will always be a place for direct mail in an integrated marketing strategy - always.
However, since direct mail is at the mercy of the seemingly always-in-the-red USPS, there is a certain volatility that comes part and parcel, if you'll pardon the pun, with using direct mail in your overall strategy.
That volatility reared its head again this week when the USPS "announced plans today to transition to a new delivery schedule during the week of Aug. 5, 2013 that includes package delivery Monday through Saturday, and mail delivery Monday through Friday." The above quote comes directly from the official press release announcing the change.
In the release, Patrick R. Donahoe, Postmaster General and CEO said the USPS "... developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings.”
Well marketers and businesses and brands and on and on are going to have to get creative alright for they will soon have one less day in their customers' and prospects' mailboxes.
So What Does This Mean For Marketers?
Will this mean, as I mentioned earlier, an increase in email marketing, mobile marketing or in fact more direct mail marketing? To find out I decided to reach out to a couple of experts, two people I know who are very smart people - much smarter than I for sure.
One is Lisa Formica, president of FMI, a direct mail marketing and advertising firm and the other is Wacarra Yeomans, the director of creative services at Responsys, a global leader in cross-channel marketing solutions including email and yes, a co-worker of mine (full disclosure). I asked each of them what they thought the move to end Saturday delivery would mean to marketers.
"The impact from this decision will vary by marketer and their direct mail strategy," said Formica. "If they are trying to time mail delivery in conjunction with a specific offer, then some alterations to their schedules will have to be made."
She gave the example of a retail marketer who tries to time delivery of their piece to their audience on the Friday before a weekend sale. "Typically a marketer can get the timing down to a 3-day window where the early arrivals are delivered on Thursday, another large section delivered on Friday and then the back end delivered on Saturday," she says. "In this scenario, those Saturday deliveries will be Monday deliveries and thus irrelevant because the sale will be over." She also made the point that this could indeed lead to more mail in consumers' mailboxes "Another potential side-effect of this decision may be increased competition within the mailbox, especially on Mondays."
For her part Yeomans thinks this is part of the evolution of the overall world of marketing as it shifts to more digital platforms but she cautions that direct mail and physical pieces will always have a seat at the table.
"Marketers are working to speak to consumers as individuals and finding a much higher ROI on digital direct channels like email, SMS, display and social, and their budget has shifted accordingly," says Yeomans. "Print pieces will never entirely go away, however companies and government agencies are struggling to keep up with where the market is going and figuring out where they fit into this constantly evolving communication market."
What Can A Marketer Do Right Now?
According to the press release, the Postal Service plans to publish specific guidance in the near future for residential and business customers about its new delivery schedule.
Formica says there are things marketers can do now such as "tracking their mail if they do not do so already." She says that "reporting like this will be key for marketers to fully gauge the impact of this change by the USPS as far as delivery time." And "this analysis also becomes paramount for developing an integrated and automated follow-up campaign in order to quickly react to any shift they may see in a lengthened delivery cycle. "
Adaptability Is Key
One sentiment echoed by both Formica and Yeomans was the need for marketers to have the ability to adjust to their surroundings. "Marketers are an adaptable group," says Formica. "Note the quick adoption of digital technology into marketing mixes."
"Working in the digital marketing space has the same kind of pressure and demand, companies have to stay agile to adapt to new technology," Yeomans added.
How do you think this change will impact marketers?
Source: USPS, Wikipedia (Image)
Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred, Steve Olenski is a senior creative content strategist at Responsys, a leading global provider of on-demand email and cross-channel marketing solutions, and a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing. He can be reached via