Thursday, August 5, 2010

How to save the USPS: what USPS can learn from online marketers

Well, the US Postal Service reported another huge financial loss this quarter ($3.5 billion!!!), as reported by CNN Money. It's been hemorrhaging money for the past 4 years due to declining mail volume, union obligations, and an outdated business model.

Sure, one can argue the Internet and email is killing the USPS. But, with e-commerce continuously rising, more packages need to be shipped to consumers. UPS and FedEx are riding this trend all the way to the bank! I know USPS has been coming up with various shipping deals for packages and partnering with major etailers.

But here's another idea. One of the annoyances and concerns of shopping online is having your package delivered securely to your home when you're away at work. For most people, this means you hope that no one steals your package if it's left by your doorstep. I had friends who had Christmas presents that were shipped stolen at their doorsteps!

What if the USPS provided a way for merchants to ship products to you and if you weren't home, you could pick it up at your nearest post office in the evening or weekends? You know, at times when you're NOT at work. Or offer delivery times when you are at home like what offers. Yes, this may have labor union implications but the USPS could charge merchants and consumers for this convenience, opening up a new revenue stream. USPS already has the infrastructure, trucks, and warehouses for this.

Want to hear an even crazier idea?

Take a page from us, online marketers. USPS has the ultimate ad network going into every home...via mail and packages. What if the USPS allowed advertisers to stamp or stick on an ad on delivered mail or packages?

They could also geo-target, but probably not much more due to privacy concerns. Can you imagine if they allowed advertisers to do behavioral targeting based on the types of mail you received? Can you imagine the ads you might get if you were already receiving Victoria Secret catalogs? =)

Offer some weekparting targeting perhaps. For example, if Macy's is having a sale this weekend, it could pay to be on Friday's mailings targeted to consumers within a certain distance from a Macy's store.

This has potential to compete with Valpak.

Why would consumers even put up with such advertising on their personal mail? Because it would be better than raising rates again or reduced delivery times. We give up a little bit of privacy and put up with advertising each day online for free or subsidized services. Why not with this?

Perhaps this is too far fetched, but that's what happens when I blog late at night.


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