Postal Service's first-class woes weighing on direct mailers


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Vogel said the Postal Service is well aware of the value of commercial mailers and wants to continue to encourage increased volumes of advertising mail. The last two years the Postal Service held “summer sales,” offering postage rebates for increased commercial mailings. And this summer it offered an upfront discount of 3% for mailers of first-class and standard mail that use 2-D barcodes, such as QR codes or Microsoft Tags, on their pieces. It was an attempt, Vogel said, to make mailed pieces more interactive with digital marketing techniques. Vogel said the summer sales didn't produce the returns he had hoped for because of the complexity involved in qualifying for those rates; generally only large mailers qualified and then had to use a complex formula to prove their volume increased. The barcode promotion, without administration hurdles, performed better, he said, and may serve as a model for the future. “The QR code promotion worked fantastically, with almost 33.9% of standard-mail pieces in July and August having some form of code,” he said. Vogel pointed to other business-friendly initiatives, such as the new Every Door Direct Mail program, allowing businesses to use so-called “saturation mail” to every business or home in a geographic area without having to include actual recipient names on the pieces. Mailers, meanwhile, are planning for a future that may not include as much of a reliance on the Postal Service. It may entail what Edmund Optics' Husted called “the elasticity of direct marketing spend.” “For example, we've been working closely with our customers in the electronics industry to trade ideas on possibly just dropping the catalog program entirely,” he said. “And we're exploring new ways to get people engaged. For example, because our catalog is a big piece, we send it BPM (Bound Printed Matter, a class of mail that is used for pieces over 1 pound). “We're committed to mail, but honestly, other than a few other companies I talk to, I have no idea how committed other big direct mailers are to keeping the Postal Service model alive.”

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