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Developments in the International Postal World

Date: February, 2013 --

Last October, the 192 member countries of the Universal Postal Union met in Doha for three weeks to plan the work program for the coming four years. It will be a busy period for the UPU staff and their new leaders, Director General Bishar Hussein (Kenya) and Deputy Director Pascal Clivas (Switzerland).

            Of most relevance to the marketing community, the Direct Mail Advisory Board (DMAB) has been renamed the Direct Marketing Advisory Board. The body was created in 1998 on the initiative of the USPS and the US DMA.  It was formed to conduct research and educate the posts about direct mail and the services posts need to enable businesses to make the “mail marketing investment”. 

            The DMAB has produced “how-to” manuals for posts which explain what direct mail is and what posts need to provide to foster its adoption, from address data to bulk rates to return processes and even loading docks! Moreover, its research has provided valuable insight into the different services the posts provide and important data on the size of many markets.  

            The DMAB has held numerous multi-day seminars around the world to teach postal employees the basics of direct marketing and direct mail. These seminars have become extremely popular and have doubtless encouraged higher domestic and international direct mail volumes as posts make new services and tools available, such as change of address notifications and bulk mail entry. 

            Since 2008, however, the market has created intense competition for the mail medium.  Email has been the challenge in some countries, predominantly in Europe where Internet access is widespread; however, the major challenge has been from mobile, whose penetration is deeper than the Internet, especially in the developing world. In 2008, DMAB courses were already incorporating elements of the other media, drawing on case studies from many countries where multi-channel marketing was growing rapidly.

            On the digital side of the postal equation, the UPU launched “dot Post” at the Congress.  This hyper-secure domain on the Internet is now available for development by postal systems and the postal industry world-wide. Look for an expansion of eCommerce in this domain as posts continue to compete with express carriers and give their domestic customers access to on-line shopping opportunities around the world.

            For mailers, dot Post will be the location of one of the first experiments by posts with regulated hybrid mail across borders. The leadership of the International Hybrid Mail Coalition will drive developments. Imagine as a mailer that you can electronically send your address data and creative files through your post to a certified printer, or printers, in a foreign country. Your pieces are printed there, perhaps even printed on a regional basis for insertion closer to the destinations. No more putting your mail into a pallet or bag and transporting it by plane at significant cost to your budget and the environment. You could send your campaign in the morning and be in the mail in Europe by noon, your time. You could even put different return addresses on batches, in country or out, to test response rates.  

            Finally, eCommerce specifically gets a boost as the Address for Everyone campaign continues to convince countries to install and expand their address systems. In addition, more posts will start providing financial services to the unbanked, creating new customers.

            And to encourage cross-border purchasing, there is a project to create a return parcel service in the UPU system which would enable a merchant to offer a “free” return to customers in other countries. The posts would work out the money exchange and customs issues. Consumer surveys consistently highlight the desire of would-be buyers for this service, which would increase trust as well as the amount of on-line, cross-border purchasing.   

            These indeed are exciting times for the UPU and for mailers. Data Services is proud to do its part by providing the fastest, most comprehensive, and most technologically advanced direct and data-driven marketing services available to help you better understand your domestic and international audience and ensure your mail pieces reach their intended target.