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New Product Signals USPS Future as Data Provider
Date: April, 2014 --
The Office of Inspector General of the
USPS is not simply an auditor and inspector, it is a very sophisticated and
knowledgeable think-tank. For many years it has regularly generated intriguing suggestions
for new postal activities and products. The latest of such suggestions to
emerge from The Office is the “RIC”, or Redeemable Info-Coupon, and with it
comes some interesting data-related possibilities for the USPS.
As suggested and outlined in a
recent paper published by three highly respected economists with long histories
of advising the USPS, Marshall Van Alstyne, Geoff Parker, and Tushar Shanker,
the Redeemable Info-Coupon would provide value to consumers who respond
digitally to offers contained in promotional direct mail. This system would
take the USPS into a new field of digital development and consumer service,
expanding it from a mere platform for hard copy mail to one where consumers
have the ability to volunteer information on their wants, needs and interests. Moreover,
before you jump up and down and call 60 minutes with the next chapter in their data
industry misinformation hatchet job, information would be given to mailers only
as authorized by the individual mail recipient.
is how it works: The promotion pieces of participating mailers would contain a
QR code, Image Recognition code or other device that would take the tablet or mobile
phone-equipped consumer to a website. From there they would be offered the
opportunity to provide information about their needs, preferences and their
responses to the mail piece. In return, the carrot, participants would receive
real value - a “digital Info-Coupon”.
device is given the enticing name of Redeemable Information Coupon, or
RIC. The Coupon might be in the form of
points redeemable for merchandise from a variety of vendors or in any other
form commonly understood and employed by companies. The consumer’s willingness
to participate would earn him/her economic value of some nature. In exchange, he/she
provides information, which quite possibly could involve responding to
something as complex as a questionnaire concerning needs and wants and
willingness to receive direct mail offers.
obviously constituting a source of opt-ins for further promotion, the system
could conceivably also provide valuable feedback to companies on the
effectiveness, or lack thereof, of their direct mail promotion(s). For example,
the system could elicit feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the direct
mail piece itself, something otherwise unobtainable. This would help establish
a “virtuous circle” of new data enabling the drafting of better promotion
pieces, more refined targeting, and improved ROI.
But wait! There’s more!
The consumer would be invited to register for more offers or information
on the motivating offer/product, as well as a potential smorgasbord of
commercial information on other products.
In short, this would be an opt-in preference registration system whereby
the consumer digitally expresses their willingness to receive information on
certain products and services.
As is well known to Data Services’
business partners, direct mail is a powerful advertising medium, with an
overall industry response rate of 2 percent. Like no other addressable medium,
it is targetable to the individual, tangible in form, and measurable across a
range of characteristics. This idea is intended to further improve that
response rate by empowering the consumer to confidentially express interests
and needs in a highly secure, responsible, and responsive, environment: the
United States Post Office. The latter will serve as the guardian of the wishes
of the consumers, providing their names and addresses (on a totally opt-in
basis only) to relevant companies.
the USPS? The theory is that the USPS
is so highly trusted by the American consumers that they will be willing to
entrust their expressions of interest and opinions to the institution in
exchange for (i) current value in the form of the digital coupon/credit, and
(ii) future offers and information that are relevant to them at the time of
registration. Their names and addresses would be provided to known companies
who would mail them offers, and presumably these offers would be more relevant
know of only one somewhat similar system in effect in the postal world. In New
Zealand and Australia the Posts conduct extensive annual consumer lifestyle
surveys. Mailers can obtain addresses of households segmented by a wide range
of lifestyle question responses. This OIG proposal would constitute a marked
improvement on that model.
Would the American consumer respond
positively to the prospect of receiving more targeted offers by trusting the USPS? Is the RIC enough to shake the data
Whatever comes of
this idea, it can only serve as an additional source of data to inform your
customer and prospect databases. Rely on the data management platforms,
technology and processing solutions provided by Data Services, Inc. to ensure
your data is not only accurate but that you have to necessary tools required to
effectively mine and leverage the contents of your most valuable asset, your