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USPS expands direct mail initiatives via SMS

USPS

The United States Postal Service is letting marketers place SMS calls-to-action, mobile bar codes and digital watermarks on direct mail in an upcoming campaign that will give businesses a two percent discount on qualified pieces.

The direct mail coupon and click-to-call campaign promotion runs from March 1 – April 30. The USPS has tested several mobile initiatives that included QR codes, but this is the first time that SMS has been added to the mix with discounts for businesses that equip their mail with mobile.

“Our strategy is to bring awareness to marketers, retailers and all our customers about the enhanced value of direct mail in a marketplace, which is more and more reliant on mobile technology,” said Tom Foti, marketing mail manager at the USPS, Washington.

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“This strategy will highlight and focus on specific uses – in this case, the integration of direct mail coupons with mobile technology as well as leveraging the click-to-call technology with direct mail – and encourage our customers to plan and build robust mobile marketing campaigns with a direct mail component that can achieve greater success,” he said.

Mobile mail
The USPS promotion will take place from March 1 – April 30. Marketers can begin registering for the program on January 15.

Earlier this year, the USPS ran a promotion to offer direct mail marketers a two percent postage discount on mail that includes a mobile bar code. The offer was good on Standard Mail and First-Class Mail letters, flats and cards (see story).

For this USPS campaign, there are two ways that direct mail marketers can receive a discount by including either a mobile coupon or a click-to-call feature on mail.

Under the mobile coupon part, mail that is marked with an SMS short code, QR code or digital watermark is eligible. The mobile component must be storable on a mobile device.

The coupon must be redeemable at either the point-of-sale at a store or through a code that can be entered online.

For the click-to-call portion, marketers can send out a piece that is either scanned or enabled with a short code keyword that is linked with click-to-call features. If the piece of mail connects with a Web destination, the site must be optimized for mobile to qualify.

The direct mail coupon and click-to-call campaign promotion includes Standard Mail letters and flats, Nonprofit Standard Mail letters and flats and First-Class Mail presort and automation letters, cards and flats.

The goal behind the promotion is to increase the value of static mobile coupons.

“We see marketers continuing to expand their testing and use of mobile campaigns,” Mr. Foti said.

“Those that will be successful will be those that build campaigns that integrate with proven marketing channels like direct mail,” he said. “By rolling out these types of promotions, we are encouraging our customers – and actually investing with them – to build creative direct mail campaigns that will enable consumers to engage with mail in more convenient and productive ways, which will ultimately improve marketing and business performance.”

Past initiatives
The USPS has been testing mobile for a while.

In 2011, the USPS rolled out a mobile bar code campaign that provided businesses a three percent discount on Standard Mail and First-Class Mail letters and flats with a mobile bar code (see story).

Although smartphone ownership is constantly growing, there is still a substantial chunk of feature phone users.

Therefore, including SMS as an option on direct mail components in addition to QR codes helps marketers net the largest number of mobile users.

“The discount programs that the USPS have run to date have been very successful for marketers and for the USPS,” said Dick Goldsmith, president of Horah Group, Pleasantville, NY.

Mr. Goldsmith is not affiliated with the USPS. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.
 
“Their aim is to encourage mailers to integrate direct mail with mobile technology to show marketers that mail is still very relevant as a marketing channel,” he said.

“For the past two programs the only way to get the postage discount was to use a QR code. As you know, less than 10 percent of people have ever scanned a QR code. The new programs allow the use of any mobile print technology as well as text messaging and intelligent print image recognition. The implication is that now every person who has a smartphone can respond to the offers being made in these mailings.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York

Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer. Reach her at lauren@mobilemarketer.com.

 
Related content: Messaging, Tom Foti, USPS, mobile, direct mail, mobile marketing, Dick Goldsmith, Horah Group

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