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Postal Service COO Outlines Digital Advances

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Gary Hunter sat still while listening to U.S. Postal Service Chief Operating Officer Dave Williams speak at the Youngstown Country Club Thursday, but he said his mind was racing with the information he was hearing.

Hunter was one of 115 people who attended the Steel Valley Postal Customer Council’s Evolution of Direct Mail Expo, where attendees were updated on new technologies in the Postal Service.

The newest technology, informed delivery, lets residents digitally preview the exterior envelope of their mail and manage packages before arrival through the free app on their smartphone or tablet.

Hunter, an executive board member of the Postal Customer Council in Cleveland, has been using informed delivery for seven months for his personal mail, but he didn’t know how many other people were using it.

“I now know there are over 8 million people in the universe that have informed delivery, and I’m one of those people,” Hunter said with astonishment after hearing that number reported by Williams.

At age 64, Hunter enjoys using informed delivery for his personal mail. “I know what’s going to be in my mailbox and I found that to be very useful. Especially when I’m expecting an invitation to an event or a check in the mail, I know when that check will be there and I can plan around that.”

The number of users for the service is expected to jump to 20 million by years-end, Williams said in his speech. After hearing how popular it is among other consumers, Hunter wants to look into using the technology for the company he works for, Medical Mutual in Cleveland.

This could be helpful to Medical Mutual if one of its customers were a subscriber to informed delivery, he said. This way both Medical Mutual and the consumer would know when the piece of mail is being sent and when it has arrived, especially if it’s important information regarding a Medicare plan.

The technology is beneficial for business advertising as well.

“It helps marketers with their return on investment,” Williams said.

Williams who was the keynote speaker at the expo, has responsibility for the day-to-day activities of 488,000 career employees working in more than 31,000 facilities supported by a fleet of over 200,000 vehicles.

“We have a 242-year history grounded in serving every American family by connecting them with communities, businesses, and the government,” Williams said. “There’s been a lot of change in 242 years and we’ve been at the forefront of many technologies.”

Mailers that use informed delivery benefit from receiving additional advertising impressions by having a digital campaign as well as the print piece coming in the mail, he said. It also increases customer engagement with an image in the digital preview that is linked to a URL setup by the mailer.

“We are keeping the physical mail piece relevant in a digital world,” Williams said.

He noted that the first screen most people look at when they wake up is a cellphone. By signing up for informed delivery notifications, consumers will be seeing their mail first thing in the morning in digital form before it arrives.

“I’m seeing what’s in my mailbox today even if it’s still in Virginia,” he said.

Marketers can leverage the amount of impressions by looking at the click-through rates on the digital preview.

Williams reported a “45% increase in response rates from consumers when print advertising is combined with website and email impressions.”

The technology is exclusive to physical addresses, but will soon be available for P.O. Box addresses.

“We want to continue to drive the value of mail,” Williams stated.

Also speaking at the expo was Jeff Hedrich, president and CEO of The Prodigal Company, a branding agency in Boardman.

He too found informed delivery to be, “the most exciting discovery at the expo.”

“I can see some of our clients using it, Sheely’s Furniture and Appliance or Farmers National Bank,” Hedrich said. “It would do well for consumer businesses.”

Hedrich’s talk focused on digital marketing and direct mail coexisting in today’s market by emphasizing how digital and print pieces for marketing reinforce one another.

“I have every reason to believe print is still a really valuable piece in the marketing puzzle and makes digital stronger,” he said.

Challenges in the mail delivery industry include e-commerce shopping and the increased competition it brings with it. Among these are FedEx and UPS, and having drones and the possibility of autonomous vehicles deliver packages.

With these disruptions in the industry, the Postal Service continues to adapt, its chief operating officer say.

“Our challenge is to view these advances and find how we can leverage those challenges and become better for it,” Williams said. “Service is everything to us. It’s in our name and it’s in our DNA.”

Pictured: U.S. Postal Service Chief Operating Officer Dave Williams addressing the Steel Valley Postal Customer Council Thursday at the Youngstown Country Club.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.