Snail Mail Goes Mobile: How the USPS Is Using Mobile Platforms

By the Editors

It’s been clear for years: The United States Postal Service (USPS) is having a tough time figuring out how it can still be relevant in the digital age. On the edge of bankruptcy, losing billions of dollars each year, making cuts that slow the delivery of first class mail, and closing smaller post offices– how long can this go on? Can the US Postal Service become solvent again? In a bid to prove its relevancy, the USPS is doing a surprising number of things on mobile platforms including research, advertising, and logistics. Their efforts can teach big lessons to businesses struggling to develop a mobile strategy to stay current with the market and customer expectation.

Mobile Research Uncovers Your Most Valuable Customers. The USPS has invested a significant amount of time to understand who their customers are, including their most popular customers, and developed mobile services to help meet their needs. Who are your most valuable customers and what are their mobile needs and habits?

USPS Mobile Apps Focus on Productivity. The USPS has rolled out mobile apps for iPhones (and iPads and the iPod Touch), Androids and Blackberries. The app can help people find a Post Office location, calculate shipping rates, manage pickups, look up Zip Codes, find collection boxes, order supplies, check on the status of packages or scan QR codes and labels. The iPhone app has had more than 2 million downloads and has generally quite positive reviews. It reached #4 on the business apps chart very recently.

Obviously, quite a few tech-savvy people are still finding the USPS to be relevant to them! The core lesson here is that your mobile content doesn’t necessarily need to be sexy – your customers are most likely looking for something that’s relevant before anything else. What product or service can you make simpler with smart mobile content?

USPS Mobile Website. The USPS mobile-optimized website features a similar array of capabilities as is found on their mobile apps. Once again there is a large group of people who find this both well-executed and useful for them.

In terms of statistics, it ranks 295 in traffic worldwide, number 61 in the United States. It has something like nearly 38,000 back links. This would seem to garner more points for the USPS on relevancy. The corner of any mobile campaign needs to be a fully responsive website that’s optimized for a range of mobile devices.

2012 Mobile Commerce and Personalization Promotion. For most retailers, reaching consumers through mobile platforms entails figuring out how to get them to opt in. The USPS is making a strong case that direct mail is still an effective way to do that.

The promotion they ran offered retailers a 2% postage discount on mailings that included a 2D barcode or QR code that could be scanned with mobile devices. Have you found ways to integrate mobile tags or QR codes in your materials?

Between apps for three different kinds of devices and their mobile website, USPS mobile efforts are logging in 4 million visits each month. That seems to point towards a solid and relevant role for the USPS moving forward even amidst the changing technological landscape – assuming that they stay in business and are able to avoid bankruptcy!