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Episode 3: “How the USPS is Merging the Worlds of Physical and Digital” with Gary Reblin, Vice President of Product Innovation at the USPS

Gary Reblin is a 28-year veteran of the United States Postal Service (USPS). Over the course of his career, he has put his fingerprint on everything from handwriting recognition software to intelligent mail barcodes and flat rate shipping. It’s no surprise that Gary now serves as Vice President of Product Innovation at the USPS, where a core focus is merging the physical and digital worlds. Join us as Gary discusses two major initiatives at the USPS — Informed Visibility and Informed Delivery — and opines on the future of communications.

Moving the USPS Forward: “It’s an exciting time because whenever there's change and you're in an innovation group, that's when there's an opportunity to make a difference. The fun part is evaluating all the moving parts – the competition, the industry, what your capabilities are, what your equipment can do – and try and put all that together into a plan to progress your business. You can't avoid what's happening; you need to go along with what's happening. The Postal Service does not want to be the next example of how people didn't change with the times and thought that they had something that would continue forever… Strategize and try to find the opportunities associated with the way the world is changing in order to continue to improve your product.”

Gaining Visibility: “Informed Visibility lets you know when mail has arrived. Let's suppose you're a marketer doing an online campaign where you're going to send emails out after the mail piece has arrived; the best time to do that is as soon as possible after the mail piece has arrived because you want to reinforce it… and use it as a trigger for other marketing material to make sure that the consumer has seen the deal, has been able to make a choice of whether that deal is of value to them, and whether they want to make a purchase.” 

Everyone is Happier: “When I work with marketers, I tell them, ‘You can have the best offer in the world that no one in their right mind would say no to; however, if the design of the mail piece and the way you advertise it is done in such a way that nobody has interest enough to even look and read it, then that campaign will fail.’ The consumer is out because it may have been something that they wanted, something of value to them, and the marketer is out because they obviously didn't make any money. We don't want people receiving mail that they have no interest in. The next thing we want is to make sure that consumers actually see the offer so they can make a proper decision on it. Informed Delivery increases impressions and gives mailers more of a chance to do that… In the end, everyone is happier – both the consumer and the mailer – because their return on investment is higher.”

Informed Delivery in Simple Terms: “Informed Delivery gives everybody that's signed up for the program a daily preview of the mail that they're going to receive that day. So, in other words, I can look at the app on my phone right now or look at my daily morning email and see the mail pieces that are coming to my mailbox. For consumers, Informed Delivery gives better visibility, and, for the marketer, it gives more impressions and helps to ensure that the person that the mail piece was targeted to actually sees the mail piece.” 

Why Marketers Love It: “With Informed Delivery, marketers can send us a color replacement image of the mail piece and a website URL; if your end destination is sending consumers to a website, consumers can click onto the mail piece image and go directly to the site. We also have a ride-along option, where Marketers can add a message to the end consumer; for example, ‘Save an extra 10% if you act within the next 24 hours.’ It reinforces the mail piece and gives the consumer even more reason to click the image on their phone to make a purchase… Informed Delivery is really simple and it's free – and those are the two most important things for marketers to understand.”

Astronomical Numbers: “We now have over 800 brands that do replacement images and campaigns through Informed Delivery, and we have over 13 million users signed up for Informed Delivery. Over the last few months, we've been averaging a million new customers a month. Our expansion and growth is astronomical, and we continue to move at that pace… We still get close to 70% open rate every day on these emails, and the reason is because people see the value in what they're receiving. It is their mail. It's not just an advertisement. It's not spam. We try to make sure that for every benefit that we offer the marketers, we're offering an equal benefit to consumers… That helps us compete in the digital world. It gives us another platform; it helps the overall response rate; and it gives us better attribution.”

And It’s Only Getting Better – Future Enhancements for Informed Delivery: “You can add a mobile coupon into Informed Delivery. If you click on it, it will move the coupon into your mobile wallet – a lot like airline boarding passes. We made a big push to also include packages into Informed Delivery, and we're going to continue to enhance the package platform to give consumers more notification of when packages will be arriving. They’ll then be able to see and do everything they want in one email. From a Postal Service standpoint, there's a lot of value in that because we want people valuing their mail. We want them going and getting their mail on a daily basis. We're also enhancing our reporting for marketers and we're going continue to offer them new features as well, which we hope will get even more mailers onto the platform.”

Merging the Physical and Digital: “Informed Delivery gets mailers to use better techniques, it makes things more engaging for the end consumer, and it allows us to compete in a digital world. Physical still has many advantages. In fact, there's been many studies about how the brain reacts to a physical message as opposed to a digital message, and people recall physical messages better. People see thousands of digital images and advertisements every single day. The brain has actually become attuned to ignore a digital banner and what's on the side of a message and to focus only on the content because digital has taught them that… It's up to us to take advantage of those physical advantages, but also to enhance our product using digital. The digital world can make us even better... Our goal isn’t to be around for five years or ten years; our goal is to be around forever.”

To dive into these topics and more, check out our podcast, Reimagining Communications.