usps discount promotions: USPS Discount Promotions: Mobile Means Money
Save Up to 50 Percent Off On All Mail Campaigns! Deal Ends May 1.
OK, now that we have your attention, it’s time to provide you with a little bit of good news in association with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Yes, not to bad-mouth Mr. ZIP when he comes bearing discounts, but positive financial news and the USPS don’t exactly walk hand-in-hand.
Be that as it may, the Postal Service has provided a sneak peek at its 2015 promotion calendar, and there are a number of interactive technology-based specials that can be had for mailers that employ QR codes, Augmented Reality (AR), image recognition and other forms of mobile engagement in their mailing campaigns. And if there is one thing that is more exciting than turning a mailing campaign into a multi-channel marketing blitz, it is saving money. Lots and lots of money.
We will be discussing three promotions that have either been approved or, at press time, were awaiting final approval from the USPS. But the Postal Service deemed them official enough to share with the masses, so we have them here for you. They are:
Color Transpromo Promotion: This promo period, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, provides a 2 percent discount for First-Class Mail commercial letters that are part of an IMb (Intelligent Mail barcode) full-service mailing. The registration period opens April 15 and also runs through Nov. 30.
As for content requirements, a full-color consumer or marketing message—i.e., an onsert or onstatement—must be printed in-stream on a piece of paper within the content of the letter or statement. This onsert/onstatement must include a graphic and/or text in full-color (four-color) using a dynamic variable printing process on a transactional mail piece, which is required to be mailed First-Class Mail.
Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion: The promotion period for this program, which covers Standard and First-Class Mail, runs from May 1 to Oct. 31. The registration period began March 15 and carries through Oct. 31. Qualifying mail campaigns will receive a 2 percent postal discount. First-Class was approved at press time, while Standard was still pending.
This promotion is designed to encourage the use of the new wave of alternative technologies—such as Near-Field Communication (NFC) and “advanced” Augmented Reality—which use advancements in ink, printing and paper that “enhance how consumers interact and engage with mail.” The promo is intended to build upon past technology promotions. These experiences must allow the recipient to engage in an interactive experience with their mobile devices, tablets and other advancements in interactive technologies.
The key to this promotion is the use of an NFC chip/tag to enable an interactive experience for the end user. Acceptable applications could enable the user to download apps, videos or games; create calendar events; toggle on an off device features; and trigger messaging services, video or other device features.
As for the advanced AR, qualifying mailing campaigns must contain one or more of the following features: 2D/3D elements or modules, animation, or contain an interplay between the mail piece and the digital element that actively uses the person’s perspective. For video animation, the video screen must appear as part of an AR display and must have a specific call to action related to the mail piece.
Enhanced AR excludes the use of static, pop-up, worded displays that do not engage the recipient in any experience, other than reading or clicking a button. More granular details speaking to the requirements of a campaign that meets the criteria can be found on the USPS Website.
Mail Drives Mobile Engagement Promotion: This program applies to Standard Mail letters and flats, with a program period running July 1 through Dec. 31 and a registration period beginning May 15 and running through year’s end. As is the case with the other programs, it provides for a 2 percent postal discount on qualifying campaigns. By the time you read this, it should have been approved in some form.
This campaign provides discounts for mailers who include a mobile barcode or print/mobile technology that can be read or scanned by a mobile device and directs the recipient to a mobile-optimized shopping Website or enables the completion of a transaction. The key is the ability to buy an advertised product from the Website, and the mail piece must contain text near the barcode that provides guidance to the consumer to scan and also provide information regarding the landing page.
So the question is, are mailers taking advantage of these mobile technology-driven promotions? For the insurance, financial services and subscription services clientele of IWCO Direct, the answer is a resounding yes. Kurt Ruppel, marketing services manager for the Chanhassen, MN-based direct marketing printer, notes that participation varies based on each customer’s marketing strategy. Promotions that target emerging technologies such as AR, QR codes and mobile apps are among the most popular.
IWCO Direct works closely with its customers to provide information regarding the promotions, their requirements and creative concepts to help them better capitalize on the technology in question. Naturally, one of the most important roles the direct marketing printer can play is ensuring that the use of technology with the mail piece meets USPS requirements for that specific promotion.
Powering Response Rates
“The goal of the USPS, with its technology-related promotions, is to encourage mailers to see for themselves how linking physical and digital media can enhance response rates and drive more interactive connections with their customers and prospects,” Ruppel states. “For that reason, many of the parameters established in the promotions are designed to encourage high-quality digital experiences for mail recipients, such as requiring that QR codes—which are scanned with mobile devices—link to mobile-optimized Websites.
“Other examples would be requiring instructions on how to use the technology on the mail piece to ensure that recipients know how to engage with the technology, or pushing mailers to use more technically advanced AR applications that provide richer, more interactive experiences for mail recipients.”
Several of IWCO Direct’s property and casualty insurance customers use QR codes to provide recipients an easy way to link to their mobile-optimized site to request a quote for coverage, Ruppel says. A financial services client is using QR codes as a “click-to-call” trigger to encourage recipients to call a live agent to complete their application.
Of all the technologies, QR codes still garner the most action, which Ruppel attributes to their versatility and ease of use. The mode of choice will be reflected by the application and how the mailer is trying to engage with recipients, he says.
Most importantly, there is evidence that these technologies hold value beyond their postal discount period. “Although we typically don’t have access to response rates for each individual campaign, we do see customers who try various tools such as QR codes and Augmented Reality, primarily to earn the postage discount, continuing to use those tools even after the promotions end,” Ruppel notes. “This tells us that the tools are having a positive impact on response rate.”
Another printer that provides mobile technology guidance for its mailing clientele is Access Direct Systems of Farmingdale, NY, which also happens to be this month’s cover story (see page 20). John DiNozzi, executive vice president of Access Direct, credits the USPS discounts for the wider use of mobile technologies and sees the growing use of color on direct mail pieces as a major plus for the inkjet printing sector.
“QR codes need to be in color, and this was a way to incentivize people to move into technology change, as well as pushing them to the Web,” he says. “The customers got on board with that rather quickly, especially when it was impacting their postage rates in a positive way.”
The QR code isn’t the cure-all panacea, adds Lori Messina, another executive vice president at Access Direct. To get the most mileage out of their postage, mailers need to leverage the mail piece with varying graphics, photo art, logos or icons. Since color is already being used, she argues, why not jazz it up for added impact and response?
“The customer should be varying color, because they’re using it for the QR technology at basically the same cost,” she says. “So why not reap an additional benefit? A majority of customers bought into it.”
Not Pretty, But Effective
It is interesting to note that QR codes, which were universally panned from an aesthetic viewpoint for resembling a bug splattered against a car windshield, continue to thrive. Messina has noticed a reduction in the use of personalized URLs (pURLS), while QR codes and AR continue to build in popularity.
Producing direct mail promotions that incorporate mobile technology has become old hat for Sussex, WI-based Quad/Graphics, which produced hundreds of campaigns featuring AR, QR codes and mobile apps during 2014. Holly Kozlencer, of Quad/Graphics Postal Solutions, points out that many clients were already well-versed in mobile-activated print features and welcomed the USPS discount as an added bonus.
According to Kozlencer, Quad’s consultative approach enables the company to maximize postal discounts while leveraging opportunities to add value to mail pieces and, ultimately, drive response rates. “On the front end, our Media Solutions team partners with clients to design interactive promotional campaigns, including mail pieces that deliver measurable activation,” she says.
“On the back end, customers capitalize on our postal solutions and logistics expertise to alert them to USPS promotions and incentives, and verify that their pieces meet postal guidelines for discount eligibility. Quad/Graphics also regularly brings the USPS together with our clients through events and meetings that we host.”
The Postal Service is taking efforts to remain in tune with the various advancements in printing. Kozlencer points out that the Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion includes three new categories: papers, inks and other mail pieces that provide an interactive experience. Some of these include inks that change colors, as well as scented and textured papers, plus mail pieces the recipients can fold to create a 3-D image or pop-up.
She notes that more than 60 percent of Quad/Graphics customers that participated in 2014 postal discounts promotions took advantage of the Mail Drives Mobile Commerce program. Here, too, QR codes were acknowledged as being utilized the most in discount-qualifying campaigns.
“We believe the rapidly increasing use of mobile devices is motivating clients to invest in mobile-optimized Websites, so consumers can purchase directly from a mobile device,” Kozlencer adds. PI