Why Marketers Should Incorporate Emerging Technology in Direct Mail

Technology can be a great way to engage your customers and prospects with your direct mail pieces, connecting offline to online marketing efforts. I previously shared the USPS’s 2020 Tactile, Sensory, and Mail promotion, and today want to highlight another promotion that can save marketers using direct mail some money, as well as encourage them to embrace new tech.

Technology can be a great way to engage your customers and prospects with your direct mail pieces, connecting offline to online marketing efforts. I previously shared the USPS’s 2020 Tactile, Sensory, and Mail promotion, and today want to highlight another promotion that can save marketers using direct mail some money, as well as encourage them to embrace new tech.

The 2020 Emerging and Advanced Technology promotion from the USPS runs March 1 through Aug. 31 this year, and encourages mailers to incorporate technologies such as “enhanced” augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, Near Field Communication (NFC), video in print (ViP) featuring shoppable video, integration with voice assistants, and digital into direct mail campaigns. You can create really fun and unique experiences while getting a 2% postage discount for eligible pieces.

For this promotion, you can use presorted first class, standard and nonprofit letters or flats, but please not that you cannot use it for periodicals, bound printed matter, or Media Mail. You must meet automation requirements for letter or flat size pieces.

Since there are quite a number of emerging technologies available for this promotion, let’s take a look at them:

  • Mixed Reality: This combines both augmented and virtual experiences through a combined immersive technology that can include sight, sound, and touch.
  • Virtual Reality (VR): VR is commonly defined as a computer technology that creates replicas of an environment, real or simulated, that includes a user’s physical presence to allow for user interaction. Virtual realities artificially create sensory experiences, which can include sight, touch and hearing.
  • Digital to Direct Mail: This is also known as automated or re-targeted direct mail. It encourages mailers to produce mail pieces that create a greater connection and elicit a higher response from consumers by using dynamically printed, personalized messaging that is automatically triggered based on a digital interaction. Unlike other options in this one starts with digital behavior such as a form filled out on your website that then creates customized mail pieces that get sent to them.
  • Near Field Communication (NFC): NFC technology generally consists of embedding a small chip into a mail piece that can be recognized by a NFC enabled device such as smartphones or tablets. The interaction is initiated by touching the mobile device on the NFC embedded item or by placing the device within close proximity to it. No app or download is needed to launch this technology so it is seamless for your prospects and customers.
  • “Enhanced” Augmented Reality (AR): “Enhanced” AR provides robust features that allow consumers to engage in experiences using the technology. “Enhanced” AR also includes video animation and 3D interactive graphics playing in front of or over physical objects so they appear to be interacting with the physical object. The “enhanced” experience can also use gamification or mobile game play. Think of the popular Pokémon Go game, this can be really fun for people to play around with.
  • Video in Print (ViP): ViP is video advertising that integrated into a printed mail piece. ViP can be integrated into a printed piece in several ways including, but not limited to Integrated video screen within a printed, mail piece, Integrated Video/Picture utilizing translucent paper, Personalized Interactive Video, or Shoppable Video. These are pretty cool, but they can be very expensive so make sure if you use this you are selling high end items that make it worth the investment.
  • Integration With Voice Assistants: Direct mail can be an effective way to educate recipients about the benefits of voice branding and how to interact with voice assistants such as Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Home and Nest. This should allow for the purchase of a particular product, provides a business related “tip of the day,” etc. with the assistant.

Each of these technologies gives you a different way to draw your prospects and customers into interactive experiences that not only have a wow factor, but work to generate more business for you and increase your response rates. Of course, be sure to refer to the USPS program document once you’ve thought about what you’re interested in experimenting with, especially to review the specific requirements of each technology. Are you ready to get started?

5 USPS Direct Mail Promotion Programs for 2016

The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has approved the USPS proposal for five programs offering incentives to mailers to increase mail volumes.

Mail StarThe Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has approved the USPS proposal for five direct mail promotion programs offering incentives to mailers to increase mail volumes. Many are the same or similar to last year. Direct mail has many unique qualities that the following promotions try to exploit. They grab recipient’s attention and increase ROI. Which ones would you like to try out?

1. Emerging and Advanced Technology/Video In Print Promotion
March 1 – Aug. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is for First Class, Standard and Nonprofit letters, cards or flats. The mail piece must incorporate any of the following technologies including: standard NFC technology, video in print (ViP), beacon technology or an “enhanced’ augmented reality. These technologies will allow the recipient to engage in an interactive experience using the mail piece and mobile devices, tablets, etc. This year’s promotion includes an option for A/B testing. Click here for all the details.

2. Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mail Piece Engagement Promotion
March 1 – Aug. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is for Standard and Nonprofit letters or flats. Print elements can be incorporated into direct mail to engage a multi-sensory experience through special visual effects, sound, scent, texture/tactile treatments, or even taste. In addition, interactive features such as pop-ups, infinite folds, or other dimensional creations also qualify. Click here for all the details.

3. Earned Value Promotion
April 1 – June 30, 2016.
You can earn a $0.02 – $0.03 credit per piece of returned mail for both First Class Business Reply Mail and First Class Courtesy Reply Mail. The credits will be added to your USPS account for use in future mailings. Click here for all the details.

4. Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion
July 1 – Dec. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is only for First Class mail. Adding a color message on a statement or invoice to sell other products or services is a great idea. Remember that it must be personalized, however an image is not required. Click here for all the details.

5. Mobile Shopping Promotion
July 1 – Dec. 31, 2016.
You earn a 2 percent postage discount. This is for Standard and Nonprofit letters or flats. The mail piece must include a mobile barcode such as a QR Code or print/mobile technology such as NFC that can be read or scanned by a mobile device and then takes the recipient to a mobile-optimized shopping website in order to make a purchase. Click here for all the details.

Many of the promotions listed above are great ways to enhance your direct mail. Check out the 2016 USPS Promotion Calendar by clicking here. I especially like the Tactile, Sensory and Interactive one because there are so many creative ways to take advantage of saving on postage and really making a great impression with customers and prospects.

All of the promotions require mailers to register for them in order to qualify for the up-front discount. In many cases, there are other stipulations after mailing as well, so make sure to check out all of the requirements for each one you are interested in.