New Direct Mail Discounts for Innovators?
Direct mail incorporating QR Codes, augmented reality (AR) and near-field communication (NFC) tools already gets discounts from the U.S. Postal Service, but more promotions may be in store for other "mail innovations," such as video in print.
So says the "Mail Innovations" report released on Monday by the USPS Office of Inspector General (Opens as a PDF). Webkeys, conductive ink, mobile in print, "interesting inks," customized MarketMail and 3D mail round out the report's list of 10 types of mail innovations. For an explanation of each technology, please see the bullet points below.
The USPS OIG paper hints that more discounts may be on the way for mailers who use these emerging technologies.
"The promotions for 2014 have already been set, with two remaining," according to the report. "The U.S. Postal Service released a list of proposed 2015 promotions, but it has not yet released its final promotion calendar."
To promote this report, the USPS OIG sent out an email Monday morning that allowed subscribers to vote "yes" or "no" to "Have you received ad mail with digital technology included?" After voting within the message, recipients landed on a blog post titled "Ad Mail Goes High-Tech." There, voters discovered six survey-takers had received high-tech direct mail, while four had not and one, saying so in the comments section, hadn't gotten any but wanted to know about it.
The post explains what mail users may see.
"How about something the size of a postcard that uses radio waves to send detailed product information to your smartphone and lets you to buy the minute you want to," asks the post. "Or a piece of mail that has an embedded, paper-thin video screen that you can control? The first example is called near field communications, the second a type of electronic mail (which is not at all the same as email)."
In the category of "connected mail" (see the image at right) mail recipients can connect to a digital experience using Internet-enabled devices:
- QR Codes are usually pixelated squares that can take users to a landing page via a QR Code reader.
- Augmented Reality also involves an app, which users direct at entire pages of text and images, much the same way Target Marketing readers used Layar in this year's issues.
- Near-field Communication users have a device, such as a mobile phone, tap or communicate with a marketer's device, usually in-store.
- Webkeys look a lot like flash drives, but when plugged into USBs, they launch Web pages.
For the purposes of the USPS OIG report, "electronic mail" means the direct mail has an embedded electronic component. This isn't email, which direct mail often incorporates, as well:
- Video in Print has a screen on paper that can play up to five videos and includes play, pause, fast-forward, rewind and stop buttons.
- Mobile in Print is either a "call now" button or a text button in print, which connects directly to the marketer.
- "Conductive Ink can link a battery pack, processing chip and any device that requires electricity." Marketers have used to create a bluetooth connection to a mobile device, light up a bulb, create noise from a speaker and more.
Dimensional mail is included in the report:
- "Interesting Inks" can make consumers interact with the mail pieces because their actions "make certain colors disappear or reappear, depending on temperature, moisture or light exposure."
- Customized MarketMail uses different shapes, sizes and textures to send the marketer's message, often without an envelope.
- 3D Mail allows recipients to fold, pull or pop the message into place—often similar to pop-up book methods.
So "Have you received ad mail with digital technology included?"
Please respond in the comments section below.