From March 20 through 23, 2016, over 3,500 mailing professionals gathered at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center in Nashville, TN for the 2016 National Postal Forum (NPF). Attendance was the highest in about 5 years, with about 30% first-time attendees. More importantly, there was a noticeably increased presence of mailing professionals under the age of 30 – a great sign for the future of our industry.
Classes were well-attended, with sizes ranging from 65 to 200 people. Even the last class on the last day at 4:30 in the afternoon, still drew a full house. Of course, the event with the most number of attendees occurred on Monday morning, when the entire NPF gathered to hear the Keynote Address from Postmaster General (PMG) Megan Brennan.
The theme of PMG Brennan’s speech centered on momentum and technology. She explained that there was never a better time to reinvent mail. Listening to their customers, the US Postal Service (USPS) will focus on:
- Embedding digital with the physical
- Harnessing data
- Increasing flexibility
- Investing in the future
Transforming mail in the digital age makes mail a catalyst for ecommerce transactions. The best example is the successful launch of the “Informed Delivery” program. Postal customers registered with USPS.com will receive daily emails with digital images of the pieces arriving in their mailbox that day. Mailers can pay extra to have the image link to their website.
The impact of this program is powerful. Since the launch in select markets last summer, 70% of the customers opened the email daily, with 90% opening the email at least 4 times a week. Those open rates are a marketer’s dream. The program will be expanded to every delivery address by the end of 2016.
Through the Intelligent Mail Barcode and Intelligent Mail Parcel Barcode, the USPS is collecting more data at more collection points than ever before. Through “Informed Visibility”, mailers will have more views into the USPS system, down to the final mile. Enhancing the access for political mail, through the “Deliver the Win” program, will allow mail service providers and the USPS to bring in a greater percentage of advertising dollars during the election season.
All this data also allows USPS operations managers to be more flexible with processing fluctuating volumes. The success of delivering a record setting number of parcels during the last holiday system was built on data-driven decisions. Now, the USPS has to apply those lessons to the other classes of mail.
Of course, all these changes won’t be cheap. The USPS will be investing billions in training their employees, new technologies and capital projects. Bridging the gap between the physical and the digital worlds will require superior systems – and superior service.
For many attendees, the most significant announcement had the fewest slides and no accompanying video. PMG Brennan announced that the USPS is filing a case with the Postal Regulatory Commission to allow 3-ounce, presorted, automation-compatible letter mail to be posted at the 1-ounce rate. This expansion of the “2 for 1” program (2 ounces for the 1 ounce rate) will be a game changer for marketing and transactional mail alike. Expect to see this new rate go into effect with the January 2017 rate case.
In a world with billions of messages sent to billions of digital devices, mail still grabs the recipient’s attention – it’s tactile and it’s emotional. Mail works. In classes, in the exhibit hall, and in networking sessions, NPF attendees expressed optimism and confidence in the future of our industry. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we’ll need to work together to create the new future of mail.
Working Together For Others
On Saturday, March 19, The Berkshire Company sponsored the NPF-Habitat for Humanity event. A wonderful group of NPF attendees, USPS employees and local community members worked together to help build the dream of owning a home to a deserving family. The following 22 people from 9 states spent their
Saturday priming, painting, caulking,
hanging doors and installing trim:
- Jeffrey Jordan
- Kim Waltz
- David Close
- Constance Close
- Sara Mathies
- Gregory Johnson
- Dean Granholm
- Doris Granholm
- Jean Young
- Stan Dunford
- Jim Olson
- Belinda Olson
- Dianna Blakely
- Deborah Gless
- Francine Lyon
- Camilla Hudson
- Shannon Kelly
- Rodney Hall
- Antoinette Lewis
- Lori Slater-Trautwein
- Nichole Westmoreland
- Mark Fallon
Thank you to all of the volunteers for all of your hard work – and all of your smiles – to help make the day such a success.
We look forward to seeing everyone at the 2017 National Postal Forum in Baltimore, MD, May 21 – 24, 2017.