Are you looking to save some money on your bulk mail postage? Then here's some breaking news that can help.
Last Summer, the USPS experimented with a no-strings-attached discount for bulk mail that contained a QR Code. This first-of-its-kind program was embraced by mail marketers so the USPS decided to launch a similar program this Summer.
What's changed since last year's offer? The discount was expanded to include other types of 2D barcodes besides QR Codes.
What exactly is a 2D Barcode? The most common example of a 2D barcode is a QR Code which stands for "Quick Response" Code. If you're not familiar with QR Codes, take a peek at my recent post, How to beam customers directly to your website.
Probably the second most common 2D Barcode is the Microsoft Tag. I'm a much bigger fan of QR Codes, however, because they are not tied to a specific brand or company; QR Codes are truly independent. This independence makes them more widely adopted.
Here's a short post from my friends at the Social Media Examiner that examines the use of both QR Codes and Microsoft Tags in marketing.
How do I know if my 2D barcode qualifies? There are many different types of 2D barcodes, but really to qualify, the barcode (when scanned) must be able to deliver a smart phone-user to a website, video or some piece of online content. Read on, however for more specific requirements.
When is the discount available? The discount is only available for bulk mail that is mailed during the months of July and August, 2012.
What else is required to qualify for the discount? Postal guidelines stipulate that once the code is scanned, it must deliver the user to a personalized webpage or a mobile-optimized e-commerce website.
In addition, you must include simple instructions explaining how users should interact with the 2D barcode.
If you're wondering what the heck a "personalized webpage" is, then you'll want to take a look at my post Use PURLs (Personalized URLs) to Improve the Response of your next Direct Mail Campaign.
PURL campaigns are fantastic on a number of fronts, however, adding PURLS typically increases the cost of a mail marketing campaign. While the increased investment is almost always justified by an improved response rate, my concern is that it may simply make this discount program too complex or perhaps too expensive for small business mail marketers.
If you choose not to create a personalized landing page then you can qualify by sending prospects to an e-commerce site. I'm sure this is well-intended by the USPS, but some of the largest bulk mailers, as well as many small businesses, are not engaged in e-commerce. For example, the auto industry is one of the largest bulk mailers by industry, but they are not engaged in e-commerce. When is the last time you paid for your car online? Will automotive dealers need to sell accessories on their landing pages to qualify?
How is enforcement by the USPS going to work? Here's a question that I don't have an answer for, and I don't anticipate anyone getting a clear answer from someone at the USPS any time soon.
I truly don't anticipate the USPS springing for all of their Business Mail Entry clerks to get smart phones so they can scan the 2D barcodes as they come in and then cast judgment on which landing pages qualify and which don't. In this scenario, they would also have to train postal employees on how to use the phones, install the necessary apps and place judgment on what qualifies. While the Every Door Direct Mail product has been available for over a year, many postal employees are still completely uneducated about the rules of this program. I see no reason why the 2D Barcode discount training would be any different.
Beyond that, I can't imagine adding another step further downstream to scan codes and investigate landing pages. This would serve to only delay the distribution of the bulk mail which would be bad for both the USPS and the consumer.
While I wouldn't want to invite anyone reading this to test the system, I can't help but anticipate that there will be a pretty liberal interpretation of which 2D barcode campaigns qualify.
How much money does the discount really save? Unfortunately, the savings are just 2%. This equates to a savings of $20 for every $1,000 spent on bulk mail postage. Because of this, I think of the program as more of a reward for using a barcode as opposed to an incentive. Last year's discount was 3%, so this year the USPS is offering smaller savings with more restrictions.
Are those mailing at the nonprofit rate included? Yes, nonprofits are included in this year's Summer 2D Barcode discount.
In conclusion, while every little bit helps, the savings are so small that I don't really think anyone will rush out to do a mailing campaign because of a 2% postage discount; the savings with the 2D Barcode are minimal.
For some large scale e-commerce companies this specific summer program may be a good fit, but for the vast majority of small business mailers, the requirements are too complex and too difficult to interpret.
If you're a business mailer, and you're serious about saving money on postage, I would instead encourage you to consider Every Door Direct Mail. It's a simplified bulk mail program where postage is just 17.5 cents apiece. This is the regular price, not a Summer "sale" price.
Thanks to my friends at Post & Parcel for being the first to break this Summer discount story. Here's a link to their original post.
What so you think about the USPS 2D Barcode Summer sale? Please share your comments below.