Based on experience, on articles in a huge number of media outlets, on TV and radio, much has been said about the challenges facing the US Post Office. Fiscal reform efforts don’t seem to have stemmed the bleeding, a rate case is in the making that will likely make most mailers sit back and reconsider their mail schedule and creative costs with respect to mailability, machinability and postage costs, and even with offices consolidating and more rural locations closing, deliverability and schedules will have to be accounted for under the current scenario. But picture a world where the Federal Government, Congress, and the American People all agree for a change, and come to an agreement on closing the post office altogether. What might that world look like?
From a business standpoint, a huge bulk of business correspondence has already shifted to e-mail from printed postal mail, as have bill and invoice presentment, financial reporting statements, even annual reports are delivered digitally as PDF files. The remainder of the mail stream includes direct marketing pieces, catalogs, parcels, fulfillments of various types that cannot be delivered digitally, legal documents that must be delivered on paper or signed for by the recipient, and some other odds and ends. In aggregate that still represents a huge swath of companies, and jobs, that will have to shift their thinking, and their marketing efforts and communications strategy, to account for the loss of postal delivery.
Strategically, one of the other common carriers, or possibly both UPS and FedEx, will likely have to ramp up to fill the void, but that would certainly suggest that some changes would have to made in how they operate logistically. Air hubs would have to be expanded, fleet maintenance established and expanded from the current to service fuel and maintain the huge fleet of trucks, cars, planes and other specialty apparatus the USPS currently fields. The care and upkeep of the buildings, street boxes, already a rarity, would likely be curtailed, shifted and more centralized. Delivery would likely be curtailed, made only on select days, much like in EU nations, and only to select stations – residential delivery, especially in rural areas where efficiency is low, would likely cease. Individuals would be forced to visit a substation several days a week to pick up their mail after showing ID. Businesses would receive delivery to their internal mail handling sections, but maybe not daily.
Businesses directly related exclusively to supporting the USPS would certainly be challenged, but what about those who use the mail extensively to market their goods and services, and the businesses who serve them (printers, designers, processing houses, list brokers and aggregators, equipment manufacturers who make printing, folding, inkjet and addressing equipment, inserters, sorters, cutters, stampers, high speed duplication and personalization printing machinery), and a wide swath of other businesses world-wide.
Fortunately, most of those businesses will have the time to adjust to the new circumstances, and if they are nimble and diversified in their customer base and product offering, they will survive in the new post-post office world. Direct marketing professionals need not necessarily fear for their jobs, as nearly all of their skills can be ported over to the digital realm. Copy that sells still works digitally, with some minor adjustments; good design still enhances results, online or off; a good list is still the key to response success, and if my inbox is any indication, there are a good-sized chunk of list purveyors specializing in selects from business e-mail addresses to help companies and non-profits reach out to their target audience.
The toughest cut will be the army of postal employees nationwide, for some of their skills will be made obsolete, marginalized, or undervalued. With no residential delivery, carriers, sorters, and other related jobs will be sidelined out of existence. Hopefully a retraining program of immense proportions will be built into the wind-down plan, and those hardworking individuals will be placed elsewhere as they desire.
As an exercise, close your eyes and imagine that post-post office world and how it will affect you. Let me know if you like the new world . . .
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