USPS’ 2D Barcode Promotion: 11 Tips for Success

Dave LawsonThis spring, the US Postal Service (USPS) announced that it would offer a 3 percent discount on qualifying pieces of direct mail that utilize 2D barcodes. The discount runs from July through August.
(The Postal Service — and Knotice (booth #1234) — are among the hundreds of exhibitors at this week’s IRCE conference in San Diego.)
This opportunity presents a lot of options for marketers who are considering taking advantage of the promotion.

Here are a couple of examples to consider if you’re planning on utilizing 2D barcodes on direct mail pieces:

  • Create a nice, progressive story-boarded messaging/scavenger hunt initiative where customers scan mailers over the 3 month window, get clues, interact with social media, solve problems or puzzles and ultimately are rewarded for their on-going engagement. Combine some fun photo and geo elements that smartphones uniquely deliver to an interaction. The goals of researching/delivering clues could be anything from driving foot traffic to locations nearby to researching products in stores or online. With the correct set-up (and hosting environment), the brand could serve content based on past steps individuals have taken as opposed to the same thing for everyone.
  • A simple A/B approach to testing would also be really effective. Remember to use what is most useful to drive the construct of the test. Some possibilities are Geo, various segments of lists (especially hard to reach landscape personas that index high on mobile connectivity), and content/messaging/CTA effectiveness.

This opportunity is definitely something that can deliver more value and relevancy for a service that relies primarily on shipping of printed goods.I see it as an honest effort to re-expose businesses to the power of well-done direct marketing programs. One issue I see with it is that success with 2D barcodes goes well beyond slapping a code onto some paper and linking to a website. I’m impressed that they won’t offer the discount if the code in or on the mailer links back to the company website, they are requiring it to be campaign-specific at least (not necessarily mobile optimized).

Where you cross over from help to hurt is in the rest of the experience. Keep these points in mind:

  • Are you mailing to states or areas that are notorious for low or no connectivity?
  • Is the 2D code designed, printed, sized and placed correctly?
  • Assuming these pieces aren’t handled with kid gloves, what if the code gets damaged in shipping or opening the piece and can’t resolve (is the appropriate amount of error correction built in?)
  • Are there helper instructions with clear directions to someone so they can take advantage of it with their smartphone?
  • Does the brand value their non-smartphone mobile customers enough to deliver a comparable interaction on less-smart/feature phones or the PC?
  • Is the code linking to a device capability optimized mobile web destination?
  • Is there a relevant experience there that will enhance the engagement and that will have a positive “pay-off” for the effort of scanning?
  • Most importantly- how does the brand define and understand success in this effort? Savings in mailing costs? Scans? Page Views? Conversions? Social Buzz?
  • Regardless of success or failure- what are the plans moving forward (one 2D program on its own isn’t a strategy) to replicate success, optimize, and iterate and tie it into a stronger future position in their direct marketing efforts?

This program will pay off biggest for the biggest advertisers. Given the nominal costs to put a world-class program together with the right partner, the more they mail, the more their savings on the mailing alone will potentially fund a comprehensive mobile investment that can carry the brand easily through the coming 12-18 months.

I think the application for the discounted program is pretty representative of the USPS’s task at hand actually/ironically. As practitioners who could bring this solution to our marketers to feed the success of the USPS effort, we’re subjected to a 50 page document to wade through. I’m sure most of this detail is meant to meet compliance requirements for any discounted offers or efforts but it’s still obvious that this entity wants to catch up with technology so badly and remain relevant, is still subject to layers of inefficiency.

For more information on the promotion, check this out.

What do you think of the promotion? Will you be taking advantage?

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