With 66% of Americans now owning a smartphone, the digital revolution is changing how we communicate, shop and get information. The U.S. Postal Service is aggressively seeking ways they can capitalize on this massive change by using the fact that they have brick-and-mortar facilities in every town to generate new revenue sources.
What could the future of the USPS hold? Ideas range from relatively predictable to seemingly crazy:
- Informed delivery mail notification: This service, already being tested in Northern Virginia and New York City, sends subscribers emails every morning with photos of each piece of mail they’ll receive in their mailbox that day. If subscribers are interested in a mail piece, they can click on a link to a pertinent webpage that is included in the email. Surprisingly, early testing has indicated that direct mail marketers are seeing a tenfold increase in response rates among subscribers to this service.
- E-Government: Post offices could provide service centers or kiosks in their lobbies for customers to access federal, state and local government services. Options include TSA Pre-Check, notary public services, document verification for benefits and services, motor vehicle license renewals, processing of payments such as property taxes, and fingerprinting.
- Digital Identity: By linking an electronic address to a physical address, the USPS could verify senders’ identities and increase the security of online transactions. Wouldn’t it be nice if this service could also be used to cut down on spam?
- Financial Services: Having sold $21 billion worth of money orders in 2014, the U.S. Postal Service is already the largest provider of paper money orders in the U.S. The USPS also currently offers prepaid cards, international money transfers and limited check cashing.
The Postal Service is seriously considering additional financial services they could provide to the one in four U.S. households that operates outside the financial mainstream, often without a bank account and forced to rely on costly services such as payday lenders. Possible services include reloadable prepaid cards, mobile transactions, new ways of transferring money, and potentially even small loans.
The USPS is far behind the postal services of a number of other countries in offering financial services. For example, the postal services in Switzerland, New Zealand and Italy already earn over two-thirds of their profits through financial services.
- 3-D Printing: The rapid adoption of 3D printing is changing the way goods are designed, produced and delivered to customers. By allowing certain types of products to be printed locally, 3D printing has the potential to eliminate up to a third of global air cargo or ocean container shipments.
The USPS is researching the possibility of offering 3D printing centers in local post offices, perhaps through partnerships with 3D printing companies. As crazy as this might seem, it’s interesting to note that UPS already offers 3D printing services inside many of its retail locations, as does the French postal service.
What services would you most like to see the USPS offering in the future?
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