We have been sending fewer and fewer letters in recent years. After all, electronic communication is faster and cheaper. Despite this fact, Dutch postal provider PostNL is working hard on innovations in the field of traditional letterbox mail. Isn’t that strange? A market that is getting smaller and still investing money in innovation? Couldn’t the money be spent better elsewhere?
Track record in innovation
PostNL has a track record in postal innovation. For years we can order a stamp with our own photo or design. But what they are doing is what I call Digital Imagination. What I like most are developments like Mijn Post (My Mail). This is a functionality that you can activate in the PostNL mobile app that shows you which mail will be delivered before your mail is delivered. In the app you can see a digitized scan of the envelope that is delivered to your home that day. This way you can see which mail arrives that day.
It appeals to curiosity for a lot of people. Post is in fact something that people can look forward to. Maybe less to an envelope from the tax office, but in general people are interested in receiving mail. Mail is also still an important communication tool for companies, for example for mailings. It appeals to me, as an innovation enthusiast, for another reason. It is an example of digital imagination. Not transformation but as an organization you ask the question: what could I do now with the data we have already?
PostNL scans the letters because they have to be sorted before delivery. Those scans are then discarded since they are not necessary anymore. Then the idea arose to test whether people would be interested in knowing about the mail that will be delivered that day. When that idea became viable through testing, it was added to the PostNL app.
But that’s only one side. It appears that people who use the PostNL app with Mijn Post on it, have a higher so-called ‘response rate’. In other words, there is significantly more response to the sent mail. That can be a mailing, invitation or something else. So it is a win win situation.
The recipient’s curiosity has been satisfied and the sender has the benefit of a higher attention value. In the app, the image can also be made clickable, so another action moment for up- or cross sell. A number of municipalities use Mijn Post to provide people with more information about the like the one for the European Parliament with a direct link (to the municipal website) or to put the date directly in the agenda.
According to PostNL, the users (550,000+ / 70 percent weekly) are a reflection of the Dutch society. I am also in between. PostNL is together with the USPS the only party that has something similar.
But there is more. A very interesting development is the vacuum packaging for garments: the fashion pack. Many garments are packaged in a bulky manner for shipment. By making a package that you can press vacuum it is possible to get a 40% volume reduction on a shipment of a few pieces of clothing and so to make a package, mailbox post. Cheaper to send and good for the volume and turnover of PostNL.
The bag can hold a small number of garments and is reusable, so for returns. The consumer can easily press the air out of the bag themselves by folding the packaging. In any case, volume reduction is always good in logistics. Less volume means less transport.
In short, PostNL is working to realize convenience, efficiency and increased response for customers and mail recipients and is certainly not going to say goodbye to mail.
Supporting Digital Imagination
But what do you need to support Digital Imagination? I am not talking about the innovation mindset and the approach of testing out new products and services. I am talking about the technical tools and support that will enable you to take data and information and repurpose that in a different place.
I believe that an API Management solution is a critical element and enabler of such solutions. Which one will suit you best? Check it yourself!