USPS puts its DS experience to paper

Margot Myers turns up to speak or sit on a panel at a lot of industry conferences for a couple of key reasons: she runs the US Postal Service’s DS program, and she has good things to say.

The post office has been fiddling with and tweaking its media strategy for many years, and has a very clearly defined plan for what it is doing and why – which is always refreshing.

Myers recently published some of her thoughts in a piece on the Self Service and Kiosk Association website:

Digital signage can have a positive impact on the retail environment in several ways. One opportunity is to increase the range of information available to customers while they are waiting to be served. The Post Office Channel features product and service messages to educate and inform retail customers. For example, one message compares the product features of overnight express mail and two-to-three-day priority mail. Another compares delivery confirmation to signature confirmation and shows which form to use depending on which service the customer chooses.

A second opportunity is to redirect customers and actually change customer behavior. Part of the long-standing tradition of how customers behave in our retail space is that many are totally focused on getting in the full-service queue and getting served as quickly as possible. That sounds reasonable.

But what if there are 10 people in line and all you need are some stamps? Can digital signage help change customer behavior and redirect them to the Automated Postal Center (APC), a fully automated kiosk that not only sells stamps but also allows customers to mail packages?

We focused on changing this customer behavior specifically by including a digital screen at the main entrance to each of the test sites. Nicknamed the “Stop and Turn” device, it is a 30-inch screen hung portrait fashion in a custom mount. The content on this screen is all very short (3-5 seconds), bright colors, and designed to catch the eye of customers as they walk into the post office. It’s also very direct in its messages. “Jump the line. Ship packages at the APC.” Or, “Get out of line. Buy stamps at vending.”

In addition to 2,500 APCs, the Postal Service offers 70,000 alternate access locations where customers can buy stamps or mail packages without ever setting foot in a Post Office. This includes supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores, ATMs and a robust online commerce site at usps.com.

We established four key metrics for our digital signage test: revenue lift in products promoted on the screens, actual and perceived wait time in line, customer satisfaction and shift to alternate access. For the fourth metric, we defined success in three ways:

* Re-direct traffic away from full-service
* Increase number of customers using self-service options (APCs and vending machines)
* Increase awareness and usage of alternate access channels for purchasing stamps and other simple transactions

The shift to alternate access channels was the most successful result in the test. The Post Office Channel had a positive impact on redirecting customers to in-store self-service options. Customers who saw the Stop and Turn screen were more likely to use vending (8.7% vs. 6.5%) and the APC (7.4% vs. 3.4%).

We also tracked revenue changes in the test sites as compared to alternate access locations within a five-mile radius. We measured customer awareness of the availability of alternate access locations before we installed the digital signage and again post-installation and found that awareness rose by 22 percent. Revenue from stamp sales declined at the test sites and increased at alternate access locations within the five-mile trade area, indicating that customers were getting the message that they did not have to come to the Post Office to complete a simple transaction such as buying stamps.

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