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U.S. Postal Service Focuses On Delivering Holiday Gifts On Time

By Alicia Fiorletta

Retail TouchPoints - November 6, 2013

During the holiday season, retailers are competing for consumers’ eyes and dollars by offering a plethora of sales, door-busters and giveaways.

However, mail and package delivery organizations, such as the United States Postal Service (USPS), also compete for consumer attention during this pivotal time of year.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, USPS expects to process approximately 600 million pieces of mail a day and deliver more than 15 billion pieces of mail and packages worldwide. Completing this task requires more than 170,000 vehicles.

To compete with FedEx, UPS and other shippers, USPS is offering a series of resources through its web and mobile sites to help consumers have a hassle-free holiday season. The government agency also is rolling out new features and capabilities on the mobile app to improve the customer experience.

“This holiday season, we’re expecting to serve approximately 63 million customers online,” said Beth Fluto, Manager of USPS.com, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We also expect five million smartphone app downloads. We serve a big chunk of the U.S. market online and our whole focus is the convenience of doing things online instead of going to the post office and waiting.”

As part of the focus on convenience, USPS will offer online shipping labels that consumers can download and print to save 6%, Fluto explained. USPS also will publish a schedule online that spotlights free package pickup days, which allows consumers to plan their deliveries more efficiently. Currently, USPS offers a tool that allows consumers to schedule free package pick-up, as well.

Reducing Holiday Stress

The USPS holiday web site, which is scheduled to launch on Nov. 18, also will offer a series of tips “to help customers get through the holidays easily and conveniently,” Fluto added. For example, a calendar of mailing and shipping dates, as well as express mail dates, will let consumers know when they should expect their packages to be delivered to friends and family.

Although USPS is still finalizing the overall design for the holiday site, “reliability” will be a major theme, according to Fluto. “Shipping Christmas presents is a very personal experience. It is very important that consumers get gifts to their loved ones on time,” she said. That is why USPS is focused on showing that “we can be convenient but also get packages to your loved ones in a reliable way.”

Holiday packaging tips and other informative tutorials will be offered on the web and mobile sites to help “de-stress” time-starved consumers, Fluto noted. An updated USPS package tracking and progress bar also will help improve customer sentiment. “Since we updated our tracking and offered quick tools on USPS.com, we have seen a 12-point customer satisfaction boost.”

USPS also partnered with TransPerfect to translate the site in Spanish and Chinese, making the online experience more convenient for certain consumers. "We actually have had approximately three million pages where people have chosen to have pages interpreted in Spanish, and close to a million in Chinese," Fluto said. "With the public we serve, these languages are the most needed. Adding translations to the mobile experience is something else that we're exploring becuase it's part of our policy to expand to as many people and channels as we can. We call this our digital diversity policy."

Improved Mobile Experience

USPS initially launched its mobile site “a few years ago,” but the agency is in the process of redesigning the experience for Android and iPhone smartphones, as well as transferring the experience to responsive design, according to Fluto.

“We understand that for the most part, people are using phones more than desktops these days,” Fluto said. Using the app, consumers can find nearby post offices, look up package tracking information, scan packages, and access a price calculator, in addition to other features and capabilities.

To promote the improved mobile offerings, USPS will send out a mailer “to the majority of our customers, so about a couple hundred million,” Fluto reported. A QR code will be included in the mailer, which will take consumers to the mobile version of the holiday site when they scan it. “We’re reaching out to customers in the channels they prefer to use, and are using modern technology to strengthen the power of our traditional services.”