“Modes of Delivery” Survey by OIG Very Important to Nonprofits

April 28, 2015

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the United States Postal Service (USPS) often plays a critically important role in performing market research and analysis. A report issued recently titled “Modes of Delivery and Customer Engagement with Advertising Mail” is well worth reading. “Mode of delivery” refers to whether mail is delivered to the household at the door, in a curbside box, or in a neighborhood cluster box.

The survey of 5,000 households was performed by InfoTrends, Inc. and was analyzed by Professor Michael Bradley of George Washington University. It found that there are significant differences in the degree of recipient engagement according to the mode of postal delivery. The key findings are summarized as: “Advertising mail delivered to a recipient’s door generates higher ‘read and response’ rates than advertising mail delivered to the curbside or a neighborhood cluster box. Door delivery customers also are less likely to throw their ad mail away than customers with curb or cluster box delivery.”

In fact, the self-reported differences are dramatic. And nonprofits should take note because solicitations for donations was one of seven categories of mail that the survey studied:

  1. Advertising mail from local companies I do business with.
  2. Advertising mail from national companies I do business with.
  3. Advertising mail from companies I do not do business with.
  4. Donation Solicitations.
  5. Credit Card Solicitations.
  6. Catalogs.
  7. Mail that includes a coupon.

Households were given four options to describe how they handle the advertising mail they receive:

  1. Read and respond to the mail.
  2. Read and throw away the mail.
  3. Set the mail aside for later use.
  4. Throw away the mail without reading it.

For donation solicitations, the survey found “read and respond” rates of 4 percent for cluster boxes, 5 percent for curbside boxes, and 12 percent for door delivery. This is clearly a material difference that holds great importance for the future trend in modes of delivery.

As the postal oversight committees in Congress gear up for another attempt at reform legislation, modes of delivery are sure to be on the table as potential cost cutting elements that the USPS has advocated for some time. It is very important that the tradeoff in the value and return on investment in mail be part of the decision whether to pursue more movement away from the door.

Here is the conclusion of the modes of delivery report:

“As the Postal Service contemplates a move to more cluster box deliveries, an important strategic question to investigate is whether the type of mail receptacle could influence the way in which postal customers interact with the advertising mail they receive. This paper has examined this issue using data from a new survey commissioned by the OIG and conducted by InfoTrends as well as two previous surveys managed by the Postal Service. All three surveys were designed to be representative of the U.S. population and stratified by key demographic elements.

Results from extensive data analyses indicate that cluster box recipients had significantly lower read and respond rates than door recipients for all types of advertising mail. In a number of instances, the cluster box read and respond rates were half of those for door recipients. Cluster box recipients also had higher discard without reading rates than door recipients.

Analysis of data from two other surveys commissioned by the Postal Service corroborated the main results from the OIG-InfoTrends survey.

To verify that the lower read and respond rates for cluster box recipients were not due to another variable such as household age, income, type of residence, gender, population density, or Internet access, subsequent analyses with rigorous statistical testing were performed. In all cases, the evidence indicated that the reported differences in read and respond rates were not due to alternative demographic or attitudinal variables.”

The OIG is inviting comments on this important issue at its blog: Ad Mail Delivery: The Closer the Better.

The Alliance will keep involved in this important issue to ensure that the interests of nonprofit mailers are represented.

(c) 2015 Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers