Back in November, I covered some takeaways from the latest USPS Informed Delivery report (“Informed Delivery Year in Review June 2020–June 2021”), including updates such as the addition of reminders, social media (Facebook) sharing, and the same digital marketing options for packages as for direct mail. These updates come on the heels of the option to replace the default grayscale scans with full-color representative images (essentially digital ads).

All of this sounds great…or is it?

What has made Informed Delivery so effective is that it offers something that people love, a behind the scenes look at their upcoming mail. There is a thrill to having this advance knowledge. It’s a human thing. We thrive on that feeling of being “in the know” and having inside information. However, the USPS has found that, even with these expanded features, the percent of ID users saying they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the service is not growing. Year over year, user satisfaction has remained unchanged at 86%. Furthermore, the percentage of subscribers saying that they would recommend Informed Delivery to family and friends has decreased since last year—from 93% saying they would recommend it to 90%.

What’s up with that? More features, more color, and more interactivity should equal higher satisfaction, right? Not necessarily.

One year ago, when the full-color representative image option was new, it wasn’t faring so well. In fact, the USPS found that Informed Delivery campaigns using grayscale images had click-to-open rates 13% higher, on average, than those using the full-color representative images. When I wrote about this finding back in October, here was my observation:

These results are counter-intuitive, but they give us insight into an interesting dynamic. Mail recipients sign up for the service because want to see what mail is arriving in their mailboxes each day. They aren’t expecting to see advertisements, which is exactly what the representative images are. It may be that subscribers don’t like it.

In the latest quarterly update, the USPS reports that the click-to-open rates for campaigns with full-color representative images have now exceeded those using the grayscale scans—1.3% vs. 1.0%. But with the satisfaction rates for Informed Delivery remaining static and the willingness to recommend actually dropping, that’s clearly not the whole story.

We see the makings of trouble when we look at the Daily Digest open rates, as well. Open rates have dropped from 86.8% in June 2020 to 63.7% in June 2021. While still 2.5x higher than the “industry average” (as the USPS points out), keep in mind that “industry average” rates are for promotional emails and newsletters. We would expect ID email digests to have open rates more in line with account updates and transactional communications, where the averages are (80%–85%). If we consider ID Daily Digest emails in this category, open rates have dropped below category averages and are headed in the direction of marketing communications instead.

What does this tell us? It tells us, potentially, that instead of seeing Informed Delivery as a fun and value-added service for their mail, postal customers are starting to see it as just another promotional email they receive every day.

Over time, it will be interesting to see which direction the data will trend, so let’s keep an eye on those quarterly updates. As the new features roll out and Informed Delivery continues to become more fully featured, let's watch to see what happens. Will the email open rates and customer satisfaction numbers start to bounce back? Or will they continue to drop as Informed Delivery starts to look more and more like every other marketing email in people’s inboxes?