Direct Mail News & Resources

Digital Original: Competing with the USPS

You might soon find yourself in competition with the US Postal Service (USPS) for direct mail printing. The postal service has started an affiliate program that directs its website visitors to online printers who will provide “phone or chat support for strategizing, formatting, designing, printing, preparing, and sending your mailing.” The affiliates pay a portion of the online order revenue back to USPS.

I recently noticed the changes when visiting the USPS’ Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) website. The “Find a Printer” tab on the EDDM page now sends visitors to links for six print providers that have paid to be included on the USPS site. Not only are the affiliates featured on the EDDM page, they are also highlighted on the “Advertise By Mail” page.

Customers visiting the EDDM web page prior to October 2016 would find a list of more than 550 printing companies around the country that were said to provide EDDM support. Visitors could find out about the program and then find a local printer to do the design, print, and mail preparation. According to a USPS spokesperson, the change was made because the previous listed local printers that were not approved affiliates and the non-postal list of printers was only to be used as a reference for customers.

The current companies listed are part of the USPS affiliate program chosen after a “vetting” process. The six companies pay the USPS to participate and have entered into agreements/contracts to be part of the program. When asked about the contract arrangements, the spokesperson noted the contract information was proprietary and USPS is not obligated to disclose contract details or information. It was learned that all traffic from usps.com to an affiliate page resulting in a mailing is subject to a USPS revenue share. Affiliates are required to submit a monthly detailed transaction report of new and returning customers. Revenue shares owed are based on an agreed upon amount set forth in the agreement, based on a percentage of the vendor production cost per job.

The spokesperson said USPS is working on a Mail Service Provider (MSP) Directory for brick and mortar printers to assist customers that want to use local printers. A new MSP portal residing on USPS that will allow companies like those on that third-party web page is under development and printers may apply to participate in that program when it becomes available.

When asked if the USPS considers itself in competition with the commercial printers not listed on the site, the spokesperson said no because “we don’t offer a competitive print service. All printers support the growth of mail.” The USPS says it provides the affiliate listings to help small businesses find reputable, vetted companies that may not have a printer or unsure about how to move forward with the EDDM process.

Printing associations such as Idealliance and Printing Industries of America (PIA) have been monitoring USPS practices to avoid unfair competitive practices for years. The current USPS policy of favoring some printers over others for the sake of additional revenue is going to foster distrust and is something the associations are addressing. Membership in these associations support the lobbying efforts at both the national and local levels to protect printers from unfair competition.

Direct mail services can be very profitable for a printing company and USPS wants more pieces in the mail stream. It appears USPS doesn’t believe the average print company can reach mailing customers. Printers need to both apply pressure to postal authorities to assure inclusion in USPS marketing efforts and be more proactive in selling directly to the end user. Printers better start doing a better job of selling direct mail to their customers or they could lose local mailing work to the USPS’s online printing partners.

 

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