USPS Informed Delivery Color Marketing Option: Is It Worth It?

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The informed delivery service of the United States Postal Service is not only increasing the number of subscribers, but it is also expanding in services. Its interactive campaigns now offer marketers the option of replacing the grayscale analysis automatically provided with the service with a color “representative” image of each mail item. But is this an option that shippers should be rushing to adopt?

In a previous article, I focused on the growth of the United States Postal Service’s Informed Delivery, a free service that provides recipients with an overview via email, in-app, or on the mail dashboard. arriving in their mailbox every day. Not only is informed delivery growing in number of subscribers, it is also growing in services. Of particular interest to me is the expansion of its interactive campaigns, which allow marketers to replace the grayscale scans that automatically come with informed delivery with “representative” color images of each mail item. (This article assumes knowledge of informed delivery service basics. To learn more about informed delivery, click here.)

Generally, color is better than grayscale. But is this an option that shippers should be rushing to adopt?

The USPS has long allowed marketers to add a small color image (advertisement) and campaign hyperlink below the grayscale image to create multi-channel campaigns. Subscribers can click on the hyperlink or accompanying image to respond to the offer before the physical part arrives. These campaigns not only allow Informed Delivery subscribers to respond to campaigns immediately, but also provide the sender with metrics, giving them insight into the effectiveness of the campaign.

The USPS has now extended interactive campaigns to allow marketers to replace the grayscale image with a “representative” color image of the actual part. Representative images lack the address box, providing more space for messaging and design, and allowing senders to split test offers.

While replacing grayscale images with color images might seem like a slam dunk (color images always get better response rates than grayscale images, don’t they?) is not necessarily the case.

In a case study provided by USPS, a marketer, Bono’s Pit Bar-BQ, a Florida-based restaurant chain, produced an interactive Informed Delivery campaign that included a $ 10 off offer. Using the split test option, Bono’s chose to test the normal grayscale scan against the representative color image. Both had the same $ 10 offer and the accompanying image and color hyperlink.

While we might expect the color image to significantly outperform the grayscale image, the reverse was true. Grayscale analysis surpassed the representative color image by 35%.

Bono’s attributed this surprising result to the color of the image which detracted from the colorful banner / response URL below the image. Instead of the image and hyperlink breaking away from the grayscale image, Bono surmised, allowing them to grab attention and encourage response, they simply blended into the image by color and could be overlooked. It is certainly a possibility. However, the other possibility is that the representative image looks too much like an advertisement, making it depressed reply. In fact, after comparing the response rates of thousands of Informed Delivery campaigns, the USPS found that representative color images consistently underperform their grayscale counterparts. Specifically, campaigns using grayscale images have 13% higher click-to-open rates than those using color images.

These results are counterintuitive, but they give us a glimpse of an interesting dynamic. Mail recipients sign up for the service because they want to see what mail arrives in their mailbox each day. They don’t expect to see advertisements, which is exactly what representative images are. Subscribers may not like it. The fact that Bono’s experience mirrors that of many other traders in the USPS analysis suggests that this is more than a color image degradation issue. There may be something deeper.

What do you think? I would love to hear from other shippers who have created test campaigns and have experience with representative grayscale and color images. Which one worked best for you?


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