While there’s been a lot of bad news surrounding the United States Postal Service lately, a heightened level of innovation exists both within the postal service and externally in an attempt to transform the organization, as well as the concept of mail delivery itself. This past June, the PostalVision 2020 conference in Washington, D.C. brought together senior USPS personnel, technologists, analysts, and journalists to openly discuss the future strategic direction of the postal service under the premise of what it should look like in the year 2020. Many companies are engaged in laying down the building blocks of what could potentially be the future of mail distribution and delivery for the United States and even abroad: digital mailboxes.
The concept of a digital mailbox or digital mail delivery is certainly not new. In the enterprise, vendors like Esker, Océ, and Pitney Bowes offer digital mail delivery solutions whereby each piece of mail that comes into the company is scanned and delivered electronically to employee recipients. EarthClassMail is an early service for smaller businesses and consumers that also scans and manages mail. With a mix of new entrants and existing players, there is aggressive development of digital mailbox services for consumers, designed to reach every household in the United States, just like the USPS. There are a number of key players to watch in this space:
- Accenture, the worldwide consulting and outsourcing firm, is taking the approach of partnering directly with national postal services to help them develop digital mailbox services. It has clearly stated it is aiming to help global posts design their own services to compete directly against some of the independent digital mailbox services listed below.
- doxo is a technology start-up that takes a broad approach to the digital mailbox, enabling users to not only import electronic bills and statements, but also many other types of documents that can either be uploaded or scanned in via its mobile phone application.
- Manilla, started by Hearst Corporation, provides access to over 1,000 companies to enable users to consolidate and manage bills and loyalty programs, including major wireless carriers, cable & satellite TV providers, utilities, financial companies, airlines, and more. Certified Manilla partners can also present targeted advertisements to Manilla users alongside the sender’s content, which offers an intriguing TransPromo play.
- Pitney Bowes announced its Volly digital mailbox offering at the beginning of 2011, although the offering is still in beta. According to my colleague Matt Swain’s blog post on the service after its announcement, “Think of Volly as an extension of a conventional consumer bill consolidation model, incorporating other types of mail into the same platform.” There is no doubt that PB will be highlighting Volly at Graph Expo this year.
- Zumbox, another technology start-up, has made waves recently with its million-dollar giveaway contest to get people signed up for its service. The company has a unique twist on its service in that it uses your physical mail address as your digital mailbox address, as well. Like others, its concept is to digitally centralize the management of all mail being sent to a household.
There is a great deal of innovation occurring in this space right now, and considering the rapid pace of technology proliferation and adoption these days, it would not be surprising if these companies and their services make a big splash in the near future. InfoTrends is investigating this market right now, currently conducting a research study entitled The Emergence of Digital Mailbox Services: Moving Beyond Online Bill Consolidation in the U.S. This research initiative will identify the opportunity for secure digital mailbox services in the U.S. and will include a growth projection through 2015. I’m excited to see how this space shapes up, as these services could have a major influence on how we delivery, accept, and manage our mail.