I have been paying close attention to the Royal Mail strike saga that had occupied most of 2009. The confontation between the union and Royal Mail started early in the year when the chairman of Royal Mail’s pension trustees considered plans to close its retirement schemes to existing members after legislation to part-privatise the postal service was blocked.
The ensuing strikes in the next few months created havoc for the postal system, with mail order businesses being affected. I could only imagine the head ache that this would cause to anyone trying to run direct mail campaigns when your timing is uncertain.With Christmas around the corner, the union and Royal Mail had just this Friday agreed to a cease fire for the next two months with continued discussion being planned in the new year.
Being a direct mail geek, I always have a soft spot for institutions like Royal Mail and Australia Post. For Royal Mail in particular, you can understand why it was keen to slash expenses any way it can. In a number of ways it had been harmstrung by increased competition within the letters/ mailing industry. Royal Mail’s charter will not allow Royal Mail to monopolise the industry in any way, thus they were forced to watch as private companies had cream off the more profitable part of the industry generated by organisations with large volume of mail. With the high end part of the business being saturated and the low end of the business being costly to maintain and acquire, RM had been concentrating its effort on the SME sector.
Mailshots Online was a rather clever brainchild that married the best of Royal Mail’s delivery strength with the significant drop in price in digital print. The idea is simple, it allows SMEs to create direct marketing pieces, with a turn around time of 24 hours with a minimum volume of 1 (depending on the format chosen). In addition to the mailing functionality, Royal Mail has plugged their address database into the back end of the system, allowing business owners to purchase mailing list as part of the process.
The idea isn’t new and Australia Post’s eLetter Solution had predate Mailshots Online by a good 18 months. I think part of the issue with this service offering is that ironically Royal Mail and Australia Post are not too sure how to market the product to SMEs. Aside from one off trade shows and individual effort by BDMs as well as their own website, I have yet to see a great deal of excitement generated by what I would consider exceptional product offering.
Perhaps it is too early in the product lifecyle with only a number of innovators willing to try it, I guess only time will tell.