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QR Codes in the Mail

Remember last year’s USPS QR Code promotion? During the summer of 2011, the Postal Service offered mailers a 3% discount on Standard Mail and First-Class Mail® letters and flats that included a mobile 2D barcode, including QR Codes, SnapTags, Microsoft Tags and other mobile barcodes that, when scanned, can direct an otherwise passive customer to take immediate action – make a purchase, register for an event, or download a coupon. Readable by a smartphone with a 2D barcode reader app, these mobile barcodes make print interactive. The promotion ran during the months of July and August 2011.

Well, there is a proposal afloat to repeat the promotion again in 2012. The exact nature of the program is still being developed and needs regulatory approval. According to a recent article in Direct Marketing News, USPS VP of domestic products, Gary Reblin, said, “We’ve studied best practices; we’re going to take what we learned from the last one and be more specific.”

Last year, according to the report the USPS submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), the primary intent of the Mobile Barcode Promotion was to generate awareness of how mobile technology can be integrated into mail campaigns.  The report further states, “Customer participation in the promotion greatly exceeded the initial expectations of the Postal Service, meeting the primary goal of increasing awareness.”

While the USPS declined to provide metrics that would indicate whether this promotion actually increased mail volume, it did submit some specific data to the PRC which is public information. This submission revealed that the vast majority of the mail pieces included in the program was commercial Standard Mail, with about 13% of total mail pieces in the program being comprised of First Class and Non Profit mail. More than 5 billion mail pieces were included in the program, which added up to discounts of more than $34 million.

We’ll keep an eye out for more details about this year’s program, which goes before the PRC on February 8th. Two key benefits for mailers in participating in this program are, obviously, the ability to take advantage of a postal discount, which in light of rising postal costs, is not trivial; and secondly, receiving these discounts in exchange for implementing a leading edge technology that better integrates mail into the modern media mix, making it interactive and, perhaps more importantly, more trackable. Adding 2D barcodes means mailers can verify, in real time, who actually took advantage of the offers with data that includes how many recipients scanned the barcodes and how many of those actually took the action requested in the mail piece—cashing in a coupon, providing data about themselves, watching a video or otherwise interacting with the mailer’s content and/or products.

Did you participate in this program last year?  If so, we would love to hear from you about specific results you achieved, and what your thoughts are about a 2012 program!

Posted by: Cary Sherburne Cary Sherburne in Cross-Media Marketing
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