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PostalVision2020 showcases innovation in addressing and payment. Sean Madden (pictured above) addresses the conference as Charles Prescott of the Global Address and Data Association, Chris Sheldrick of What 3 Words, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Jody Berenblatt of GrayHair Advisors (pictured left to right) share their vision of innovation. 


Postal Consulting Services President, Kathy Siviter, reviews PostalVision 2020/5.0 as part six in a nine part series.



Last week’s PostalVision 2020 conference did not just deal with global shipping and logistics, but also looked at new innovations in the addressing and payment arenas. A panel consisting of Charles Prescott, Global Address Data Association (GADA); Jody Berenblatt, Grayhair Advisors; Sean Madden, Ziba Signet; Christ Sheldrick, What 3 Words; and Marshall Van Alstyne, Redeemable Digital Stamps; discussed the latest developments and some great entrepreneurial ideas.


Prescott told the PV2020 group that the address is a key area for innovation, with many countries in the world having no official delivery address beyond the village/town level, which means those residents are semi-excluded from ecommerce because the only way to get parcels delivered to them is using descriptive and unwieldy addresses. GADA has worked with the UPU, he said, to develop a competition around addressing innovation. What 3 Words is one of the entrants for the competition, Prescott said, noting that proposals are in the process of being judged with a large number of entries from around the world.  The winner of the competition will be revealed at the UPU Addressing Conference to be held in October, and he said he hopes to see developments from the competition presented to generate more ideas about addressing.


Chris Sheldrick from What 3 Words, who has no postal background, gave an overview of his entree into the UPU addressing competition. He noted that about 75% of the world currently has inadequate, poor, or no address systems, with 4 billion people having no address. He said the concept of using GPS coordinates in lieu of an address proved to be too complex as senders/receivers would get the digits wrong and then be nowhere near the correct delivery address. What 3 Words (http://what3words.com) has developed a system where it mapped the globe into 57 trillion 3-meter-square grids and assigned each grid a 3-word address. Studies have shown there is a much higher immediate memory span for words than for digits or letters, Sheldrick said. So each grid has a 3- word label such as “Gazed. Across. Like,” which What 3 Words has replicated in a variety of languages. Residents have no trouble remembering the 3 words, and the data underlying the system is matched up with GPS coordinates and can be incorporated into digital apps for shippers to use. Sheldrick said many governments are struggling with addressing and don’t want to spend tens of millions and many years to get a proper street addressing system up and running. What 3 Words is having discussions with some foreign posts, he said, but it may be a commercial firm in the U.S. who first tries the concept out, getting geographic saturation in one area to show it works and then going from there.


Madden told the PV2020 group that Signet is working to make shipping more human by working on how to make shipping easier for the sender and more of an emotional experience. He shared a concept video where the customer journey is mapped out and each moment assessed as evoking either love or pain. The current shipping experience has love points in the sending process, he said, but pain points in the part where the functional shipping process is determined. There is an emotional high when the package is received and the sender gets a thanks. With Signet’s platform, Madden said, both the sender and receiver get an alert so they can start a communication around the package which he said is not really about the box or shipper, it’s about the sender and receiver. The receiver can take more control than today in terms of selecting options to expedite shipping and pay more, re-route or re-direct packages, etc. A digital stamping tool, which takes its influence from old wax seals, is applied to the parcel before it goes to the carrier and the digital experience allows the user to add information along the way.


Van Alstyne said that the three most famous brands in the world – Amazon, Apple and Google – have grown fast, not using advertising alone for brand recognition. He said all use interactivity (click through) as a metric of user engagement. Google gauges effectiveness of its ads based on click through rates, he said, as does FaceBook and Twitter. Google alone rakes in more advertising dollars than the total of all print media in the U.S., he said. It is imperative that we let recipients express their preferences and get data/feedback to drive improvement, Van Alstyne told the PV2020 group. No amount of data analytics on process improvements alone will solve the USPS’ revenue problems, he said, but there are opportunities for information flows to be built along with monetary flows and physical capacity across the platform, done with ecosystem partners.


Consider a new kind of stamp, Van Alstyne told the PV2020 group, which captures information. Something like a QR code can contain massive amounts of data, he said, and there are more elegant designs available. The sender, recipient, content, date and more can be included in the code. He gave the example of a credit card solicitation where the customer is given a small amount of money (a coin) to respond to the offer, with all the information contained in the QR code. If the recipient likes the offer they can activate it, if not, they can say why. If they don’t respond for a nickel, try a higher amount. Or what about viral ads where a restaurant could offer 8-cents if the recipient forwards the offer to their friends in the same geographic area. The ad could be self-propagating, traced via social networks, and auto archived to be redeemed at the store. What about one that gathers subscriber information, like offering 10-cents plus a subscriber discount coupon for a publication.  There are advantages for consumers, advertisers, and platform providers, Van Alstyne said.


Berenblatt told the PV2020 group that GrayHair Advisors is a business focusing on practical things that can make a difference. She suggested that “when” could be the new “where” in a performance-based delivery model where an address is no longer just a single location. Addressing is now conditional; the place will depend on the time. It could be as simple as ordering a pizza to the park for a picnic. She noted that the iPhone was introduced shortly after a 2006 law (PAEA) changed communication forever. She cited the example of an app introduced just a couple of weeks ago; “Magic” allows users to send a simple text message, free form, asking for anything they want. Magic got 15,000 requests in the first 48 hours demonstrating that there is a growing demand for all kinds of delivery services.


There are more unique people today than there are unique names, Berenblatt said, and businesses are struggling to figure out who a person is. Legacy systems can’t grow fast enough to keep up with the explosion of data available today about an individual consumer, and keeping track is really not easy, she said. Preferences can help, and establishing them is easy; we do it on phones and apps, but individually.  Customers expect businesses to listen and learn what they like. There are more data elements providing more details. Most large mailers were not born yesterday, she noted, and their legacy systems can’t easily adapt to the changes. What about a new app called “say when” that takes the consumer’s preferences into account; consolidating the preferences for anything they want delivered. There are no technical obstacles to creating any of the things being discussed at the conference, Berenblatt said, inviting PV2020 attendees to join GrayHair Advisors on a journey to bring some of the ideas to reality.


Individual speakers’ presentation slides may be viewed here and Google Hangout full conference video here.


By Kathy Sivitar

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