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Technology Will Transform the Future of Mail

I recently had the privilege of participating in a roundtable panel discussion at the PostalVision 2020/5.0 Conference in Pentagon City, Virginia. This conference drew high-level leaders from both public and private posts from around the globe, as well as regulators and congressional staffers.

The topic of our session was “E-Commerce Delivery Innovation” and I was able to share my thoughts via a brief presentation before participating in the discussion with executives from Keba, Swapbox and DHL Germany.

My message to the assembled guests is that despite the decline in mail volume, postal operations can leverage new technology to jump on the proverbial e-commerce bandwagon and pick up more business in parcel handling and sorting.

First of all, I reassured the participants that paper mail is not going away. Due to email and other communications channels, mail volume continues to decrease worldwide, but at a slower rate than previously. Current estimates are that we will see an average annual decline between 3% and 4% over the next few years.

However, many consumers still wish to receive their bills, statements, catalogs, etc., by mail. The U.S. Postal Service continues to process between 45 and 50 billion pieces of First Class mail every year. In fact, direct mail is rising between 1% and 2% every year, and we are seeing the emergence of multichannel (paper and digital) marketing.

Technology will be at the center of the movement to increase the value of paper mail by making it more interactive and digital-friendly. Think of QR codes on direct mailpieces that, when scanned with a mobile device, can lead the consumer to online content. Think of advances in geofencing that can add coupons to an envelope based on a business address and radius, or alert route drivers of pickups/deliveries in an area by having packages glow or labels chirp. The global economy will drive geocoding for greater delivery efficiency and perhaps a global addressing system based on longitude and latitude. Near-field and GPS technology can lead to augmented reality, where scanning an address or map could guide you to your destination via an onscreen display.

Other innovations include video postcards that use organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and polymers than allow for flexible screens. Reverse envelopes – with a reverse, inverted or bottom flap – allow for additional marketing space and digital color printing.

Regarding other trends that will affect the future of mail, I relayed my predictions that privatization of posts will continue to occur, that home delivery will change due to days of service and more cluster mailboxes, and that more homes and businesses will rent or purchase parcel lockers.

I am proud to say that Bell and Howell is leading the charge of adapting technologies and processes developed for paper mail to the expanding field of e-commerce fulfilment. We strongly advocate for increasing the value of paper mail by making it more interactive and digital-friendly. We have always been involved in customer transactions, pioneered wrapping technology, and have been at the forefront of automated document factories (ADFs).

As the global mail industry continues to evolve, we are using technology to help many of our customers migrate from paper mail to e-commerce. Our products like CartonWrap, ParcelMgr and high-throughput print-and-apply labelers are already helping clients improve efficiency, save money, and reduce waste.

The proliferation of the Internet has spurred a surge in online purchases, but at the end of the day products still need to be processed and shipped. There is room for all global posts to thrive in this new reality if they make the necessary technological adaptations to accommodate e-commerce.

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Ballot sorter aims for better and faster efficiency.

KTVL CBS Channel 10 :: Medford – News – Top Stories – Ballot sorter aims for better and faster efficiency.

By Ashley Carrasco / KTVL.COM MEFORD – Election day is just around the corner and a machine given to Jackson County is expected to speed up the way your ballot is handled. The Bell and Howell, LLC, Apex Elevate Sorter, separates each ballot into a heavy precinct order.Jackson County Clerk, Chris Walker says, the machine is crucial for Jackson County because it is one of the larger counties in the U.S. with very little employees. “It helps the counties to be able to produce in a faster manner, in a more accurate manner, less handling of people of the ballots themselves.” Jackson County is responsible to pay for annual maintenance costs.Walker explains, this goes for any software or equipment. Wednesday, May 14, 2014, Jackson County Board of Commissioners are expected to approve the budgeted amount for equipment service costs.

Deputy postmaster general visits Bell and Howell at NPF 2014

Deputy postmaster general Ron Strohman visits Bell and Howell booth #2111 at NPF and checks out the Criterion Apex® DM sorting system with Chris Lien, VP/GM BCC Software and Bill Krall, VP of Sales.

Deputy postmaster general

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Putting the smart phone in your multi-channel marketing plan

The customer communication market is rapidly evolving from a print and mail industry to a true multi-channel industry.  The businesses that will drive and lead the transition are those that will bring to market new technologies and services that leverage digital channels as part of a single, integrated messaging architecture.  Many have already developed their own Web portals or integrated with consolidation services, but very few have developed solutions that leverage the fastest growing and most readily available technology – the smart mobile device.

The challenges facing many mailers in making this transition are expertise, budget and resources.  These challenges are preventing most companies from moving beyond the strategy stage into the implementation stage – and further delaying their ability to stay relevant with customers, lower communication costs and speed response times.

Expertise needed to develop mobile technologies is different from Web solutions expertise. Unlike web solutions, mobile-savvy technologists must develop for various mobile platforms, manage the security of information in transit and at rest on a device, and optimize and simplify the user experience within the confines of a much smaller interface.  Added to these challenges are the costs and time to develop (or hire) this expertise; costs which are typically not factored into budgets.

The final challenge companies’ face when trying to plan a mobile and digital strategy is protecting their brand and the relationships they have built with their clients.  Most billers and statement providers want to control the dialog and messages a client will consume while viewing and interacting with their monthly statement or personalized marketing promotion – and not send their most trusted assets (clients) to another branded environment to be exposed to other promotions, services, and revenue-generating offers.

This is why Bell and Howell developed a secure, hosted and brandable platform for enabling communication providers to offer next-generation mobile messaging services to their customers for a low cost and with minimal effort. Similar to the business value of using and not building an email marketing tool or a customer relationship and contact management system, BH MobileMail allows a communication provider to expand and build deeper client relationships with a personalized one-to-one mobile app service that aligns with a consumers preferred technology – a smart mobile device.

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