Millennials are standing around a Post Office box. One has a letter in his hand, and another has a package. Of course there's one riding a bike, and two are walking a dog. There's quite a few who appear to have trendy hairstyles and  skinny jeans.

There's only one problem.

Millennials are not using the post office. In fact, in a report that attempts to explain how Millennials are using the mail and how the USPS can appeal to them again, many of the findings seem like they are a total shot in the dark.

Here's a screenshot of the cartoonish image they created:

In my experience, most post offices are a little dead these days. Middle-age folks buying a few stamps, a few younger people picking up packages.

While every age group loves Amazon, the idea of buying stamps and sending letters died out years ago. In the USPS report, a few grim details emerge. Millennials in the age group of 18-34 used to receive 17 pieces of mail per week in 2001 but now receive only 10 per week, per the report. Most of the "ideation" in the report centers around rewards, loyalty programs, and making it easier to buy stamps anywhere.

And yet, I can't help feeling as though a third-party marketing agency conducted the study and wrote the report. The writing is overly optimistic. There are call-out quotes sprinkled throughout, cheery notes about how Millennials love getting coupons in the mail. (This makes me wonder because most Millennials I know tend to use coupons on their phone and don't bother with physical copies.) Another quote says "it's convenience and habit that keeps me going to the USPS." Sure, makes sense. If it was 1989.

The problem is that the USPS has lost relevance with this age group, and figuring out what to do next will be a great challenge. Digital communication has replaced thank you notes and letters, despite what the research "reveals" about younger customers. What would have been far more interesting is a report about how the USPS plans to expand in terms of offering digital services to reach people who have already made it abundantly clear that they don't care about junk mail, coupons and letters, and how they plan to compete with Amazon (which uses the Postal Service but has a corner on ease and efficiency).

There's a curious note about how one Millennial they profiled prefers online billing. Really? You don't need to talk to 3,891 people to know that's a trend. In fact, the entire report reads like a desperation move, including the opening story about how Millennials send mail. The picture of everyone crowding around the post office? Surreal at best.

So what will actually work?

For starters, a renewed focus on packages. The delivery of physical goods to your doorstep will only become more and more of a trend, so making that the priority (no pun intended) should help. Millennials do want convenience, but they are smart enough to know when they are being gouged and when convenience is not worth the high costs.

And, more than anything, skip the goofiness. The report doesn't really do much other than make it seem like the problem is insurmountable, and some of the solutions seems like they are dated or downright backwards. It would be better to figure out how to make the post office relevant again. Install kiosks to make shipping easier, streamline the package sending process (no more lines, ever), and come up with new ways to attract Millennials.

And, skip the goofy cartoons.

Published on: Aug 6, 2018