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Introducing USPS Connect Local

MRM, Salt Lake City / UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE / 2023

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Overview

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Overview

Background

By early 2021, roughly 30% of small businesses in the US had closed since the pandemic’s start.

One culprit: A COVID-19-triggered surge in e-commerce meant more Americans were shopping online and fewer were buying from neighborhood merchants.

Local businesses began scrambling to create online storefronts. But physical goods still needed physical delivery, and delivery costs ate away at profits.

Local merchants weren’t alone in seeing declining sales. USPS’s delivery business was substantially threatened by competing services. They had lost $87 billion in 14 years, prompting the Postmaster General to declare “Our organization is in crisis.”

But in crisis was opportunity: USPS could come to the rescue of neighborhood merchants while bolstering their own business and brand. The objective: Make affordable next-day and same-day delivery possible for every small business in America.

But there was a significant barrier: USPS was operationally unprepared to be the local partner small merchants needed.

Idea

USPS’s challenges are complex and national.

The idea: Combat these challenges by thinking simple and local.

USPS applied creativity not just to developing a campaign, but to designing a new product experience. The concept document envisioned how USPS could create the most competitive local delivery service in the US by rethinking how they use local assets:

- One of the world’s best last-mile delivery networks, reaching 160+ million addresses daily.

- America’s largest retail network, with more locations than Starbucks or McDonald’s.

But raw capability wouldn’t guarantee success. They had to rethink the entire product experience from the merchants’ POV and simplify every part of the process, from sign-up to package drop-off.

The real breakthrough, however, was realizing that merchants weren’t the only locals who mattered.

Any new product had to be launched and nurtured by local USPS staff at a time when the organization faced significant worker shortages.

Strategy

Their strategy was born from an aha moment around the idea that USPS’s unrivaled national assets are also local assets. The largest delivery network in the world—and the fact that they already deliver to 160+ million addresses 6 and sometimes 7 days a week—made them uniquely able to offer same-day or next-day delivery to neighborhood businesses.

This initial insight formed the core of an idea that was fleshed out through research covering:

- Operational changes needed to turn raw capability into actual competency.

- Product experience design from the POV of time- and cash-strapped local businesses, who needed simplicity, reliability, and affordability.

- Product experience design from the POV of USPS staff charged with rolling out the new product, who needed as close to a turnkey solution as possible.

Execution

The concept document became USPS Connect Local, a revolutionary new product for USPS aimed at making next-day and same-day delivery feasible for every neighborhood business in America.

To ensure a successful national rollout, they again started local. They piloted in 10 markets, focusing on two critical audiences: USPS staff and merchants.

Staff received everything they needed to successfully launch the new product, from comprehensive training to retail materials—signage, packaging, tape, and labels—that turned locations into local-business welcome centers.

For merchants, new “drop-and-go” areas were created for simple package drop-off. They also revamped the customer sign-up process, turning complicated paperwork into a few simple steps, and created welcome kits to onboard new businesses.

They then created a fully integrated campaign—including direct mail, digital advertising, social, and web content—alerting small businesses that USPS was ready to help them thrive by meeting the new delivery expectations of their customers.

Outcome

The success of USPS Connect Local is evidenced in one word: Scale. The 10-market pilot turned into a new product—and a completely new way for neighborhood businesses to experience the USPS brand. USPS Connect Local is currently available in 50 states and the District of Columbia and more than 27,000 customers have registered so far. There are nearly 3,500 offices in the program nationally.

Results from the pilot validated that next-day and same-day delivery is possible for even the smallest neighborhood businesses—and helped prove that USPS can transform into the faster, more flexible, more customer-focused partner that America needs.

Every package shipped through USPS Connect Local:

- Solidifies a neighborhood business’s relationship with their local customers.

- Solidifies the merchant’s relationship with USPS.

- Increases the organization’s high-margin deliveries and overall delivery volume, which is critical for USPS to reach their goal of generating positive net income by 2024.

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