Shutterfly: Why They Call It "Snail Mail"

There are several ways a company like Shutterfly can promote sales to prior customers.
  • If the company has an app, it can push a notification to the customer's smartphone. However, notifications can be blocked or can be missed among more urgent notifications.
  • The company can send an email. The benefits of this approach include very low cost to send and precisely manageable timing. The downside is that emails can fall into a spam filter or can be easily missed or ignored by the customer.
  • The company can send a letter or postcard. The benefit of this approach is that mail gets noticed. A properly created direct mail communication is interruptive without being obtrusive. In other words, it gets noticed.  The downside is that one cannot guarantee when their mail will arrive in the customer's mailbox.
That's the case with this Shutterfly Labor Day Sale postcard. It merits a Fail for Timing because I received it on September 12 -- the day after the sale ended.  

Shutterfly's postcard arrived late
Postcard Front

In an ideal world, the postcard should arrive in home on August 28, the day the sale starts. Some retailers believe sales communications should arrive 1-2 days prior to the sale so a consumer can plan to make a purchase during the sale period; however, I believe this POV comes from an outdated brick-and-mortar way of thinking. When sending a communication with a call to action to go online or use an app, it appears to me that the marketing communication should arrive at a time when a customer can immediately take action and benefit from the offer.

Shutterfly sale
Postcard Back

The postcard size is 6" x 9", which the USPS classifies as Marketing Mail. Postage charges to send a postcard of this size are the same as for letters. However, instead of spending the extra money to send it via First Class Mail, Shutterfly sent it by Standard Rate, formerly known as Bulk Rate. This is the least expensive (but slowest) delivery method available. The cost difference between Standard Rate and First Class Mail for this type of postcard is typically 12-15 cents, depending on addressee density and other factors.

Postage Indicia - Standard Rate Postcard

Unfortunately, it took the USPS two weeks to deliver from northern California to New York City. Perhaps the postcard was put into the mail in California just prior to the sale. If so, Shutterfly could benefit from dropshipping. This is a method where an independent company ships your mail by truck to a postal network distribution center close to the recipient's location. So, rather than putting the postcard in the mail in Redwood City for the USPS to send to a network distribution center in California, then to a network distribution center in Colorado, then to a network distribution center in Missouri, then to a network distribution center in — well, you get the idea — the dropshipper puts the mail in a truck and drives it directly to a sectional center facility near New York City to be sorted for the local postal carrier to bring to homes in the Big Apple

It is also possible that this postcard was, in fact, dropshipped and sat in a local sectional center facility for about two weeks. After all, the USPS is not accountable for standard rate mail delays.

  1. Your mail should arrive at a time that is relevant to the offer and consumer interest.
  2. Dropshipping has an incremental cost, but it improves timing and costs less than First Class Mail. If you are going to invest in direct mail, optimize your delivery.

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