Excitement Grows for Digital Mailbox Services

Matt Swain
Jul 10, 2012

Excitement surrounding digital mailbox services continues in the U.S. and abroad.

Recent highlights from the U.S. include:

  • Zumbox announced $10.6 million in Series C financing
  • Manilla surpassed 1 million linked accounts
  • Volly showed analysts new screen shots of its service
  • The USPS Postmaster General stated that they are not pursuing this market

Internationally, a few of the highlights include:

  • Australia Post selected Volly to power the Australia Post Digital MailBox
  • Zumbox, Computershare Ltd, and Salmat, announced Digital Post Australia
  • Canada Post is raising awareness of epost with aggressive marketing
  • The UPU continues to push forward with its .POST initiative

Here is some top-line insight and analyst perspective on these announcements:

Zumbox Gets More Funding

Zumbox announced $10.6 million in Series C financing today. The financing came from Zumbox’s CEO, John Payne, and outsourcing services provider Computershare, a strategic partner of the company in the U.S. and a joint venture partner in Australia. It is interesting to note that there are no venture capital firms involved in this round of funding and that the company’s CEO was one of the investors. The participation of Computershare could worry service bureaus (potential competitors) that want to become part of the U.S. network. That said,  if end-consumers start asking for content delivered through this service, Computershare’s stake in the company would be a non-issue for other bureaus.

Manilla Surpasses 1 Million Linked Accounts

Manilla’s announcement regarding 1 million linked accounts can be misleading if read too quickly. This is not 1 million users, but rather it is more likely to be several hundred thousand active users that are linking multiple accounts. In May, they had announced that the service had delivered 2 million bills and statements to users. While these are both great milestones, the traction is mapping closer to our lower adoption scenario for 2012 (from our recent study, entitled The Emergence of Digital Mailbox Services) and will need to pick up pace with regard to users and linked accounts to start making a significant impact on paperless delivery numbers on a large scale. The co-marketing initiative that Manilla launched with DIRECTV is a good way to drive faster paperless adoption for DIRECTV while also boosting Manilla’s user base. We expect to see more co-marketing in the second half of this year.

Volly Shares New Screen Shots

Pitney Bowes held its 2012 Technology Analyst Summit at its world headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut last month to showcase its progress in developing hardware, software and solutions. Almost every presenter throughout the day referred to Volly and its clear importance to the company’s future. While the Volly team was not showing a live demo of the service during the technology fair, they had blown up screen shots of a slightly updated look and feel and promised a complete technology demo for analysts soon. Here is what the updated “Overview” page will look like when a user is logged in.

Sample Volly Overview Page for Logged In User

A few interesting things to note from this screen shot:

  • Volly makes suggestions for providers that users are likely to have
    (e.g., a local utility)
  • There is a loyalty program within the service with Volly points
    (e.g., “You gained 15 Volly Points…”)
  • Prime viewing real estate is used to promote ways that users can get more entrenched in the service

[InfoTrends will be publishing a comprehensive review of the 2012 Pitney Bowes Technology Analyst Summit this week that includes additional commentary and insight on Volly and other key announcements.]

USPS Not Pursuing Digital Mailbox Services

InfoTrends was a strategic adviser to a June event entitled PostalVision 2020 where the USPS Postmaster General and U.S. Postal Service CEO Patrick Donahoe stated that there are already companies providing digital mailbox and bill consolidator services and that type of project is probably not for them. In fact, in laying out his plan for how to get the USPS back on track, he stated “slowing down [the migration to e-bills] will be critical to our future.” While the comment was regarding curtailing near-term losses, it is still a scary thought that this is considered strategic. For digital mailbox service providers in the U.S., the lack of interest in this market is encouraging news since the USPS carries significant name recognition and would be a strong competitor in the market if it entered.

Volly and Zumbox Battle in Australia

The Australian digital mailbox services market is going to be exciting to monitor due to the relatively small size of the country compared to the United States. The advantage is less fragmentation of the mail stream – meaning these services should be able to reach critical mass of consumer mail sooner. With Australia Post Digital MailBox (using the Volly platform) and Digital Post Australia (using the Zumbox platform with service bureau partners Computershare Limited and Salmat) vying for partnerships, it is clear that this market will be a top priority for both providers. I recently spoke during a highly-attended Xplor Australia webinar on this topic, showing just how much interest there is in the country.

Canada Post: “Your mailbox. Now digital.”

epost Billboard in Toronto

Launched in 2000, epost is a Canada-based digital mailbox service that is government-owned, and regulated by the Canada Post Act. With about 2 million active users (5-6% of the population), Canada Post is embracing the transition to digital. In an attempt to drive further adoption of the newly-remodeled service, Canada Post has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the service. After 12 years in the market (and <10% adoption rate), this broad-based marketing initiative may be what’s needed to get the message past early adopters and into the much larger mainstream adopter audience.

The UPU .POST initiative

I had two roles at the recent PostalVision 2020 event-presenter and moderator. One of my panelists was Dr. Farah Abdallah, e-Business Expert at the Universal Postal Union (UPU). The UPU, headquartered in Berne, Switzerland, has 192 member countries and is billed as “the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players.” One of their recent digital initiatives is .POST,  which would be a top-level domain reserved for exclusive use of members of the postal sector. While the plan is to use this domain for more than digital mailbox services, Abdallah made it clear that it was a core component of a greater digital postal strategy. They are set to formally launch later in Q3 2012, and InfoTrends will continue to track the progress (and acceptance) of the initiative.

 

Since completion of our landmark study, The Emergence of Digital Mailbox Services, InfoTrends continues to track, present on, and consult for the digital mailbox services market in addition to our broader tracking of the customer communications delivery and payment markets.


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