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Royal Mail: smart technology marketing and Shaun the sheep

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What is the purpose of the new barcoded postage stamps? Greater business efficiency for Royal Mail and imaginative product marketing, starting with Shaun the sheep videos. It’s an interesting case study in technology marketing.

The new approach to postage stamps shows imagination on the part of Royal Mail and places them right at the front of their market. Besides Royal Mail in the UK, only France and Germany have something similar so far.

The media write that the new stamps will “improve operational efficiency” and enable Royal Mail to offer customers new, innovative services.  Royal Mail has not said exactly what they mean by this, but the new codes might help to sort letters faster and automate personalised services such as re-directing mail. Maybe they’ll also help to track items that are lost or stolen in the post.

Parcels and business contract mail already have barcodes and can be tracked so that the senders know when the items are delivered. Adding similar codes to every letter might mean that we can track these smaller items of mail as well. This would be a good move on the part of Royal Mail. It would add value to the letter delivery service which has become relatively expensive.

New opportunities for a very old service

Postage costs have increased in the last few years, so businesses have largely switched to digital communications. This has left the Royal Mail’s letter services with far fewer pieces to deliver. However many of us still send birthday cards, and here I think the Royal Mail’s new service shows a touch of genius in their technical product marketing.

The code on each new stamp links to a digital twin, and Royal Mail offers an app to read the codes and link to an associated digital source. To launch the service they are linking to a Shaun the Sheep video or a birthday message. For younger customers who might think of postal letters as rather old-fashioned and for everyone sending birthday cards, this adds a playful digital perspective. It also opens the door to all kinds of new possibilities in future. It will be interesting to see how Royal Mail moves into technology marketing as the next generations of the letter delivery service evolve and the physical service blends with digital.

This is the last week that we can use non-barcoded stamps. Royal Mail has publicised the swap out scheme well, so most people should be able to trade in their stock of old-style stamps.

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