Royal Mail, the U.K.’s postal service, may soon be carrying some typically unwelcome mail through a pilot project that allows online retailers to send marketing material to consumers who have visited their website, The Guardian reports. This means that junk mail which was once conveniently filtered into a spam folder could end up piling up in a postmail box instead.
“Royal Mail is carrying out a direct marketing trial with a retailer, based on its contacts with existing customers who have given their permission to be marketed to. We are using an established, targeted direct marketing method – called programmatic – widely used by many retailers and other organizations online, in a more precise and defined way for post. The trial is testing the value to customers and businesses of receiving a targeted mailing shortly after they have shown interest in a product online,” a Royal Mail spokesperson told The Independent.
The good news is that only those who have actually agreed to receive junk mail are concerned by Royal Mail’s advertisement deliveries, Engadget points out. Also important to know is that customer data is only held by the retailer, not Royal Mail.
What’s in it for the retailers? Jonathan Harman, chief of Royal Mail’s direct marketing division, told Engadget he believes that the potential benefits of postal campaigns for online retailers are real. “Sure, it’s a lot more expensive per thousand than online display, but it may also be about 100 times more responsive,” Harman said.
Programmatic ads are more commonly seen in the virtual world. The Apple Watch, for instance, announced in January that it would integrate an ad platform with full-screen images run by mobile ad network TapSense. The platform is meant to use GPS on the user’s connected iPhone to get in-store or near-store notifications and geo-targeted ads.
As the advertising landscape is changing, Royal Mail is taking advantage of this new trend to look for new revenues. According to The Guardian, Royal Mail, which was privatized two years ago, is under pressure to find new sources of income as its business model is challenged by the spread of online messaging.
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