USPS Reshaping Digital Services

The U.S. Postal Service’s ability to do near-real time tracking has made possible almost all of its new eCommerce delivery initiatives, the USPS’s technology chief said at a conference last week in suburban Washington, D.C.

“We would not have had the growth curve we’ve had on packages if we hadn’t fixed the tracking,” USPS Chief Information Officer Jim Cochrane said at the PostalVision 2020 conference. “I was on enough sales calls when people said, ‘Look, I’m not giving you a $700 iPhone and not knowing you delivered it for five hours.'”

Cochrane told the conference audience that USPS systems can now update a package’s status on its website or push out a delivery confirmation text message within three minutes of the final scan — and his team is working to get it down to zero, according to eCommerceBytes.

ECommerce deliveries, of course, haven’t completely taken over the Postal Service, but it has provided a big boost for USPS sales in recent months.

“Mail is an important part of our business, and something we’re very bullish on,” Cochrane said.

Along with traditional package delivery, the Postal Service has also been testing a variety of other services, including Sunday package delivery, grocery delivery in four cities, and the Metro Post same-day delivery service.

The Metro Post project has also helped refine the concept of dynamic routing, Cochrane said. And for each of the new service trials, the Postal Service has tried to operate like a startup rather than a two-century-old former government agency. The new mindset: “Test it and fail, and fail fast, but test it,” Cochrane said. “That’s a change in our culture.”

Other changes include end-to-end monitoring of mail and packages, smarter automation in mail-processing facilities, and the dynamic delivery routing that the USPS first worked up for Metro Post deliveries. Predictive analytics could also help achieve more efficient allocation of resources, and fleet tracking tools could identify when a truck is in trouble — or when a driver is stretching a lunch break.

“We think analytics can really drive the physical world. We want to be an information-driven enterprise,” Cochrane said. “That’s really the future for us — using information to become more targeted.”