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Recreating Relevance

Mail was once absolutely essential: at one point in history, it was literally the only way to communicate with anyone who didn't live within the immediate vicinity of where you were.

That's certainly not the case anymore. The chart below is from Canada Post's 2020 Q3 Financial Report, and it tells an interesting story about how we actually use "mail" today:

If you're not great with financials, allow me to help: in the first nine months of 2020, Canada Post earned $4.898 billion. Almost half of that amount came from "Parcels" ($2.335B), a category that increased revenue by 25.5% versus the same period in 2019. That makes sense, right? We spent the first nine months quarantined at home, and if you're anything like me, you started getting a lot more of your purchases shipped to your house to avoid going out.

The increase in parcel revenue is the good news for Canada Post.

The bad news is that the "parcels" story is the only good news for Canada Post.

Every other category of mail is in decline, including "direct mail"... which might surprise you if your mailbox is anything like mine; it seems that all I get these days (aside from parcels) are real estate flyers and coupons for my local restaurants.

But those are the facts... and if you think about it, the facts make sense.

If I want to connect with my family or friends, I don't mail them a letter. I'll call them, text, them, or increasingly, invite them to a video chat... but a letter? Nope.

The same is likely true for your classmates and colleagues. Why would you send postal mail when there's email, Zoom, Slack, and so many other more immediate tools at your disposal?

Bills? Perhaps... but most companies allow you the option of downloading your bills from their websites so you can save a tree or two. And on the other side of the financial equation, most cheques have been replaced with direct deposits or e-transfers. The fact that not every person chooses to get their bills and cheques delivered electronically is likely the reason that the "transaction mail" category is only declining by 8.1%... but that decline is sure to become much more severe because Millenials and Generation Z are all digital-natives.

Fortunately for Canada Post, the parcels business is still going strong... for now. But what happens when Amazon decides it would be more efficient and less expensive to manage the last mile all on their own?

For the most part, "mail" has lost relevance with consumers. So if you're Canada Post, what do you do?

All you can do is try and recreate relevance.

That's easier said than done.

To their credit, Canada Post is trying to become relevant again with their latest initiative, which involves "sending one of six different bilingual postage-paid postcards to every household in Canada (approximately 13.5 million postcards in total) and encouraging people to send a personal note to friends or family." If you want to learn more about the specifics of the campaign, my friends at The Message wrote a great piece about it.

In this video, Canada Post President and CEO Doug Ettinger says,"We want all Canadians to send those postcards to loved ones, to remind them that they're missed, they're special and they matter."

Sure. But make no mistake: Canada Post is also trying to remind us that mail matters.

It might be too late.

Canada Post was founded in 1867, which gave it a 131-year headstart on a tiny upstart named Google. And yet, today, 1.8 billion people use Google's email system worldwide and Gmail accounts for 27% of all email opens. Canada Post would not have been able to stop people from moving to digital mail, but they could have done so much more to be at the forefront of that transition.

The status quo isn't safe when the entire world is changing.

Convincing your customers that you're still relevant is difficult, and time-consuming, and expensive. And after all that effort, it still might not work.

It's much better to ensure you always remain an integral part of their lives.

If you need help in determining how you can do that, I can help.


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