And we mean the far future.  Like…. let’s say 40 or 50 years.  Now that’s a tough one to predict.  But we’ll try anyways.  FYI:  When we use the term standard mail in this discussion we do exclude small parcels. Our gut feeling tells us that 2 major factors will determine the long term future of standard mail:

  1. Gradual changes in advertising media
  2. Enviromental and resource issues

Let’s take a more detailed look:
Gradual changes in advertising media

With the rise of the internet some predicted the end of standard advertising within years.  So far this did not happen.  There were (and still are) too many incoherent technologies, which present way too many (mostly random) garbage ads. The result of this ad flooding is, that many people do not notice these annoying online ads anymore.  We agree that direct mail has currently still a bigger impact.

Let us make three assumptions for the “far future”

  • By then it is likely that we see a multitude of new personal communication channels which transmit high quality information through various devices. These communication channels will be standardized in respect to used protocols, interface bridges, data content and data security
  • Most people will rely on such personal communication channels to manage their life.
  • It is not unreasonable to assume that every street address (delivery point) will be tied to the personal communication device. Zumbox is already trying to offer an e-mail account for each street address, as a means to receive your virtual mail .

So we now have a mobile personal communication channel tied to your physical street address.  Information harvesting will be far more perfected (it is pretty good already for direct mailing purposes). All what is needed at this point, are mechanisms, which guarantee that these personal communication channels will not be hammered with ads.  One way to achieve this is to put a “hefty” price tag on the “delivery” of the electronic ad.

Voila, there you got it.  A few daily electronic ads with the same high impact as current direct mailing.   We could also envision these electronic ads do much more than paper ads:   Virtual coupons, seamless integration with your GPS to get you there, etc…..

By the way: coupons are no longer to be called coupons, but personalized gift cards. Click here to see why and to read a story about direct mailers taking a step towards online marketing.

Enviromental and resource issues

Everyone talks about going green. We were discussing (amongst ourselves) how environmental issues might affect the consumer’s perception of standard mail within the next 30 years and we came up with ……  well, not much. In comparison to driving cars, heating houses and consuming plenty of other goods, we think that the environmental impact of standard mail is rather small.  A study by Pitney Bowes seems to confirm our suspicion and claims that mail delivery makes up 0.1% of a person’s carbon footprint.

Now resources are another thing.  Dwindling resources are a given and emerging countries like India and China don’t make the situation better.  Paper prices will probably go up over time, but so will everything else. Will there be a paper shortage in the future?  We do not believe that this article is serious proof that such crisis has already begun. If anybody has some good info on the future of paper, we’ll be glad to hear it.

Within the next 50 years standard mail may virtually disappear by turning virtual.  Finally, we freely admit that we could be very wrong and that such development may already take place within the next 20 years.