On March 26th, the Postal Regulatory Commission, or PRC, approved the USPS proposal for the 2012 Mobile Commerce and Personalization Promotion. The promotion will run from July 1 – August 31, 2012 and registration will begin on May 1, 2012.

To qualify for the 2% discount this year, the mobile barcode must take a consumer to a mobile optimized site that either enables mobile commerce or is personalized for the recipient.

While the goal of the promotional discounts by the postal service is the same as last year, to “focus integration of mobile technologies with direct mail as a means of reinforcing mail’s continuing relevance as a marketing channel”, what really struck me was how challenging these parameters are going to make it for many catalogers to participate in this year’s promotion, especially if they don’t have a mobile optimized website.

Let’s understand what this means to catalogers. The following descriptions are from the 2012 USPS Mobile Commerce and Personalization Promotion document.

Mobile Optimized

A mobile optimized site is a website which is specifically designed for optimum performance when viewed on a mobile device such as a smartphone. There are several commonly used techniques for developing mobile websites that bridge the differences between a full sized monitor and a mobile display.

Participants must use some of these (or similar) techniques to qualify for the promotion.

  • Screen size and resolution is adjusted so that users do not have to scroll horizontally
  • Page sizes are compressed to enable faster downloading
  • Outbound links take users only to mobile optimized pages
  • Contrast and color scheme is adjusted for viewing on smaller screens and outdoor viewing
  • Device detection directs mobile users to appropriately formatted content
  • Use menu options as opposed to free-text entry whenever possible

Mobile Commerce

Now, let’s understand what the mobile commerce piece is about. The USPS says if you choose to use your mobile barcode to facilitate mobile commerce, then:

  1. The destination web page(s) must contain information relevant to the content of the mailpiece and some or all of the service(s) and/or product(s) advertised in the mailpiece must be available for purchase on a mobile device.
  2. The destination web pages must reside on a website platform that contains (or is deeply integrated with) a checkout functionality that allows the customer to finalize the purchase of the good or service referenced in the mailpiece through a complete mobile optimized experience.
  3.  Websites used for the e-bill payment of prior purchases of goods or services, or regularly scheduled payments (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, etc.) for goods and services are not eligible. Other ineligible mobile barcode uses (include but are not limited to):
  •  Register for event/seminar/class
  • Make payment online for prior purchases or recurring services
  • Sign up for email list, text messages or mailing list
  •  Sign up for online billing or paperless statement services
  • Download a deal or coupon
  •  Enter a contest or sweepstakes
  • Sign up for an newsletter (electronic or hard copy)
  • Proxy stock vote
  •  Take a survey
  • Confirm a reservation (like doctor or haircut appointment)
  •   Any link to a non-mobile optimized site
  • Download and or receive text information such as directions/contact info
  • Link to sign-in page for online account
  • Link to webpage with information
  •  ”Like” or “share” on social network site

Mobile Personalization

Finally, let’s walk through the mobile personalization requirement. Remember, to qualify, you choose between mobile commerce and mobile personalization, you don’t have to incorporate both. The Post Office says when the mobile barcode leads to a personalized website, then:

  1. For each mailpiece recipient, the web address is unique to the recipient, as is the content of the web page
  2. Unique web page content is based on relevant customer data such as prior behavior, life stage, segmentation, and demographics

So, this promotion has taken on a whole new dimension and it’s pretty difficult to qualify this year, especially if you are a small to medium size cataloger without a mobile optimized website.

Here are a few links for more information on the promotion.

Additional information, including FAQs and program registration information, will be added to the program requirements page in the coming weeks.

Will you try to qualify for the discount? What steps are you taking to do so? What about the timing? Does it leave you with enough lead time? Leave a comment below, I’d like to see what you think.