The holiday season has gotten a little more high tech, and it’s come from a somewhat unlikely source: the U.S. Postal Service.
Although originally released in April, the application, which is available on the Google Play and iOS App stores, has been more heavily marketed by the independent government agency during the 2014 holiday season. In addition to being able to interact with augmented-reality-enhanced mail, the app also transforms the more than 156,000 USPS collection mailboxes around the country.
“Whether you’re walking down a busy city street or a main street in a small town, you can find one of our iconic blue boxes all across the country,” Nagisa Manabe, USPS’ chief marketing and sales officer, said in a release. “Instead of just dropping off mail, smartphone users can use our USPS AR app to transform these boxes into a unique and interactive experience during the holidays.”
The mailbox augmentation technology went live Dec. 1 and will be available through the end of the calendar year. According to USPS, the augmented reality feature will make post office mailboxes display flashing holiday lights or dancing animated penguins on users’ smartphones. The app will also prompt the user to order free shipping boxes or order holiday stamps.
The dancing penguins and holiday lights are not the extent of the app’s augmented reality features, USPS said. According to the release, new features and animations will be added every few days.
All together, the app cost the cash-strapped USPS close to $150,000, Zy Richardson, a USPS spokeswoman told FedScoop. The agency is still calculating the number of total downloads, but preliminary data indicates “it’s been well received by customers thus far,” according to Richardson.
The Postal Service sent a mailer to every U.S. household earlier in the fall to introduce the USPS app. The mailer builds on several tests of the app throughout USPS marketing campaigns in 2014.
“These tests have been to demonstrate the power mail and digital have together,” Richardson told FedScoop. “Consumers can enjoy a greater experience. Marketers have the opportunities to leverage their digital content further, so we are exploring options with marketers to incorporate technology/mail and capitalize on advancements in smart phone technology.”
There are plans to add even more functionality to the app and the mailing systems in the future, the spokeswoman said. The augmented reality app comes as part of a nationwide campaign from the agency to tout the holiday season as the season for the Postal Service. In an ad, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the agency would be making more deliveries to more places than any other mailer on Earth.
“Football has a season, baseball has a season,” Donahoe said in the ad. “This is our season.”
Last year, the agency delivered more than 15 billion packages during the holiday season. According to USPS estimates, that number is expected to grow. To accommodate the increased package demand, USPS will deliver packages seven days a week until Christmas.