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The Belgian Post wants to rejuvenate postcards

The Belgian post, who recently was renamed BPost, just launched an original app for smartphone. This app aims at sending a postcard; a real one actually. We’ve been used to virtual postcards for years and with this app BPost offers the consumer to write his/her text, choose the design (for instance use a picture of his/her own) and have a real card sent on his behalf by BPost for 2,35€.

My take:

At first the idea is original and it was indeed very well promoted (online advertisement). I’m however very cautious as to whether such an app can really be successful.

The really BIG advantage is that you can turn one of your photographs into a postcard. This is the finest possible customization you can imagine. But this is the only advantage and the success will depend on how much it is outweighed by the disadvantages of the solution.

First of all, general trends indicate that the volume of transported mail is steadily diminishing (especially as far as private mail is concerned). I remember a presentation of Johnny Thijs (BPost CEO) I attended a few years ago when he already was saying that private mail was a tiny part only of the Belgian post’s turnover. I therefore doubt that a single app will reverse the trend.

Second, let’s face it, we are still in a deep economical downturn. Who, except geeks and early adopters, would accept to pay 2,35€ to send a postcard when a sms, an email or a virtual postcard can fulfill the same need. The timing to launch the app fits the start of the summer holidays and BPost clearly wants to address the needs of people going on vacation during the months of July and August. However, most of Belgian people go abroad (their two main destinations are Spain and France). Using the app abroad may become costly as the 2,35€ do not cover roaming costs. Due to outrageous data roaming prices you may well have a bad surprise when you get your cell phone invoice back from vacation.

Finally, think about it for one minute, why do some rare people still send postcards. What is the profound need that this habit addresses? You want to connect and show empathy to those relatives who are not on vacation. You way to do so is first to put effort in choosing and writing the postcard (which becomes rarer and rarer because we’re becoming lazy and have less and less time) and then to show to the sender that you thought about him/her by writing a customized message. Are those values not jeopardized when you send a semi-automated postcard to someone? Will the receiver attach the same value to a postcard written in Arial 10 than to a hand-written postcard? I don’t claim to have the answers. Time will tell whether BPost is successful.

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Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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