RealTime IT News

U.S. Postal Service to Use Return Path

E-mail change of service firm Return Path stands to benefit from a new deal by which its services will be promoted and used by the U.S. Postal Service on its MoversGuide.com site.

Through an agreement with interactive shop Imagitas, which administers the site, New York-based Return Path will become the exclusive provider of e-mail change of address (ECOA) services on the USPS' MoversGuide.com.

Similar to the printed Movers Guide, which is published by the USPS and made available in post offices nationally, MoversGuide.com provides information and resources for citizens who have relocated -- such as links to the Postal Service's change of address service, information on maps and directions, and tips for switching phone, utilities and Internet services.

As a result of the renewable, one-year agreement, signup forms for the company's service will begin appearing on the MoversGuide.com site on Wednesday.

Traffic is driven to the site by way of the main Postal Service site at USPS.gov, as well through promotion in the offline Movers Guide. Additionally, the site is featured in the Postal Service's Welcome Kit, which is sent to recent movers or those that have used change of address forms at the post office or online.

Through the deal, Return Path stands to significantly expand its registered user database, which it uses to help e-mail marketers like Palm stay in touch with opted-in list members. Marketing services providers like Acxiom and DoubleClick, an investor in Return Path, also use the company's ECOA database on behalf of clients.

At present, Return Path has about 4.3 million registered users. Stuart Montaldo, general manager for Internet products at Waltham, Mass-based Imagitas, said MoversGuide.com is expected to have about 4 million visitors this year, about a quarter of which will use the site to change their real-world address.

"We've done research and found there is a correlation between a physical move and an e-mail address change, because so many people rely on their cable operator or their phone service operator for their Internet connection," said Return Path chief marketing officer Tim Dolan.

Meanwhile, consumers benefit from time savings. Aside from temporary moves, about 20 million households relocate yearly, Montaldo said.

"When they come in to change their address, there's a lot of other things going on," he said. "We're able to offer people the chance to do different things online in relation to the move. One of the things may be that they're changing Internet service providers and their e-mail address. It's another service that we think is very relevant to people that will be moving."

At the same time, the Postal Service benefits by expanding its Internet offerings, the relative lack of which has been a source of controversy for some time. In December, the U.S. General Accounting Office charged that the USPS had thus far been unable to create an effective Internet strategy, due in part to poor management. (The GAO first recommended changes to the Postal Service's Internet policy in September 2000.)