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What are Digital Natives and How Will They Affect the Future of Mail?

Digital Natives, people born after 1980, are now the largest generational group in the United States. For them, communicating and conducting transactions online is embedded in every part of everyday life.

As Digital Natives move into their peak earning years, they will become the nation’s dominant consumer group. It is increasingly important for the postal service and marketers to understand their unique expectations and needs.

Recently, the USPS Office of Inspector General commissioned two focus groups of Digital Natives to gauge their current perceptions of the mail, including the use of digitally interactive mail pieces.

They found that mail still matters to Digital Natives. Although they rely primarily on digital communications, the emotional connection and usefulness of physical mail generates a strong attachment.

Digital Natives’ anticipation of receiving parcels in the mail drives them to show an interest in other mail that may arrive, according to the focus groups. The possibility of receiving a parcel compels Digital Natives to check for and look at the mail they receive. What does this mean to the future of regular mail? The ease of online purchase experiences should spur more e-commerce transactions, which will lead to more parcels and, consequently, continued interest in physical mail.

Digital Natives are drawn to mail pieces enhanced with characteristics like color, high-quality paper and unique shapes, as well as mail that integrates interactive digital features, such as augmented reality (AR). Augmented reality is a view of a real-world environment whose elements are augmented or supplemented by computer-generated sound, video or graphics. Using AR on a mail piece allows recipients to point their phones at the mail piece and trigger a video or customization options on the phone screen.

Mail should be easy to use, relevant, and beneficial to prompt action from Digital Natives. They must be able to use the digital features easily and quickly, without having to download new programs. The mail piece’s digital feature must provide some type of utility, such as providing additional information or allowing them to buy an item.

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