The United States Postal Service has its share of critics these days.
From consumer complaints about efficiency to political concerns about its economic viability to Hollywood poking fun at stereotypes to the term “going postal” used to describe someone who has lost self-control—the USPS often finds itself on the wrong end of public discussion. The USPS operates as a self-supporting federal agency—part independent business and part government agency. It likes to tout that it gets no tax dollars in normal times.
USPS defenders would say that’s because we don’t know what life would be like without the post office. In particular, that we don’t truly appreciate the relationship between small business and the post office.
E-commerce accounts for over half a trillion dollars. Seventy percent of businesses with 10 or fewer employees spend well over $300 per month on shipping. That’s just one part of overall USPS activity that adds up to over 180,000,000 pieces of First Class Mail every business day.
Even in the era of the digital economy, it’s true that small businesses remain heavily reliant on the USPS for many reasons. Here are just a few:
The U.S. Postal Service is more affordable than private delivery services like the United Parcel Service (UPS) or Federal Express (FedEx). For a private individual who ships just occasionally, that might not be a big deal. But to a small business whose survival may depend on shipping large numbers of packages every day, the affordability gap can be life and death.
Direct mail marketing
The rise of digital communication led to early speculation that direct mail would become a thing of the past. Not only has that not happened, but as people get immune to the flood of email promotions, direct mail now has a way of standing out again.
Sending someone a “thank you for your order” email is quicker and in most cases, it’s necessary. But most businesses, regardless of their size, have a pyramid of customers with the most valuable ones being smaller in number and at the top. For a small business, maintaining a personal connection with the customers is essential. Mailing a handwritten thank-you note is a great way to do that.
Important documents still need signatures. And while e-signing is growing in popularity, not everyone has access to this technology and a lot of businesses still need to mail important documents.
Post office box accessibility
Small business owners who are able to run their enterprise out of their houses still like a business address separate from their residences. The U.S. Post Office offers the P.O. box as a way of getting that.
The USPS has fewer security risks than the Internet, another important factor to consider in the delivery of anything vital.
Look at it this way:
However you felt about voting by mail in the 2020 elections, no one seriously proposed online voting as an option. That speaks volumes about the security difference. And since in-person isn’t an option for businesses looking to ship their products near and far, that makes the post office the only game in town.