After my grandmother died in 1975, I found some 3-cent stamps tucked away in her desk. I thought it amazing that the cost of a first-class stamp had increased to only 10¢ in the 18 years since she had last used those three-centers. She had been a letter writer, and had no qualms about using stamps – no matter what the cost – on as many envelopes stuffed with as many typewritten pages as she needed to keep in contact with her friends and family.
Not me. My wedding invitations were sent with 5-cent stamps, but we cut our Christmas card list by three-quarters when stamps reached 10 cents. If my high school math is right, there has been a 1,467 percent increase in the cost of stamps during my lifetime. And with less expensive long distance calling, my letter writing has become non-existent.
But I’m not alone. According to the USPS 2008Annual Report, in one year the post office saw a decline of 9.5 billion pieces in their mail volume. Those decreases devolved to 50 million fewer work hours during the year, the equivalent of 25,000 work years.
Of course, postage costs aren’t the only thing that has increased over the past half century. Most of the basics and many of the luxuries have also skyrocketed. Added to that is a global awareness that our resources are finite and conservation – going green – is the new buzz word. How has that changed our communications and the way we do business?
Online banking has had a huge impact on how we do business. Despite the economic downturn of the past year, most people still do not tuck their money under their mattresses or walk to the utility company to pay their bills with cash. According to the 2008 Consumer Banking and Bill Payment Survey, over 63 million online households are now regularly using online bill paying services. Paperless statements are available through a majority of financial, retail and utility sites. Online purchase confirmations and receipts, whether for $25 or $25,000, are e-mailed.
Along with online banking is online shopping. In 2008, retail sales for the Top 500 online retailers reached $115.85 billion. During the same period, gross sales through e-Bay were $21.6 billion and $40.7 billion for retailers not in the Top 500. And the merchandise is more often delivered by carrier services rather than the post office.
Finally, how do we communicate these days? Letter writing is a waning art, perhaps even a lost art. We e-mail, blog, Tweet, post and text. Facebook, MySpace and Twitter (and two dozen other social networks) let us keep up with our 283 closest friends on a minute-by-minute basis.
Rather than compose a letter sharing a week or a month’s worth of moments in our lives, we send a two-line e-mail. Texting shorthand has destroyed our spelling. Traffic laws warn us about texting on the go, and future employers warn that what’s posted on MySpace (and its kin) stays on MySpace. We hit the send button a micro-second after realizing there is a misspelled word or it has been sent to the person we’ve just ripped to written shreds.
We live in a minute-by-minute world, and since our first postage stamps were issued in 1847, our communication platforms have evolved to a level our ancestors could not envision. At Imagine Marketing, the focus is on how our clients can communicate to make sure their message reaches all of their customers. New communication skills are constantly being learned and then passed on to our clients. And the Imagine team is having a lot of fun doing it. TTYL & hav a gud da.