If you are even remotely digitally hip, you probably know that “big data” is a hot topic. But it is far from a mere fad. Big data — which refers to large, complex datasets combined with sophisticated, powerful analytics — has definitely been having a big impact on not just scientific research capabilities, but commercial activity as well. Amazon, Walmart, and eBay are just a few businesses using big data to better target products and services to consumers.

Could big data help the postal industry? Earlier this year we jointly hosted a forum with the Universal Postal Union to discuss that and many related questions. Postal experts and big data experts from all over the world attended, and they agreed that, yes, big data can provide extraordinary opportunities for postal operators — including the U.S. Postal Service — to improve operations as well as current products and services, and even create new ones.

It’s not a quick and easy process, though. The forum established that a clear and coherent big data strategy must first be articulated – one that answers questions like, “What will you use the data for?” and “How will you ensure privacy?” Some of the first steps in this strategy include buy-in from top leaders of the organization in addition to development of partnerships with other stakeholders to share data sources. Also, internal changes must be made, such as taking an interdisciplinary approach involving data experts and marketing whizzes to build a digital culture within the organization.

All of this happens one step at a time, and our new paper, International Postal Big Data: Discussion Forum Recap, details each one of these steps. It also includes information on big data pilot-trials that some postal operators have launched and the particular operations and services their big data experiments have involved.

What do you think? How does your company use big data? How do you see the Postal Service using big data? What concerns would you have about the Postal Service using data analytics to develop new products or services? Where do you see opportunities for the Postal Service to partner with the private sector?

Comments (4)

  • anon

    Every week I get an email that says I have a package and download to get the info needed to pickup. I think this is a scam. Anyone else getting these emails?

    Jun 09, 2014
  • anon

    As an ebayer, I can honestly say I try not to use the Postal Service ever. I still do, but it goes against every principal in my book. The post office has not been honest with the approach of Employees stealing from Ebayers. I lost a $900 gold chain, and everyone blamed me. Yesterday I found out that our local dispatch center is under a fraud investigation for deleting tracking numbers and got caught doing it. Since now with the latest Android it tracks the packages and you can see exactly when the shipment falls off the wagon. Hmmmm seems like the ebay account may not be as concrete as you think. Soon after I speak to a few higher ups, I am going to the media, and it will come out as to the cover up of this. I hope the post office takes the fraud to hand, as this is a coverup that will speak to millions of Americans who depend on our mail service.

    May 24, 2014
  • anon

    please keep me posted also what thappend to postal banking?

    May 19, 2014
  • anon

    keep me in touch what about postal banking? other ideas? categories ---8. 24,51, sent to me on line

    May 19, 2014

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