Homeowners will be sent ‘targeted’ junk mail based on their internet shopping habits under plans being trialled by Royal Mail (file picture)
Homeowners will be sent ‘targeted’ junk mail based on their internet shopping habits under plans being trialled by Royal Mail.
The firm will deliver personalised marketing letters encouraging customers to buy goods from retailers they have looked at online.
Simply clicking on a product and adding it to an online shopping basket would be enough to trigger adverts in the post.
A secret pilot has started between Royal Mail and a well-known UK retailer, and the system could be rolled out within months.
The news sparked fears that households will be ‘deluged’ with more junk post.
Royal Mail has ramped up its marketing mail business to boost revenues amid falling letter sales and competition for parcels.
With almost three-quarters of British adults shopping online – nearly 37million people – the plan could generate significant income for the recently privatised firm.
It would be difficult to opt out as the scheme would fall outside the Royal Mail’s system for stopping generic junk mail.
The unnamed retailer in the pilot is collecting data on which products customers look at on its website. It uses ‘cookies’ – a file stored on shoppers’ computers about their internet activity – and matches this to customers’ postal addresses.
Royal Mail is then paid by the retailer to deliver a letter ‘in a day or two’ encouraging the recipient to buy items they clicked on.
The trial will raise concerns that people’s private online shopping habits could be revealed to others sharing their home.
Jonathan Harman, of Royal Mail’s Market-Reach, boasted at a recent industry talk that ‘as soon as you identify an individual and match their postal address and online activity through a cookie then you’ve got the ability to really join up the customer experience’.
He said the collaboration would allow shops to target ‘high-value prospects’ with a follow-up letter, rather than an email or online advert. But he appeared to be aware that the project would be controversial, adding that privacy is a ‘big deal’ and that the programme must be used sensitively.
The letters are sent out to internet users who have abandoned an online shopping basket before purchasing anything.
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Royal Mail has ramped up its marketing mail business to boost revenues amid falling letter sales and competition for parcels (file picture)