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Zumbox Is Not Another BS “Paperless” Mail Option. Here’s Why.

| Friday September 25th, 2009 | 29 Comments

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Zumbox video captureI have to admit, when my friend Rob Reed of Max Gladwell first told me about Zumbox, the “Paperless Postal System,” I didn’t get it. How was it different then, say, Earth Class Mail and other digitized mail services? How many of the many companies I get mail from would actually participate?

So when I again heard from Rob about some big Zumbox news this week, I remained skeptical. Then I watched a brief video on their site, and it all made sense: For every physical mailing address in the US, they’d created a digital Zumbox as well. When you sign up, they send one physical piece of mail that you use to verify your address. Then here’s where the difference is:

Most non personal mail sent to you typically starts as a file on a computer somewhere.  It gets printed, put in an envelope,  then shipped via the postal service to your mailbox. With Zumbox, that file goes directly to your Zumbox account, bypassing printing, scanning, and mailing it. All those resources, energy, and time are saved.

But who’s using it? As of this week, the Mayors of San Francisco and Newark New Jersey are.

Zumbox themselves puts it best when they say:

“The Zumbox platform represents a one-of-a-kind communications channel for municipal governments. For the first time, mayors can send secure, electronic correspondence (paperless mail) to their residents using delivery criteria such as neighborhoods, ZIP codes, entire cities, or a specific list of street addresses. This can include letters, utility bills, public notices, newsletters, permits, videos, and much more. Zumbox is making its service available to municipal and state governments free of charge. There is no cost for consumers to receive paperless mail via Zumbox.”

Clearly, this is beyond gimmicky PR stunt. With enough people signing up for this service, it could have an important impact, for government, businesses, and individuals, on both an environmental and financial front, its effect rippling out to other areas, due to cost savings and a cleaner environment.

But how to get a critical mass of people to sign up? How do you get them to trust the security of such a system? That’s where Rob Reed comes in. Having clearly demonstrated his ability to reach massive amounts of people simultaneously via his “10 Ways” posts, the new VP of Marketing and Government Relations at Zumbox knows how to get out a message.

Will you listen?

Readers: Do you think this (business) model has legs, so to speak? If not, what needs to change? Will you be signing up for this service? What other ways do you see saving business, government, and individuals money and resources while having a positive impact on the planet?

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media.


▼▼▼      29 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Fabio Annovazzi

    I love Zumbox, but I think we should not overestimate its “green” impact, that is a long way down the road. I have a hard time believing the stats about tree “saved” with ebilling.

    Anyway if Zumbox has the success it deserves, it is potentially a distruptive application that could change, for instance, the way we see junk mail and direct advertising.

    The issue – a big one – is how to achieve critical mass/relevance in the market place. It’s a catch 22 situation. Until there are no “senders” there will be no interest in opening a Zumbox account, and until there are only a few open accounts, it will be difficult to sign “senders” in

    • Ben Franklin

      Count me out…cant get my packages via make believe….don’t want someone compromising my mail!!!! Easy identity theft!!!!

  • http://www.smartstamp.net Elliot

    Zumbox has an uphill challenge building market acceptance but I believe the core approach will be successful. I believe we are experiencing the first version of Zumbox and there are many opportunities with mobile Internet devices, RFID/NFC transponder codes and related ID tags like Smart Stamp (www.smartstamp.net) to make Zumbox a winner. I do agree with Fabio that the ECO aspect is not the core positioning that will attract consumers first to open a box, but long-term that is the winning value prop.

    S

  • Paul S

    Thanks Elliot and Fabio, I think the aim now is to see if/how a critical number of people/organizations will begin using it. With enough, others will follow, and make this a viable, impactful option.

  • http://www.gogreenetc.com beth

    I think this is a great idea, I really hope they have a lot of capital, because I think it’s going to take a very long time for it to catch on.

  • Tom

    Really, how is Zumbox any different than an email list manager? How do you think people are informed that they have new mail in their Zumbox?

    • Ryan Mickle

      From what I understand, Zumbox is especially for email that comes to us one-way, like bills and bank statements, which are locked behind our countless banking passwords and less than user friendly online banking platforms. They aren’t competing with the countless options we have for web-based email.

      It’s secure, so you actually receive all of your bills (someday), like your statements from the city, if you live in San Francisco. In the case of much of the stuff we get via postal mail, Zumbox cities and users will get their bill on Zumbox a few days sooner, at which point we can select the Paperless Please option, saving our cities money and an unreal amount of paper.

      • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith

        @ryan exactly, you’ve got it.

      • RC

        “locked behind our countless banking passwords”

        Yeah, remove as many passwords as you can. Why not make it that much easier to hack into your accounts. FYI, there is no such thing as “secure” anything on the net. 60% of identity thefts occur from online bill paying and such.

  • http://www.eddiestarr.com EddieStarr

    I have been using Zumbox.com for a while now. I believe it is the next evolution of E-Mail, I wrote to Microsoft many months ago suggesting they acquire this company as the potential for consumers is great. I only hope more and more people start using this service as it simply makes communication much easier.

  • Chris Knight

    Seen a few other “Paperless Post” companies like this one starting up over the last few years, here in the UK we have NoMorePost.com…..we use it in our office to send all our customers their invoices and statements…great system….saves us a fortune on postal overheads…our customers really seem to love it as they only get the important docs through….no spam at all in their accounts.

    We looked at Zumbox and the thing we did not like is that there is going to be a ton of spam marketing to account holders down the line…this how i guess they make their money….but paperless post is the way forward.

    regards
    chris
    london

  • Don

    Future generations probably will use this type of communication all the time and think nothing of it. Just like cell phones. Remember when you first had a cell phone and it was a big deal? Now everyone has one. The ones just being born today might very well be reading about the postal service in their history books, or I should say their computers.

  • Paul J. Pfiffner

    I still love to receive mail in the
    mailbox outside. Not looking to try
    this company in the near future.

  • Tom

    No thanks. Just another way to de-personalize my life. Besides, I like my letter carrier!

  • josh

    why are paperless mail services BS? i think they sound amazing…

  • http://www.postalsanity.com postalsanity

    Zumbox is a very promising model and it will take off, once a critical subscriber mass has been reached. Many companies are desperate for savings and will start giving credits to consumers for making the switch to digital. The problem with going digital has been that consumers have to manage countless online accounts, which becomes tiring. With Zumbox I only have to manage one account. What a relief! Companies going paperless don’t need to know my e-mail address, just my physical address. All this provides the means for a rather painless switch to digital mail. I have posted more details in a blog entry.

  • Andy S.

    Just another gimmick –

  • treeslayer

    Trees deserve to die, think of all the countless poor electrons that are hurt by this! All that wasted energy…

  • Bec

    I love the idea of being paperless for bills, advertisements and other notices but I love my monthly catalogs. I think retail sales would go down if catalogs didn't come and remind you to buy,buy,buy…

  • Carl K

    Yup, sounds great. So, I'll get my water bill from Zumbox instead of into my current email account (my city has already gone paperless), and because they'll be set up to send ALL my notices thru Zumbox, when I sell my house and forget to turn off the Zumbox email, the city will shut off the water because the new owner won't be paying the bill they don't see. Same goes for the property tax bill (still get that one by mail). Heck, I had one tax bill make it through to the tax sale when I bought my house, and that was with a piece of paper coming to my door.

    No thanks. I've signed up for electronic delivery of all my bank statements and utility bills already. I'm not going to unwind my multiple logins. I have to have all the individual account logins anyway for various proprietary account management needs, so this just adds one more place to log into and doesn't really appear to remove anything. The stuff that still comes to the door by paper SHOULD come to the door by paper. And, I feel a little more secure having individual logins to my various accounts (different passwords and user names on all of them) because if one bank gets compromised, the others won't

  • Brian S.

    Waste of investor's money.

    It will be obsolete before it will gain any market traction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MarketingIdeasConsultant Chris Bauer

    I think it's a great idea, but there is much work to be done to: 1) prove to potential users that it is secure and 2) going to make their lives easier. The ECO aspect is cool for some people, but many others will not care. As many others have mentioned, getting a critical mass of users is crucial; however, I think they have developed a genius strategy by offering the service free to municipalities and others who are just sending billing/account info. Every org or company who sends a bill would, of course, rather that activity cost them nothing than it costing them printing and postage. And nobody escapes municipal utilities, so getting them to sign up and encourage usage will get you to a critical mass…if they can convince them of the points I made above.

  • jasonfryer

    Zumbox can't get off the ground. They've been at it a year and have 0 traffic on their site. Check it out for yourself. Besides, the USPS will probably launch something digital in the next few years that will handle all the junk mail people receive and bills. Most of the mail people get, they don't even want or need. Why do I want it digitally?

  • http://zixmailencryption.com/ zixmail

    i think it is really good site and there are more information!

  • uiuiouioo

    who the hell would sign up to get mail from the city ????

  • uiuiouioo

    who the hell would sign up to get mail from the city ????

  • Greta Kirby

    I signed up for ZumBox to enter a sweeps they were running and I NEVER could get it to accept the CODE they sent me in the USPS. I have given up and asked them to close the account immediately. They is something terribly wrong with ZumBox right now.

  • orubin

    Sorry Paul, but this article seems nothing more than a “shill” for the company. Maybe it should say “paid advertisement?” If not, you copied the text directly from the website ad video, so it seems little actual thought went into your article.

    But I have to agree with others, I already get my bills and statements sent electronically and securely, through my bank or providers, with better security than this will ever offer. And I do not like the idea of my mail be stored in some system somewhere where it can be all hacked at one time. At least with separate companies, if one gets hacked, the rest of my info is safe.

    And I have all these “features”, I am well into e-billing which works just fine thank you, and add a program like “1Password” to the mix, which generates random, large, secure password for all the systems I access, and manages them on my computer for easy access behind a secure password, and on iPad and mobile phone too, and I see zero reason for this.

    And what worries me most: What a great place for SPAM. Physical junk mail costs a lot of money. So I thought, how will Zumbox make money of it is free. Then it dawned on me: Now, with Zumbox, junk mail providers, credit card solicitations, catalogs, pleas for donations, store advertisements, and a dozen other junk mail companies can now send to me with much less cost, Zumbox charges a small fee per message, and makes money sending us SPAM and junk mail. Marvelous!

    Yea, this idea makes no sense at all to me, I will pass, even for “free.”

  • Say no to Zumbox

    To the doomsayers, you were right. Zumbox to close [closed] down on April 14, 2014.