Zumbox has figured out a way to get rid of paper mail and replace it with a digital online postal service. In a big endorsement for that service, New Zealand is announcing today that the New Zealand Post will use Zumbox’s platform.
The deal shows that Westlake Village, Calif.-based Zumbox is making progress on its dream of eliminating the paper mail service and replacing it with an online system that lets you send or receive scanned, physical representations of letters, bills or other things that you might normally send via paper. Such a system can be a lot more useful than plain email. Under the agreement with New Zealand, Zumbox’s service will complement the traditional postal mail service.
With Zumbox, you log into your mailbox at the Zumbox site and then receive digital delivery of your mail. There’s no need for stamps, since it’s free to everyone except marketers and advertisers. It is environmentally friendly because it saves trees. This transition to digital is inevitable, and it’s exciting to see it start to happen. The General Accounting Office reported last year that U.S. first-class mail has declined 19 percent since 2001 and will continue to decline 37 percent over the next decade.
The New Zealand Post has licensed this system exclusively so that it can create an all-digital option for mailers and consumers that will be cost-effective, convenient, and secure. The Zumbox Platform can be customized for any country as a white-label software service. The digital postal mail gives users a facsimile of paper mail, as if the paper were scanned into a computer. Consumers can access it from anywhere, and the data is stored in a centralized, secure online location.
“We have identified a clear interest – both among consumers and businesses – in a digital postal system here in New Zealand, and we are eager to test this service on the Zumbox Platform,” said Sohail Choudhry, general manager of integrated communications for the New Zealand Post.
In 2010, The Research Agency did a survey for Zumbox that showed 77 percent of consumers would use a digital post network if it were available. The average consumer using the service estimated they would opt out of receiving 59 percent of their current paper mail, while 42 percent estimated they would go paperless on more than 80 percent of their mail.
Zumbox chief executive John Payne said many postal operators have been evaluating digital initiatives in recent years. Those operators, such as the New Zealand Post, are starting to move from exploration to commercial deployment. The Swiss Post has begun to use Zumbox as well.
Zumbox creates a digital mailbox for every street address in a country. So companies can send bills via Zumbox. The consumer opens them and they look like scanned versions of the real paper bills. The Zumbox site will let the consumer look at a variety of media in the form of HTML, Flash, audio, and video. Nonprofits, businesses, government entities and consumers can use it for free.
Zumbox mailboxes are secure since the company uses a closed system with security measures that meet the toughest regulations. Users get a secure PIN number, which they receive from Zumbox via paper mail, just to make sure that scammers don’t hijack your mail. The user enters the code to verify that he or she receives mail at that address. As soon as the user verifies the account, mail from supporting companies goes to the Zumbox mail. The benefit of the closed system is there’s no junk mail. Consumers can still order and use a variety of electronic payment systems. They can also browse through the catalogs they want to see and order goods.
Zumbox is charging large transaction mailers, advertisers and marketers because it gives them real-time campaign measurement tools that are unavailable through traditional mail. Marketers and advertisers can also send mail to a single address, a mailing list, or a specific geographic region such as all of the homes in a specific zip code.
The company was founded in 2007. It has 25 employees and has raised $21.7 million from private investors. The company’s chairman and co-founder is Maury Friedman, a successful entrepreneur who has sold a number of companies. Investors include Art Bilger of Shelter Capital Partners, Rich Braddock of Fresh Direct, former Disney chief executive Michael Eisner, Bill Guthy of Guthy-Renker, and Zumbox’s Donn Rappaport.
Rivals include Manilla, Doxo and Volly, another provider of alternative mail services.