Royal Mail’s DM business faces enough challenges without denying it data assets

The moment the countdown began on the sale of the Royal Mail, the parts of the business that could sustain and grow revenue assumed even greater importance.

Russell Parsons

Data, campaign planning and direct marketing services ranked highly in the pecking order then and now the firm has been privatised.

Despite the direction of travel being against DM, it still represents a significant and growing, in terms of its share of revenue generated, part of Royal Mail’s business. It has the potential to be even more potent when allied with the wealth of data the company has available to it.

I offer this 101 guide to the Royal Mail’s business strategy in the wake of the Public Accounts Committee’s report into the sale of the mail operator. The Committee found fault in the Government’s decision to sell the Postcode Address File (PAF) – a huge database of postcodes and addresses – as part of the sell-off.

The group of MPs argued that the PAF should be open data publically available for the good of the nation and not to be sold to businesses to be used in direct mail campaigns.

Although I have some sympathy with the open data argument, especially in the current environment where concern over data use and security is running high, the PAF was absolutely central to the future success of the Royal Mail and needed to be included in its sale.0

Its value to Royal Mail and investors is significant. Deloitte put the value of public sector information to consumers, businesses and the public at about £1.8bn in 2012.

Royal Mail and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills have made noises about offering wider access, which seems about right.

However, if Royal Mail is to succeed and flourish as a media owner, it is with data such as this that was previously publically owned.

Last week, Royal Mail announced three senior hires to Market Reach which acts as a one-stop creative, data and media service for brands.  Market Reach launched in 2012 with a brief to boost physical direct marketing’s share of the UK advertising market by persuading brands of the merits of advertising mail.

A lofty and arguably unrealistic objective and one that would be altogether more difficult without data assets such as the PAF.