My buddy, Alan Perlman, recently notified me of a company called Zumbox which essentially gives everyone in the US an online email address tied to your physical mailing address. The need stems from a very real problem: sending snail mail is wasteful, expensive and inefficient. An online mechanism which can solve this problem is clearly a nice thing to have. That said, I think this service is programmed to be unnecessary.
- What’s wrong with just an email address? Zumbox claims that businesses have their customers’ mailing address but not their email address. There are 3 things wrong with this:
- It assumes that Zumbox is somehow gonna have better success getting a businesses’ customers to sign up for it’s service than a business will have getting the direct email address itself.
- Businesses are already collecting their customers’ email addressses as well as physical mailing address, thus skipping out on the middleman. My business doesn’t even have a mailing address for our customers. The only way we contact our customers is via email.
- Businesses that aren’t collecting email addresses of their consumers aren’t doing it because they can’t collect them, but rather that their systems aren’t set up for it, they aren’t technically minded or they just plain don’t want to.
- Since Zumbox functions as a mapping service between your inefficient mailing address and your highly efficient email address, it still has the inefficiency of being tied to a physical location that doesn’t travel with you when you move, thus creating one more thing you have to do when y ou change your address.
- Who wants yet another place to check your mail online? I’ve already got my work email and my personal email, facebook, twitter…
- Sometimes people prefer physical mail. Flipping through a physical magazine is just nicer than seeing it online sometimes. The feeling and smell of a personal letter that’s suffered the journey of hundreds of miles has something deeply satisfying about it; for instance, I receive a weekly letter from my grandmother which I treasure unlike any email I ever receive.
The one function that has the potential to be great is the ability to consolidate and pay all of your bills from one spot. I’m pretty sure this has been tried before and has it’s share of problems (namely that most businesses that consistently send bills already have this system in place), but I think it’s nice. Maybe if they target midsize businesses that can’t build out these systems themselves, Zumbox could work and find it’s niche.