Since the arrival of the ZIP Code in 1963, mailers have worked hard to meet the addressing and sorting requirements established by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Then came the ZIP+4, the Postnet Barcode, the Delivery Point Barcode and the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb). Each upgrade promised streamlined processing, consistent delivery and low postage rates. For most mailers, the USPS delivered on those promises.
Many mailers have held out on moving from the Basic IMb to the Full Service IMb, with accompanying mail.dat file and eDocs. Tracking MIDs, CRIDS and mail piece IDs often require a significant investment in software, databases and customer buy-in. For smaller mailers and mail service providers, the extra work required wasn’t worth the $0.003 per piece discount.
That’s about to change. For 2 reasons – Informed Delivery and Informed Visibility.
Informed Delivery is the USPS platform for providing recipients a digital preview of the letters they’ll receive that day. Each morning, the customer receives an email with scans of the envelopes, or they can log on to their usps.com account to view the images. With very limited marketing, the USPS has already signed up over 2 million customers for the service.
While customers and prospects having multiple touches through a single mailpiece (email, online and the physical document) is good for companies, that’s not the exciting part. Mailers can create campaigns that supplement the scans with color images and a clickable URL. For marketers, that may mean creating a direct link to the website page mentioned in the offer. Transactional mailers could add a link to the account sign-on screen, speeding up payment processing. The bridge between physical and digital customer communication has been built and is open for business.
Just as important for mailers is tracking where their mailpieces are in the USPS system. The migration from the “Confirm” service to “IMb Trace” provided all Full Service IMb users free access to the USPS data on scans of pallets, trays and pieces. The data has to be imported, read and analyzed the day (or days) after the events. With Informed Visibility, the USPS is creating a system that will provide real-time intelligence on the status of mailings.
The program is still in pilot mode, and several of the participants shared their feedback during the recent National Postal Forum in Baltimore. They’re pleased with the results so far, as well as additional enhancements coming from the USPS. With geofencing and the GPS devices used by the carriers, the USPS will be able to use predictive analytics and inform senders when the pieces are delivered to the mailbox. It’s not the equivalent of a scanned piece of Certified Mail or Priority Mail, but it’s close.
What can mailers do with this info? Consider timed multi-channel campaigns to promote a product or service. Or perhaps contacting select customers to confirm that they’ve received their new ID Card that day. The possibilities are limited to the imagination of savvy marketers and customer service professionals.
This new level of transparency and interaction is good for the USPS, for mailers, and for their mutual customers. To take advantage of these new tools, and add value to every mailpiece, mailers and service providers need to become informed - today.