The USPS' 2012 Price Changes have been filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission, and you might ask, what does this have to do with the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb)? Well, lots. In our last article, we talked about the USPS' desire and, more accurately stated, its need to have mailers migrate from the POSTNET barcode to the IMb and better yet, the full-service IMb.

In this price filing, the Postal Service announces that it plans to continue offering the full-service IMb discounts of $3.00 per thousand for First-Class mail and $1.00 per thousand for Standard mail when the full-service IMb is used. In addition, the USPS is living up to its promise to provide scan data to full-service IMb users. In fact, it is going one better on this as in the proposed rate change, "the prices for Confirm service are being set to zero, because the Postal Service intends to end Confirm service once existing customers' subscriptions end. The service will become a feature of the classes of mail that include letters and flats when the mailers use an IMb that contains a Mailer Identification (MID) code that has been registered to receive scan data." Yes, the translation of this means that the scan data provided through CONFIRM will be made available to ALL users of the IMb, Basic and full-service.

Does this mean that POSTNET users (currently about 20% of the mailers) will not have access to CONFIRM data? No, not in the short-term. POSTNET users will have access to scan data (CONFIRM) until the end of their current subscription and will be able to get extensions through 2012. However, beyond December, 2012, scan data will no longer be available for POSTNET users.

Keep in mind that CONFIRM data is provided in a flat file and must be converted into information that is often preferred in a specific format, depending on the user. Given the value of this scan data to businesses seeking to better understand the value of their communications, and the customer behavior based on those communications, having the CONFIRM data in a usable format is of key importance. Fortunately, there are several service providers that can deliver the scan data in a desired format.

In addition, the IMpb (package barcode) is also included in the proposed rate change which was expected since the USPS had previously announced their intentions to dramatically improve their parcel tracking capability. Once fully IMpb is fully, implemented this objective is accomplished.

Another full-service IMb perk included in the proposed rate change is that the annual permit mailing fee will be waived as long as 90% of the mail volume of each mailing meets Full-Service Intelligent Mail barcode standards, for First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, Bound Printed Matter, First-Class Package Service and Parcel Select Lightweight.

So, we are seeing the interest in the USPS in having mailers convert to the IMb so nothing in the proposed rate change comes as a total surprise. In addition, we've heard from the USPS that all future "mail sales," promotions or incentives would require eDocumentation at a minimum and preferably full-service IMb (which, as you may recall, includes eDoc).

The USPS' interest in the IMb has to do with their ability to reduce costs associated with the processing of mail. Yes, there are other advantages in terms of adding value (such as the monitoring and measuring of mail for volume based incentives). But, the most significant driver is the ability to drive costs out of the system and improve service levels at the same time.

One example of driving out costs is the current challenge the USPS faces with paper based postage statements. There are significant costs associated with processing paper based postage statements from data entry errors due to illegible handwriting, incorrect information or mis-keying as statement data is entered into PostalOne! Hence, the USPS is pushing hard for software providers to work together to make it as easy as possible for mailers to provide eDocumentation.

Stay tuned for our next article as we'll share more about the USPS' use of the IMb for cost reduction, but we'll also share how mailers and customers are benefiting with the use of the IMb.