Standard Mail is back in the spotlight as an idea whose time has come-again. While mailers were quick to adopt presort services for First-Class Mail, the co-mingling of Standard Mail has only recently taken off.

In years past, a simple in-house presort was often considered "good enough" for mail that was once relegated to "third-class" status. Today, however, Standard Mail represents a more significant portion of total volumes and mailers are looking for any advantage. If there are ways to squeeze an extra few cents or an extra few days out of the process, then squeeze away.

For some mailers, the new-found interest is simple economics. The combination of this year's postage price changes along with rising gas prices and fuel surcharges increased the cost of mail delivery at a time when most budgets faced steep cuts. Increasing the density of a Standard Mail presort-going from Mixed AADC to 5-digit levels, for example-can reduce postage by more than 13 percent. In addition, inducting mail closer to its final destination could achieve an extra 18 percent in savings.

For others, presort services provide faster, most consistent in-home delivery; an important factor as more and more marketers are integrating efforts across multiple channels.

The primary driver behind the sudden interest in using co-mingled services for Standard Mail, however, has to do with the fact that organizations need to optimize every single mailpiece-even those pieces that end up in what some call "the tail of the mail." After all of the in-house presorts and destination entry discounts were taken, even the largest, most efficient mailers found that they did not have the volume or processing network required to optimize every piece; and for those remainders-the tail of the mail-piece costs were higher and delivery times longer.

Finding Opportunities in Standard Mail

Standard Mail presort and co-mingling services provide a broad range of benefits that could impact the bottom line. Typically, mailers who can benefit from two or more of the following five advantages will find that the additional coordination required is worth it in terms of mailpiece efficiency and effectiveness.

1. Presort density - Co-mingle your mail with mail from other corporations and mail houses to increase 5-digit and carrier route densities. By presorting as finely as possible, everyone benefits from lower rates.
2. Entry discounts - Earn an additional-level of savings when Standard Mail is trucked and inducted to a postal facility closer to the delivery point. Entry discounts on drop shipments to Network Distribution Centers (NDC) or Sectional Center Facilities (SCF) add significant savings.
3. Predictable pricing - Leading presort service providers allow mailers to contract for flat-rate pricing, which can facilitate budget projections and ROI calculations.
4. Faster in-home delivery - With greater density and entry-level induction, mailpieces may arrive days sooner, and in some cases rival the delivery time of First-Class Mail. Given the importance of every customer relationship and every new sale, consistent, reliable delivery is more important than ever.
5. Visibility - Leading-edge presort service operations can also add, enhance, process and consolidate barcode information and mailpiece tracking, which can help you coordinate multichannel efforts across your organization.

Even if you can achieve some of these benefits in house, a third-party co-mingling service with expertise in Standard Mail could help optimize results and reduce the disparity in cost and delivery time that is common when you cannot achieve the same level of presort for each and every piece.

Postal Optimization: The Inside Advantage

Sometimes, the best way to tackle a problem is to look at it from the bottom up. Leading mail presort services providers can help you quantify specific opportunities based on the type and volume of mail you send. As part of an up-front consultation, experts can analyze mail files and break down mail characteristics to identify when it makes sense to presort in house, and when it makes sense to have mail picked up by a presort specialist.

Postal optimization is not an all-or-nothing story. In situations where you can efficiently create your own postal optimization scenarios, you may choose to handle those pieces in-house and contract with a service provider only on pieces, jobs or mailstreams where there are opportunities to increase savings, speed or in-home predictability.

When selecting a presort service provider, look for range of services and depth of expertise. Selection criteria include:
· Scalability - Can the service provider process variable quantities while maintaining high standards?
· Network - Does the service provider have multiple facilities across the country to maximize drop-shipments to USPS NDC and SCF sites? Are there redundancies in place in case of disaster?
· Technology - How proficient are the software systems at the presort service provider? Are they up on the latest in Intelligent Mail?
· Quality - Do they have the strict quality control and security measures in place to prevent costly delays?
· Expertise - What's the track record over time? What do their customers say about them?

Taking Control of Standard Mail - On Each and Every Piece

Standard Mail presort offers so many advantages, including cost savings, time savings and streamlined processing. Not surprisingly, many mailers and direct mail shops have concluded that achieving these benefits for only some or most of their mailings is no longer sufficient. Today, organizations need to optimize postal presort and avoid situations where low-density addresses fall into the "tail of the mail."

Leading mail presort services providers can help with customized programs based on your specific mail characteristics-especially given that they handle billions of pieces of Standard Mail annually.