The USPS provided an update on the current IMb numbers at the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) meeting held in August. According to Jim Cochrane of the USPS, IMb adoption has leveled off. The overall mail class mix of full-service hasn't changed a great deal since the last update. Of the 42 Billion full-service IMb mailpieces processed, this is the breakdown:

48% of full-service IMb is First-Class

31% of full-service IMb is Standard Mail

50% of full-service IMb is Periodicals

To date, over $70,000,000 has been paid out in IMb discounts by the USPS. Yes, those customers that opted to invest in the full-service IMb implementation are enjoying the associated discounts.

In addition to the discounts, another expressed value proposition for full-service IMb is free ACS. You may be aware that full-service IMb mailers expressed concern over Traditional ACS charges that were being assessed by the USPS as a result of issues in the reading of the IMb. Several months ago, the USPS agreed with mailers that these Traditional ACS charges were not appropriate and as a result, ceased charging these mailers for Traditional ACS. Also well-received by the industry is that the USPS agreed to refund mailers for some of these charges. The USPS is getting a better handle on the source of issues with IMb barcode readability, and as a result, they announced that Traditional ACS fees will continue to be waived until 9/24/2011. Afterwards, however, the barcode readability must achieve a 70% threshold. Traditional ACS notices above 70% will be charged for. Additionally, the threshold will be raised five percent every six months until capped at 90%.

Jim Cochrane also noted that the value of the IMb to the USPS is far from being realized. Basic IMb is an improvement over POSTNET for the USPS, but full-service is where the real value is. Full-service IMb gives the USPS added visibility down to a mailpiece level via the eDocumentation (e-Doc) and FAST scheduling appointments even before mail arrives at their loading docks. With pallets scanned, the Start-the-Clock initiated, trays scanned and mailpieces being processed, the USPS has visibility of the mail throughout its entire network.

Add to this the USPS' financial worries and their resulting planned actions of reducing the size of their footprint by closing more than half of the current mail processing centers across the country, the IMb can be used to ensure that there is minimal impact to the service performance. If service begins to suffer, the USPS can adjust the processes and again, minimize the impact of their changes to the network.

Another feature that will soon be available on the USPS' website to help the on-boarding process for small business mailers is a list of third-party providers that can assist a mailer in the on-boarding process and through the Test Environment for Mailers (TEM's process).

As stated in the past, the USPS has the most to gain by mailers implementing the full-service IMb. Since they've removed the deadline of the POSTNET barcode retirement, the option left available to them is to motivate mailers to adopt full-service by offering additional value — beyond the current discounts. Hence, we'll see more changes and services that are available specifically to those mailers that are full-service IMb compliant. An exception to this may be something similar to what happened with the QR barcode discount of three percent available to mailers through August 31st. In this program, while full-service IMb wasn't mandatory, eDoc was required. So, perhaps mailers need to evaluate the cost of migrating to Basic with e-doc capabilities as compared to the cost of going all the way to full-service IMb. As always, mailers are encouraged to contact their vendor of choice to get assistance in making this decision.