Debbie Pfeiffer

The business of customer communications has never been more popular, with daily headlines trending the latest app, mobile marketing, and QR code potential. The need to have fast, accurate communication is essential to business success, and it has never been more vital to be proactive and provide organizations with the most innovative mail service tools available.

Investigating the most recent advancements in mail technology can be overwhelming. It is increasingly difficult to keep pace with the rapid evolution of innovation and what it means for the bottom line. However, ignoring these vast advancements and not choosing to keep up with technology can prove costly.

Mail service technology is evolving to help organizations improve on systems already in place, but only if organizations actively engage to look for newer, better, brighter ways of getting the job done.

Top trends and innovations affecting mail today:

1. Mail takes a magnified role in an increasingly multichannel world

New devices and digital applications will continue to change the way customers interact with organizations. People are bombarded with thousands of messages daily, yet studies show that consumers will probably notice only a few dozen messages in a day, and will remember as few as four.

While print-and-mail is viewed by some as one of the more costly touchpoints compared to digital alternatives, it also remains one of the most effective. Sixty percent of consumers prefer direct mail for marketing messages[1], and Nielsen reports that mail offers the strongest ROI for both retention and acquisition.
Exploring new technology such as postal presort can create a substantial advantage over a competitor by saving time and resources, and still providing the preferred mailed communication to the consumer.

2. Geo-logistics: getting mail exactly where it needs to be, when it needs to be there

It's the physical nature of mail that garners attention: the letter in the mailbox, the package in your hands. You simply can't touch a digital message.

This physical component requires even more effective logistics management, with top presort operations excelling in logistics operations, providing 24/7 access to service and support, as well as incident tracking and geo-location tracking. As technology evolves, national service providers have the bandwidth to support the latest tools, including software that can track weather patterns across the nation or traffic accidents to avoid any possible delays.

3. Standard Mail goes first-class

Standard Mail® is not only a cost-effective way to engage customers, generate leads and sell more products and services, but current innovations have elevated Standard Mail® to a first-class experience at significantly reduced pricing.

o Precise delivery.
The best presort networks span the entire U.S., enabling service providers to route and induct Standard Mail® closer to its final destination to provide reliable in-home dates, coordinate multichannel efforts, follow-up effectively and target when mail should arrive.

o Real-time mail drops.
Smart organizations are marketing in real-time. Instead of holding mail for larger volume discounts, they are leveraging greater savings by using presort services on smaller runs.

o Fixed-rate pricing.
Fixed pricing enables marketers to manage costs and avoid fluctuations common when geographic densities vary. With one low, consistent price, organizations can budget effectively and manage ROI without regard to volume.

4. Mailers measure results. Again and again.
Today mailers can offer visibility and accountability to analyze results and make real-time decisions while a campaign is in progress if the correct analytical tools, barcodes and systems are in place.

Top presort service bureaus have invested in Intelligent Mail® technologies and infrastructure. With IMbââ¬Å¾¢ adoption, these presort houses provide detailed, piece-level tracking on outgoing mail and business reply envelopes. Unique identifiers on each piece allow organizations to monitor mail flow without incurring hardware and software expenses.

Mail tracking solutions and tools:
· Validate each piece was mailed on time
· Generate audit trails required for industry regulators
· Mitigate fraud due to misdirected checks and cards
· Avoid cancelling accounts when payment is in the mail
· Coordinate multichannel marketing campaigns
· Respond to customer inquiries regarding mail status
· Forecast cash receivables
· Consolidate data from multiple locations and campaigns

5. "We Can Do That"â❠in mail efficiency

When deciding whether to presort onsite or via an offsite service, some mailers recognize they can have the best of both worlds. It is possible to maintain an onsite solution--upgrading hardware and software to maximize operational throughput with integrity and security--and use an external presort service where volumes or ZIP Code concentrations fall short of the best discounts.
When searching for a presort provider who can help you tackle today's most pressing issues, look for organizations that process high volumes across a national network, so you can secure the best savings and best delivery options available. Specialized high-quality workflows, secure facilities and robust reporting options are essential to ensuring careful handling of your critical mail.
The Monday Morning Quarterback: Learning From The Past to Improve Today

To understand where your business and customers can benefit from a new approach, it is important to consider why so many companies now collaborate with external presort services providers. The factors driving this transition include several issues that organizations must also contend with in the months ahead.

Mail Characteristics.
Postal discounts are maximized when businesses have many pieces going to the same 5-digit ZIP Code. Organizations can achieve better sorts and savings by commingling mail with mail sent by other companies. Presort services enable organizations to maintain their discounts on First-Class Mail® even in environments where more statements are sent electronically. Plus, as marketers respond to consumer demands for multichannel communications including mail, Standard Mail® volumes continue to increase and become a larger portion of the mail mix, adding even more value to services that help induct mail closer to its final destination.

New USPS Programs.
Over the past decade, the U.S. Postal Service has developed more sophisticated ways to add value, but new technologies may be required to optimize results. Presort services providers that have invested heavily in new platforms and software have thrived, while small regional shops have closed. Many mailers, faced with new capital expenses, have chosen to collaborate with large, established presort service providers--particularly given the transition to the Intelligent Mail® barcode in 2013. Even high-volume mailers who have managed presort in-house for years are now re-evaluating the added benefits of switching to a company that specializes in this field, with many opting for a hybrid approach that involves in-house and outsourced elements.

Economic Pressures.
In the 1990s, some organizations focused only on speed to market and revenue growth. The 2008 economic downturn reminded us that we also need to closely manage expenses. Over the past five years, more mailers have transitioned to external presort service providers. This is partly due to simple economics, but also because top presort services have worked closely with mailers and the USPS to create workflows, metrics and standards that deliver a secure, well-documented chain of custody.

Mail characteristics, USPS requirements, multichannel complexities, and increased economic pressures are real-world issues organizations must contend with to keep pace. The ones who succeed will not only keep costs down and efficiency up, they will help their organization improve overall operational performance.

Debbie Pfeiffer, vice president for Pitney Bowes Presort Services, is responsible for U.S. sales and client services. Her extensive industry experience and appointments include: vice president/general manager, Ohio operations and vice president of national accounts for Pitney Bowes Presort Services; and industry co-chair for the Central Ohio Postal Customer Council (COPCC). She is a former board member of the National Association of Presort Mailers and currently serves as a member of the National Postal Policy Council.
Standard Mail, Intelligent Mail, IMb, ZIP Code and First-Class Mail are trademarks owned by the United States Postal Service.

[1] Epsilon Targeting, December 2011