Getting your mailpiece noticed is the single best way to encourage a response. What's the best way to get noticed? Creative and innovative mailpiece design - for starters. Mail service providers (MSPs) sometimes rely on customers for direction on mailpiece design and content. After all, customers know their products, and usually have an idea of what they want before they choose an MSP. But the latest innovations in mailpiece design and technology give savvy MSPs a unique opportunity to add value to customers' mail, making it more relevant, more enticing, and more actionable than the classic white paper envelope.

Print Comes to Life
One of the best examples of innovative design so far this year was the 2012 IKEA catalog. Together with a mobile application, the traditional catalog allows customers to view and interact with their products in a whole new way. This new technology, called augmented reality, has opened up print to the digital world, making it more fun and relevant than ever.

Linking Mail to Mobile
Linking a QR code to your home page? That's so 2011. Leading edge mailers are using QR and other mobile barcodes for more than just page hits these days. Personalized URLs, or PURLs, have been used along with mobile barcodes for a while now, but the latest trends are using those same barcodes for mobile coupons, or even a direct call to a customer service rep, ready to take an order. With over a billion smartphones currently in use today, mail/mobile connections are more valuable than ever before.
USPS Rewards Innovation
Along with the latest prices announced for 2013, USPS released a schedule of new mail incentive programs that are encouraging mailers to use these latest technologies. Some offer discounts as high as five percent. Customers can benefit greatly by integrating these into their next mailing campaign. Be ready for these incentives coming soon:
· Mobile Coupon/Click-to-Call, March-April
Qualifying pieces with a hardcopy coupon meant for mobile redemption, or with a mobile barcode that initiates a phone call, can earn a two percent postage discount.
· Earned Value Reply Mail, April-June
Qualifying Business Reply Mail (BRM) and Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM) pieces can receive a $0.02 postage credit for each piece sent back through the mail.
· Emerging Technologies, August-September
Qualifying pieces with augmented reality (like the IKEA catalog), near-field communication like an RFID tag, or Authentication - a way to verify that the user is accessing a site and also received the mailpiece - can earn a two percent postage discount.
· Picture Permit, August-September
Qualifying pieces that use a pre-approved Picture Permit Indicia will be discounted the additional cost of the picture permit indicia - one cent for First Class mail and two cents for Standard mail.
· Product Samples, August-September
Qualifying parcels including a product sample can earn a five percent postage discount.
· Mobile Buy-it-Now, November-December
Qualifying pieces that include a way to access a mobile shopping site (including QR codes, smart watermarks and other technology) can earn a two percent postage discount.

Finding the Right Fold
Do you send Folded Self-Mailers (FSMs)? If so, you've probably heard that changes are on the horizon. After a long testing period running FSMs on USPS equipment, the results are in. USPS codified all the results and selected designs for FSMs that are most compatible with their equipment, and the result is a new set of rules for these mailpieces. Fortunately for mailers, the number of options is much greater than the initial proposal, but you'll want to compare your mailpieces against the new standards. The most memorable rule for these pieces is that the final fold is now the bottom of the mailpiece. While the new rules limit the number of ways to create these mailpieces, they also ensure that pieces designed following the new specifications are handled well by USPS equipment, meaning they are less likely to be mangled during transportation.
Your customers are looking to you to advise them on mailpiece design. If you are familiar with and can recommend newer mailpiece design and technology to them, you can help increase the response your customer gets, encouraging them to come back to you for future mailings. And with postal discounts waiting to be taken, there's no time like the present to start learning about these new opportunities.