The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been developing and phasing in the use of Intelligent Mail Barcodes (IMbs) for almost a decade now. As part of this long-term phase-in program, for the last two years mailers have been able to use either Basic level IMb or the more advanced and functional Full-Service IMb in order to qualify for discounted automation postage rates. However, now the time is near. As of January 26, 2014, mailers will have to deploy Full-Service IMbs or lose their automation rate discounts.

In terms of cost, using Basic IMb codes has qualified mailers for a discount of $1.00 per 10,000 items mailed. By comparison, Full-Service IMbs qualify for a discount of $3.00 per 10,000 items. While this may not seem like a great deal of savings at first glance, for organizations that send out hundreds of thousands or even millions of statements and similar material every month, the savings - or losses - add up quickly. Yet, cost is only a part of the benefits that Full-Service IMbs can provide.

Accurate Delivery and Tracking
Full-Service IMb codes are used on FirstClass Mail postcards, letters and flats; Standard Mail letters and flats; Periodicals; and Bound Printed Matter. Full-Service IMb eliminates permit fees and can be used at any USPS bulk mail processing location. Additionally, Full-Service IMb deems every mailing piece unique, making it possible to track each item and enabling a wider range of services, including:

Automatic Address Correction. Even if an address is wrong or outdated. This feature helps you avoid losing money because of misdelivered documents. Address correction is important for companies that send mass mailings because each lost or delayed item means paying for undelivered mail, an unnecessary and costly expense. Moreover, mail not making it to the correct recipient results in delays on receiving payments from customers.

"Start-the-Clock" Processing. With "Start-the-Clock," the clock starts ticking on "Day Zero," the day the mail arrives at the USPS. When it is verified and accepted, the USPS scans the IMb barcode again. This tracking data gives business mailers greater visibility into their mail cycle for more effective monitoring of important correspondence.

Destination IMb Tracing and Origin IMb Tracing. These tools help businesses track both outbound mail and incoming replies. The Destination IMb informs mailers in real-time when a document makes it to customers. Origin IMb performs a similar function, but on the return side - companies receive a notification as soon as the return mail is processed for delivery. Together, these functions provide a way to coordinate multichannel programs and fulfillment, and to more effectively manage cash flow and accounts receivable.

Time Is Short
While many mailers have already implemented at least Basic IMb coding, the deadline for the switch to Full-Service IMb is only months away, making it important that your system be tested well beforehand to ensure its error-free usability. The latest information for developing an in-house IMb mailing operation is available at the USPS National Customer Support Center (RIBBS) website at Numerous articles and booklets are offered free of charge for download in PDF format.

Mailers might also consider working with a third-party mail service provider. These business mailers should have Full-Service IMb already up and running, and can spare you the stress and expense of trying to do it all yourself. Whichever way your business goes, Full-Service IMb can help you reduce mailing costs and improve operations throughout your organization. With the continued rise in postage rates, paying attention to all the ways the USPS offers to save just makes good sense.
# # #

Harry Stephens is President/CEO, and founder of DATAMATX, one of the nation's largest privately held, full-service providers of printed and electronic billing solutions. As an advocate for business mailers across the country, Stephens is actively involved in several postal trade associations. He serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Atlanta Postal Customer Council, Board Member of the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC), Member of Major Mailers Association(MMA), and member of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service. He is also immediate past president of the Imaging Network Group (INg), an association for Print/Mail Service Bureaus. As an expert on high-volume print and mail, he has frequently been asked to speak to various USPS groups, including the Board of Governors, about postal reform and other issues affecting business mailers. Find DATAMATX at