This article originally appeared in the November/December, 2017 issue of
Mailing Systems Technology.

It’s important to get your company prepared for 2018 and the changes that lie ahead. With technological innovations, legislative challenges, and new generations of workers all on the rise, it’s needless to say that change is coming. However, change can also mean opportunities to grow your business and improve the value of direct communication. Here are my predictions for how 2018 will play out for the mailing industry.

The Growing Cost of Bad Data

It’s not a new idea that old data is bad data, and bad data can cause a plethora of issues for companies, including wasted costs and poor response rates. Bad address quality is also now heightened in the age of Informed Delivery. Consumers now have enhanced visibility into their mail, so companies who use bad data are becoming increasingly evident. A brand who consistently sends mail that is incorrectly addressed, or sends pieces that are irrelevant to the end recipient, begins to lose credibility, and it may hurt the company financially in the long run.

Businesses today need to go beyond basic compliance for high quality lists in order to compete in the market space. Applying best practices in address quality does not mean smaller lists; it means enhanced lists that return better response rates. With marketers increasingly developing multichannel campaigns, which leverage the proven foundation of direct mail, it’s essential that mail pieces are going to the right address and targeted towards the right consumer. If they’re not, the effectiveness of the campaign overall will greatly diminish.

Bad data creates wasted costs, which no company wants to deal with. UAA (Undeliverable as Addressed) mail means wasted materials and penalties from the USPS. And while the USPS has announced that it will implement the next CASS certification cycle in 2019, now is the time to start reducing UAA. If your company is experiencing a lot of returned mail or undeliverable as addressed pieces, it’s important to look for ways to solve this issue.

Vacancies at the Board of Governors

Currently, all nine of the presidentially-appointed Board of Governor seats for the USPS are vacant (although three names have been put forth for consideration by President Trump). Without at least one governor to approve it, there will be no promotions in 2018 and no authority to adjust future postage prices. The loss of a two percent discount from the various promotions that will soon expire may translate into a sizeable increase in postage in 2018 for mailers that had been leading the way in creating irresistible mail pieces. (Editor's Note: See this article by Kathleen Siviter, which explains in more detail why we need this issue resolved as soon as possible).

It begs the question: how will the Administration and the Senate allow a major US quasigovernment entity the size of the USPS, which underpins an industry comparable in size to oil and gas, to operate without a Board of Governors? We need to make sure our senators quickly confirm the nominees. Our industry needs to continue to push Congress either directly or through industry associations to have a properly seated Board of Governors for the USPS. It’s up to us to inspire change.

The Need to Make Mail Irresistible

The importance and influence of direct mail is no secret. The country is experiencing a digital fatigue phenomenon. Americans, from millennials to baby boomers, trust direct mail over digital marketing tactics. Because of the nature of mail itself, consumers spend more time observing direct mail. Whether they act on the offer or throw the piece away, they spend more time considering it versus email or online advertising.

With advancements in print technology, variable printing is the norm; personalized mail pieces are not just a reality, but expected by consumers. While digital fatigue is a growing factor, the internet is still an integral part of everyone’s daily lives. By also working to add a digital component to personalized direct mail, marketers can leverage this physical component for effective multichannel marketing. (Editor’s note: Many of you are familiar with the Irresistible Mail Award. Starting in 2018, this award will be renamed as Next Generation Campaign Award and will celebrate campaigns that take advantage of Informed Delivery to communicate with their consumer audience. The award will continue to recognize B2C campaigns that include innovative and effective letter and flat mail piece designs. It is indeed an exciting time for mailers!)

Again, thanks to recent printing advancements, direct mail pieces can now go further than just personalized messages and distinctive colors, but also include textures and scents, creating an entirely unique and memorable experience for consumers who come in contact with these irresistible mail pieces.

Chris Lien is president of BCC Software and has been active in the mailing industry for over 20 years. During that time, he authored several software solutions utilizing Mail.dat for electronic auditing, distribution, and logistics planning, palletization, and electronic postage payment.