The USPS delivers over 484.8 million pieces of mail on a daily basis. Did you know that the USPS tracks every single piece that they process and deliver every day? Every billing statement, subscription, birthday card, and piece of marketing material is scanned and tracked from reception to delivery. Every presorted piece is tracked on their container (pallet), in the handling unit (tray or sack), and down to every individual piece. They do this to know where every piece of mail is within the mailing network. With the costs of marketing mail or billing statements being anywhere between 40 cents to multiple dollars per piece, don’t you want to know where your mail is any point in the mail cycle? If it is important enough to mail the piece, isn’t it important enough to know that the person received it? Most mailers should find tracking beneficial, yet most do not realize the value of tracking their mail through the Informed Visibility (IV) platform. To see the value, let’s follow a few pieces of mail as they move through the postal system and determine what the various IV scans mean, what they might tell us, and what we can learn from them.
In our first example, a marketer spends weeks planning a mail campaign and sends out a beautifully designed piece to tens of thousands of highly targeted prospects, yet somehow the response rate is not as high as expected. Who or what is to blame? In this scenario, the mailer does not look up any tracking details, so how can they properly determine the issue? If they don’t know if and when all the mail was delivered, they won’t know if the low response was caused by delivery delays, the target list selections missing the mark, the offer not being compelling, or if the recipient just wasn’t interested. In a post-campaign analysis, they might be able to determine that a target area has no responses and suspect there was an issue with delivery. But what are they going to do when they find this out four or six weeks after the mailing? They could potentially re-mail to the area again and see if they can re-coup the potential responders, but that is spending more money unnecessarily. In the end, numerous prospects were lost before they had a chance to become a customer, and little to nothing was learned.
In our next scenario, the mailer has limited knowledge of tracking and can log in to the IV website to research a campaign if they need to. A few days after the mail date, they go into the IV platform and query all the pallets to see if they have any scans. They do not need to know the meanings of all the scan operation codes, but if they have scan “848” for a pallet that means “Container Possession” or “878” for “Container Load,” they at least know it was delivered to the postal facility and should process and deliver soon. In this scenario, they notice a few pallets have no scans. Based on this finding, they dig a little deeper and determine all the pallets are for a single destination, and none of them were accepted at the mail facility. They contact the logistics provider and confirm the pallets were not released as planned. Now they quickly work with the transportation provider and the USPS to make sure the mail pieces are processed and delivered in-home within the target window. They saved a disaster and received the responses they were expecting. By knowing a little about tracking, they were able to identify the issue and save the campaign in time.
In our third scenario, a marketer is an IV expert (or uses one) to track the mail from pallet induction through piece delivery, and in their campaign analysis. They watch as every pallet is delivered to the postal facilities, which also tells them if the logistics provider is on time or late. They monitor the mail as it moves across the country and through delivery. Based on specific “Stop the Clock” and “Logical Scan Events,” they can determine the exact date the person receives the piece. As the replies come in, they flag the response date for each mailed record. Now they can compare the delivery date to the response date and get a better analysis of customer responses. With this information from all responders, they now know how long, on average, it takes for their customers to respond as well as how long it will be before response rates drop off dramatically. Knowing this information gives them the option to send email reminders just prior to the date the responses will slow down, giving an extra boost in response rate. The analysis will also reveal what delivery days trigger the largest response rates – how those receiving the piece on Monday respond compare to those that receive it on Thursday or Friday. This technology is not only an advantage to marketers but also provides necessary information to companies who mail billing statements, retailers that mail coupons, or accounts receivable departments tracking payments coming back in the mail stream.
In the age of data and analytics, why stop your mail campaign at the mail date? Follow the scan data and use it to your advantage. Watch for hiccups in the delivery process. Monitor your mail service providers and logistics companies to make sure they deliver on their promises. Learn about your customers and how they respond to your offers. Not knowing if the piece was delivered within the offer period or not delivered at all obviously impacts the way the customer or prospect will view your offer and company. The data insights gained from IV will positively impact you and your customers’ experience from mailing to delivery as well as response to revenue.
Dan Browne is Manager of Data Services at SourceLink.
This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2020 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.