Precision in mail delivery is becoming more important to retailers, event promoters, and others who depend on direct mail to inform and motivate their audiences. As more organizations leverage the power of omni-channel communications, they need to know when mail will arrive so they can time their messages via multiple communication channels.
Triggered mail is becoming more common as organizations integrate their CRM systems with marketing automation platforms. Businesses are sending customers materials based on individual criteria to approach them at the most opportune times. (See my column “From Batch to Triggered” in the July/August 2022 issue of Mailing Systems Technology). Obviously, knowing the exact date a mail piece arrives at its destination is critical to the follow-up efforts associated with these highly targeted approaches.
Technology to the Rescue
Changes the US Postal Service has made in delivery standards and its transportation network have altered the length of time the USPS takes to deliver some of the mail. Fortunately, technology can make mail delivery predictions easier and more accurate than the old “spray and pray” days of direct mail marketing.
Before intelligent mail barcodes and Informed Visibility (IV), mailers did a lot of educated guessing to decide when to deposit mail, so it arrived at the ideal time. The guesses were based on the experience of professional mailers and a few variables, such as the mail drop location and the delivery points. Mail service providers measured the accuracy of hitting an in-home target date with manual reporting from seed records in the data files or tracking coupons as customers redeemed them. The method worked well, but no one would call it precise. Mailers aimed for delivery windows that spanned three or four days, and reporting lagged behind the tracked activity.
Now, with the USPS tracking mail pieces as they travel throughout the delivery network, mailers have access to data that doesn’t depend on someone manually recording delivery dates. Besides capturing the date when mail is delivered to a destination, mailers can track their mail throughout the journey. This allows them to make adjustments to campaign schedules or initiate actions to address mail processing delays that occur after turning mail over to the postal service.
The USPS launched Informed Visibility in 2018. In the beginning, all the IV data came from actual mail piece scans. Since then, the US Postal Service enhanced the system to include container scans. The USPS uses container scans to infer the status of all the mail pieces assumed to be in that container, according to mailer-provided data. This fills in some gaps in the original IV system and provides mailers with accurate, near real-time reporting on the whereabouts of their mail.
A Competitive Advantage
Mail service providers should be familiar with Informed Visibility. Tracking the mail adds value to the product they sell, which, in turn, encourages customer loyalty, improves the ROI of their customers’ direct mail campaigns, and increases profit margins.
By including Informed Visibility mail tracking and reporting with your customers’ jobs, you can:
• Increase mail’s value through better coordination and triggered events in multi-channel campaigns
• Improve accuracy in hitting in-home target dates
• Notice changes in delivery times across multiple mailings or in specific regions
• Get near real-time notifications when mail is delivered
• Allow your customers to prepare for increased workloads or inventory demand prompted by the mail delivery
• Get early warning about delivery issues so you can help resolve them on behalf of your customers
Most mailers don’t deal with the raw IV data made available by the USPS. They contract with third-party companies who collect the data and provide meaningful reports that mail service providers and their customers can understand.
Flawless print and mail production is no longer enough to guarantee continued success as a mail service provider. Everyone in the business can do that. Adding value to what you do for customers is essential to distinguish your company from others providing similar services. In-home date forecasting, added services, and other benefits you can offer customers because of your expertise with USPS programs like Informed Visibility can make a difference in your business.
Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in the September/October, 2022 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.