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That Funny New Barcode

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The USPS Intelligent Mail® Barcode.

As you can imagine, the U.S. Postal Service has a massive task. Each year they deliver over 213 billion pieces of mail to over 148 million addresses in major cities and tiny towns in every corner of the country. Plus, 1.8 million new addresses are added every year making an already big job even bigger for letter carriers working out of 36,000+ local Post Offices. When you consider everything it takes to accomplish this mission, the postage you pay to send a letter is still a pretty good bargain!

Now as the Postal Service prepares for the future of mail, their focus is on opportunities to control their operating costs, increase efficiencies and improve mail delivery. For years we’ve seen the barcodes on every piece of mail we receive. These “postnet” barcodes have been the center of a highly automated workflow that provides a roadmap to where each card or letter will be delivered. This technology has served its purpose very well, but now a foundation is being built for tomorrow and the future.

What does the very near future hold? Imagine every piece in your direct mail campaign having its own personal ID. Imagine being able to track each piece all the way to delivery. Imagine getting an electronic report card notifying you of pieces that are undeliverable or need to be forwarded to a different address.

Enter Intelligent Mail® – the future of mail that is arriving today. Employing new barcode technologies that empower both you and the Postal Service, Intelligent Mail® gives you greater visibility of your mail as it travels across the country. It also reports on address and barcode quality, which helps to improve your mailing list accuracy and ensure the timely, accurate delivery of future mailings. This new Intelligent Mail® Barcode (IMB) incorporates the “roadmap” features of the familiar postnet barcode as well as identifiers for the class of mail, special services, the mail preparer or mail owner and the unique piece ID.

Old Postnet Barcode

New Intelligent Mail® Barcode

Most importantly, Intelligent Mail® sets the stage for new information services that keep you informed and reduce your list maintenance workload. Here’s a glimpse of two exciting new Intelligent Mail® offerings.

OneCode CONFIRM™ is a Postal Service technology that provides electronic mail delivery information for your mailings. Through the tracking of the unique piece ID in the IMB’s through their automated sorting equipment, they provide data that can be used to develop summary reports of delivery dates by State, Zip Code, postal processing facility or for an individual mailpiece. You no longer will have to guess when your mail is arriving especially with Standard Mail. And if you want to do follow-up marketing to your recipients, you’ll know exactly when to launch it.

The second Intelligent Mail® based service is OneCode ACS™ or Address Change Service. In combination with Optical Character Reader technology built into mail processing equipment, the IMB facilitates the electronic reporting of address changes and undeliverable mail. For First Class mail, ACS lets you know which pieces were forwarded along with the new addresses. And for pieces that were undeliverable, this electronic data will replace the physical pieces that are normally returned to you. ACS reporting is even more valuable for Standard Mail class which does not forward or return either category of mail pieces. Instead, they are disposed of by the Postal Service through their highly acclaimed recycling program.

Modern Postcard is actively working with the Postal Service to fully understand the potential of Intelligent Mail® so that we can be positioned to take advantage of its benefits at the earliest possible date. As of April 1, 2008, 100% of the automation mail we send out for our clients has been switched from the postnet barcode to the new Intelligent Mail® Barcode. We’re also exploring both OneCode CONFIRM™ and OneCode ACS™ so we can deliver these capabilities and their benefits to you sometime later this year.

Watch future editions of MP News for more details on our progress and to learn when we will be able to put Intelligent Mail® features to work for your direct mail campaigns.