The Cost of Undeliverable Mail

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

How Much Is It?

Have you stopped to consider the real financial impact of undeliverable mail?
We’ve blogged about how mail piece design can impact deliverability of your mail and provided guidelines that will help ensure your mail gets delivered. If you are like a lot of companies, once a mail piece is returned, you simply change the address and resend it – right? Just more paper and postage costs, that’s all – but is it?

Undelivered envelope with yellow sticker

Undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mail is a costly problem for both mailers and the Postal Service alike. In 2016 alone, nearly 6.6 billion mail pieces were undeliverable*. Mailers spend over $20 billion on UAA mail, while direct costs to the USPS is over $1.5 billion/year**.

If you think the only cost for undeliverable mail is reprinting and remailing costs, you’re in for a big surprise. There’s much more to the story than that. For mailers, there are both tangible and intangible costs related to undeliverable mail:

Tangible

  • Statements and late notices, if applicable
  • Labor to prepare mailings, research the correct address and regenerate and re-mail the communication
  • Delayed payment of invoices and its impact on cash flow


Intangible

  • Lost sales because the communication was never received or received too late to act upon.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) impact -damaged customer relationship and reduced goodwill from customers who are irate from not receiving correspondence in a timely manner and/or receiving late fees.


The bottom line: Companies can easily spend $25 or more per piece of returned mail. How can you determine your cost? The USPS Inspector General sited a simple way of determining this. Take the annual value of a customer and divide it by the customer’s expected response rate. For example, if a Customer is worth $600 annually and typically responds at a 10% rate, the cost of the UAA mail piece is $60 – a far cry from the cost to reprint and re-mail the original communication!

Improving Deliverability


One of the most significant factors impacting mail deliverability is address quality. With 18% of the population moving each year and 20% of businesses moving or failing, it is critical to keep addresses up-to-date to keep deliverability high. Address quality software can identify and update your customer file before your mail piece goes out the door

Need a solution to improve your mail deliverability? Click here for data quality options or call us at 303-761-0681

10 Common Mistakes in Mail Piece Design

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

What they are and how to avoid them

Millions of dollars are spent on mail to customers and prospects each year. Yet nearly 6.6 billion mail pieces were undeliverable in 2016* and most of it was avoidable. In addition, a significant portion of delivered pieces did not take advantage of available discounted rates. That begs the question… why pay for mail that doesn’t reach its destination or costs more than necessary?

You can avoid most of these costs by understanding the USPS mail design requirements. Some deliverability issues can also be avoided through address correction but that’s a topic for another post.

Fact...
If you don’t follow the USPS’ mail design requirements, you’ll either pay more for postage or your mail will not be delivered.

 

Because understanding USPS requirements will keep you from throwing away your mailing dollars, we prepared a summary to help you avoid common pitfalls. For those who want to dig into the nitty gritty, you can read a detailed USPS report here.

  1. Not meeting minimum mailing dimensions
    Minimum size of any mail piece is 3.5″ x 5″. Anything smaller is considered unmailable by the Post Office.
  2.  

  3. Dark/Black background color on mail pieces
    Dark and black backgrounds should not be used because addresses and barcodes can’t be read by USPS automation equipment. Even dark borders or edges can affect processing and are
    not recommended for mail pieces.
  4.  

  5. Screening/Imaging
    Show-through from the envelope lining (e.g., a security tint) or from an insert that is visible in the addressing area can impact whether barcodes can be read by automation
    equipment.
  6.  

  7. Placement of return address on Letters and Flats
    The return address on a letter-size piece should not appear in the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) Read Area, but be placed above 2-3/4” from the bottom of the mail piece (green area on the example) and extend no more than half the length of the envelope.
  8.  
     

  9. Text or graphics in the Barcode Clear Zone
    The Barcode Clear Zone extends 4-3/4” from the right edge and 5/8” from the bottom edge of the envelope. This is where the USPS places its automation barcode. There should be no printed numbers, text or graphics in this area to interfere with scanning equipment.
  10.  

  11. Postcard design
    Postcards must fall within the following dimensions:

    • Minimum: 3.5″ x 5″
    • Maximum: 4.5″ x 6″

    Vertical and horizontal formatting requirements apply. More details

  12.  

  13. Insert shift
    The complete address and/or barcode must be fully displayed at all times, even if contents shift. There must be a minimum of 1/8″ space on either side of the barcode and address within a window.
    There are a number of requirements/restrictions on placement of the barcode in an address.
    More details
  14.  

  15. Folded self-mailer construction
    Self-mailers are just that – they are self-contained and mail without an envelope. Gatefolds, Accordion and Z-fold are non-machineable and qualify for discounted pricing.
    Additional guidelines for self-mailers are outlined in the detailed information or in the USPS DMM, Section 201.3.14,
    which can be viewed on the USPS Website.


Two additional mistakes are difficult to summarize briefly in the space of this blog:

  • 9. Address placement on Flats
  •  

  • 10.Requesting uniquely assigned Business Reply Mail (BRM)Zip+4 codes

You can find information on these two topics in the complete report.

Becoming familiar with the design requirements of the USPS is vital to ensuring your mail can be delivered and automation discounts are applied. Having the right equipment and processing tools to meet mailing standards is critical. Check out our addressers, mail machines, folder/inserters and document processing options for more information.

If you need help, contact us at 303-761-0681 or the USPS MDA Support Center at 855-593-6093.

*USPS UAA Rollup 1998-2016

Who Said Mail is Dead?

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions


Back in the 90’s, it was predicted that electronic media would eliminate the use of paper and be the demise of mail. Thirty plus years later, this prediction has not proved right. With the emphasis on digital communications and the ease with which we communicate, it would seem that mail would be doomed. But not yet!
While mail has declined from its heyday, it has a viable place in the communications mix. Consider some of the advantages of mail:

  • Anticipation and emotional connection with a personal communication that can be touched and felt
  • Less clutter (compared to all those emails) so advertiser’s messages are more easily seen
  • Longer life – mail is often held onto as reminders to take an action (emails are gone in an instant!)

While multiple channels of communication are necessary these days, mail still plays an important role in reaching customers and prospects. The fact that there is less mail overall, is an advantage to marketers because their message stands out. In a recent USPS survey*, an average of 8.4 minutes is spent sorting mail which is a very long engagement time (surprisingly, while millennials receive less mail they spend 9.2 minutes engaging with it). This is a great time to engage and attract new customers.
Learn more about engaging your customers in this article by Jim Cochran, Chief Customer & Marketing Officer at the USPS. Or, download the results of the USPS’ Mail Moments 2016 Review for some surprising facts about consumer behavior mail.
Given that mail is still an important part of the communication mix, it’s important to evaluate whether you are maximizing your mail program. Ask yourself whether you can:

    • Maintain your mail list so that you are not paying for mail that will never reach your customer or prospect
    • Leverage your existing communications to deliver customized messages and offers

We offer solutions that will help you optimize your communications through a variety of mailing, printing, digital and logistics solutions. Call us today at 303-761-0681 or contact Paul Johnson (pjohnson@cms-colorado.com) for a complimentary assessment of your mail program.
Share your thoughts. What’s the most unique way you have used mail in your company? What success have you experienced?

*(USPS Mail Moments 2016 Review)