5 Tips for Commingling and Copalletizing Mail
There are only about two dozen Bulk Mail Centers in the United States, and to qualify for the lowest rates, commercial mail—including parcel post, media mail, Standard mail and periodicals in bulk form—must travel through one of these centers before delivery.
To penetrate deeper into the postal system and thus achieve faster turnaround and lower rates, direct mail printers and fulfillment houses have developed successful commingling and copalletization practices. The tips from postal experts below illustrate the benefits of each program and best practices for participation.
1. Learn the Benefits of Each Program
First, vendors commingle, or merge solo mailings, to achieve a minimum density of 150 pieces per five-digit ZIP code. Then the mailings are palletized and drop-shipped as close to a Bulk Mail Center as possible, so they can be processed more quickly and at the lowest cost.
In copalletization, the vendor takes mail that already has been prepared (addressed, sorted and sometimes even palletized) and then breaks that mail up and rebuilds it into pallets representing a greater density per five-digit ZIP code. Participation in each program varies according to the mailer's needs and vendor's capabilities.
2. Know Which Mailings Might Benefit
According to Charley Howard, vice president of postal affairs for Harte-Hanks, a direct and targeted marketing solutions provider, commingling works better for First Class and non-time-sensitive Standard mail. "Time-sensitive mail ... tends to not lend itself to commingling because it can't sit around waiting for other participants," he explains. He says copalletization is used more for flats and periodicals to alleviate the May 2007 spike in flats postage. In copalletization, it is more likely to mix non-time-critical mail with more time-critical mail when opportunistic. "A lot of printers may be doing catalog mailings where the catalog has a longer shelf life and there may be some retail pieces that have a very short shelf life ... that are coming through at the same time, and they can pack the two together and get better discounts," Howard describes.
3. Remember Every Drop Is Unique
Which program you use depends on the mail format, service type, list composition and time requirements, and varies for every mailing. Randy Stumbo, director of distribution and postal affairs for Meredith Corp., a media and marketing company involved in publishing, points out that smaller, sparser lists stand to gain the most in postal savings, and there is a point where a list becomes too large to really benefit from these programs. Conversely, he says a small, regionalized list already can achieve enough penetration on its own without a program. Stumbo suggests asking a vendor to determine if working with all or part of your list is more cost-effective. "It's more difficult for the vendors to execute, but there are situations where it does make sense just to do certain parts of [the list]," he says.