The Global End Game
Base Your Delivery Method on Your Marketing Strategy
By Lisa Yorgey Lester
Mapping out your mailing plan for an international direct mail campaign is often like completing a jigsaw puzzle. You need to contemplate all the pieces to make it fit.
Unlike domestic postal delivery, no monopoly exists on the delivery of international mail. Mailers can choose from three basic options when sending international direct mail:
1. One of the U.S. Postal Service's (USPS) international services;
2. An international mailing service, such as remail or consolidation, provided
by private commercial carrier; or
3. The direct-entry services of the USPS, a foreign postal administration or a private commercial carrier.
Deciding which way to mail your campaign depends on a few key variables, the weight of each will depend on your marketing needs.
ISAL and IPA
The international equivalent of domestic Standard A, mail sent by International Surface Airlift (commonly referred to as ISAL) travels from the United States to the destination country by air. It is then entered into the domestic postal stream of that country, from which it travels by surface to its final destination: the consumer's postbox. Total delivery time is approximately seven to 14 days.
The USPS' International Priority Airmail Service, or IPA, works the same way, except that it is entered into the destination country's letter class with a four- to seven-day delivery window. Mail carried by the USPS travels as mail—as opposed to cargo—and bears a U.S. indicia.
The USPS offers mailers work-sharing discounts on international rates, which currently fall into one of four groups determined by destination. For example, a mail campaign originating from Philadelphia is afforded a $1-per-pound discount on the group-one rate to Europe by trucking the mail to the international service center (also known as a gateway) at JFK International Airport. The USPS operates out of six gateways located in New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.
The published rates for both ISAL and IPA will increase in January 2001, to reflect changes in terminal dues. Terminal dues are the method by which postal administrations around the world compensate one another for the delivery of international mail.
Bob Michelson, manager of international marketing with the International Business Unit of the USPS, says that in addition to a rate increase, ISAL and IPA will "go to more rate groups." Currently, each of the four rate groups cover both industrial and developing countries, which is where the change in terminal dues occurs. According to Michelson, the USPS will split these rate groups apart to more accurately reflect costs. However, the makeup requirements will remain the same.
Both ISAL and IPA have minimum weight and sortation requirements: 50 pounds for ISAL and 10 pounds for IPA. If your campaign doesn't meet these weight requirements, you can still take advantage of these services with the help of a postal-qualified wholesaler (PQW). A PQW is a lettershop and/or a private commercial carrier that will consolidate your mail with that of other mailers to meet ISAL/IPS weight requirements.
Many PQWs are consolidators that give 90 percent of their business to the USPS and employ a manifesting system that organizes an international bulk mailing according to USPS requirements.
International Mailing Services: Remail and Consolidation
Comparable to an ISAL mailing delivered by a PQW, remail is a service whereby private carriers transport mail overseas as cargo and drop it into another country's mail stream. With A-B-C remail, mail travels as cargo from "Country A" to "Country B," where it becomes mail and enters the postal stream for delivery in "Country C."
Using a remailer or a consolidator benefits mailers that don't have the ability to meet a postal administration's requirements for mail preparations. A remailer or consolidator will sort your mail by country and address it in the correct format as well as sort it in postal code sequence. "Getting the mail ready for a postal administration allows the consolidator to take advantage of discounts because it has volume," according to Nicolas Samuel, general manager of La Poste IMS, a division of the French Post Office.
Unless it is an ISAL or IPA mailing, mail delivered by a private commercial carrier will bear the indicia of the country in which it enters the postal stream.
A word of caution: Under Article 40 of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), a division of the United Nations which oversees all aspects of international mail, a member country is not required to accept mail posted in large quantities from countries other than where the sender resides. Per UPU guidelines, mail can be returned to its mailing point or sender without a postage refund.
Because of changes in terminal dues and the implementation of REIMS II (Remuneration for the Exchange of International Mails)—a multilateral agreement held to by most of Europe's industrialized countries—the role of the remailer/consolidator is changing. Many postal administrations have been forming alliances with remailers and consolidators or buying them outright to gain access to smaller accounts (typically 10,000 pieces or fewer) that are not economical for them to handle directly. "They can't afford to do business with these accounts on a one-up basis, so they work with the consolidator/remailers to build volume," explains Larry Chaido, director of TransGlobal Consultants, a Canton, OH-based international logistics consulting corporation.
Mailers with large-volume campaigns can take advantage of discounted domestic postage rates in foreign markets by mailing direct entry using either the USPS Global Direct service or the services of a foreign postal administration such as the British Post Office, TNT or Deutsche Post. Postage costs are reflective of the domestic rates of the country into which you are mailing.
Mail that is sent direct entry travels directly to the designated country and is entered into its domestic mail stream. This provides the mailer a local presence, because its mail piece receives a local indicia and return address. In return, "the consumer has a local contact in his or her country and the mailer retains the cachet of an international presence while giving the consumer comfort on a local level," points out Rainer Hengst, general manager, USA, of Deutsche Post Global Mail.
Another benefit of mailing direct entry, adds La Poste's Samuel, is that your mail is delivered in a shorter transit time because it bypasses the offices of the post office of origin.
Mailing by direct entry requires a greater knowledge of the destination country's postal service. In addition to meeting sortation requirements for bulk discounts, you want to make sure your mailing list has the proper postal codes and is delivered to the lettershop with the proper fields identified. While this requires more work on the part of the mailer, the upshot is that "with few exceptions test after test has shown that a domestic inserted piece in the destination market will get the better response," says Hengst.
Evaluate by Response
The method of delivery you choose should be driven by your marketing strategy and can differ from campaign to campaign. It comes down to a simple question: How can I, as a direct marketer, best get my mail piece into the hands of the consumer, and get it opened?
Identity plays a major role in your delivery choice. Mailing a direct mail piece with a distinctly Californian motif via direct entry will probably pull a poor response. It may be better to mail the piece via ISAL, explains Michelson, because it will carry a U.S. indicia and identify the piece as being clearly American.
On the other hand, if you are looking to penetrate a specific market with a local language piece and are using a local fulfillment operation, you may want to inject your mail into the target county's postal stream.
"If you send a mixed message, you haven't spent your postal dollars well," observes Michelson.
Delivery providers and mail consultants agree you should start at your desired outcome or response and work backwards. What response rate are you looking for? Your answer will determine your service level and price requirements.
However, how to mail is a decision that is not based on price alone. "Evaluate your options based on the response you want to achieve. Choosing a way to mail based on price will not produce the results your are looking for," Michelson cautions.
"Achieve value, not just price," agrees Hengst, who says it is critically important that the mail drops when it is supposed to, otherwise "you will incur lots of extra costs if the response curve is not what you expect it to be."
One Size Doesn't Fit All
"One of the key elements in selecting a service provider is the ability of the mail organization to work with your marketing department and to put products in their hands that best suit your needs," explains Royal Mail USA's vice president of sales, Matt Hannah. "Any postal authority can put a product together to fit a mailer's needs."
Hengst concurs, saying that a postal authority should provide support on the marketing side as well as work directly with mailers on format sizes to keep costs down.
"So many options can affect results, quality and costs; you need a delivery agent that understands the business or who is willing to learn and research your business," Hannah emphasizes.