Direct Mail: Return to Sender
The quality of the address is one of the most important components to ensure your mail is delivered. When the recipient's address is accurate and complete, the U.S. Postal Service can deliver the mail quickly and easily. But, if the address is incorrect or missing an element, or if the recipient has moved, the mailpiece could become undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) mail.
By the Numbers
A 2004 study conducted by Christensen Associates for the USPS showed that the Postal Service handles nearly 10 billion pieces of UAA mail each year, and the annual cost for processing UAA mail is $1.9 billion. The cost of UAA mail for direct marketers also can be substantial because the expenses of package production and postage are wasted. In addition to these hard costs, opportunity costs from lost sales and reduced response rates dilute the effectiveness of your program.
Another thing to consider is that most marketing mailpieces are sent as Standard Mail. This class of mail, while efficient and cost effective, does not include additional forwarding or return services if the mail is UAA, unless requested by the mailer. However, very few mailers request these services, and nearly 98 percent of UAA Standard Mail is discarded.
So the question becomes, "How do you avoid having your mail meet this fate?" The answer is to work with your vendors and in-house data processing team to ensure the addresses used in your mailings meet the three C's of quality standards:
- Complete: Are all the required elements of the address present?
- Correct: Are all the address elements accurate?
- Current: Does the address reflect the recipient's most recent move?
Aim for Accuracy
One of the most basic tools offered by the USPS to evaluate and correct addresses is the CASS certification program for commercial software. This software is used to standardize address elements and ensure addresses are as complete and accurate as possible. It confirms or corrects ZIP+4 codes and carrier route information against USPS address and city/state files. Processing with CASS-certified commercial software is required to claim many types of postal discounts.
Kurt Ruppel is Director Postal Policy and Marketing Communications at IWCO Direct. He is a member of the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) and serves on the Board of Directors at the Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA), where he is also Vice Chair of the EMA’s Postal Affairs Committee. He can be reached at email@example.com.