Direct Mail: Return to Sender
Due to privacy restrictions, the USPS maintains strict criteria for matching name/address records between the mailing list and the NCOA database. If the software identifies a near match that doesn't meet the criteria for returning an updated address, the record will be identified as a "Nixie" in the file returned from the NCOA Link process. Marketers should be cautious in mailing to Nixie records, as the Nixie flag is an indication of a likely move. Tracking response rates to Nixie records, compared to the balance of the mailing list, in an initial mailing can provide guidance as to whether including Nixie records in future mailings is warranted.
Another thing to consider is the timing of NCOA Link processing. The change-of-address database is updated weekly. The closer the NCOA Link processing is to the mail date, the fresher your addresses and the greater your chance of catching up with recent movers.
The USPS also offers post-mailing options to capture new addresses, with Address Change Service (ACS) as one of the most common. To participate in ACS, marketers must create a mailer profile with the National Customer Support Center (NCSC) ACS department. This profile tells the Postal Service how you want to receive your address corrections and how to dispose of the mailpiece (forward, return or discard). Mailers can choose Traditional ACS, which requires adding a participant code and an optional keyline to the address block, or OneCode ACS or Full-Service ACS, which rely on the information in the Intelligent Mail barcode.
ACS is often used when mailing to existing customers so new addresses can be captured and added to your database for future mailings.
Enhance With Third-Party Tools
As well as those provided by the Postal Service, many companies in the mailing industry offer tools for ensuring high-quality addresses, and a number of these tools use proprietary data sources to supplement USPS data. Third-party databases can make use of additional information, such as names and phone numbers, to further refine address information.
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.