Postal: Up to Code
Most likely, any business that produces frequent, large mailings has already heard something about the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMB) capability now offered by the United States Postal Service. The fact is, as of May 2011, the currently used POSTNET barcode will be phased out and IM barcodes will be required for marketers in order to qualify for the automation discount postage rate. However, this barcode provides additional advantages that may be of special interest to marketers wanting to optimize the impact of their direct mail campaigns.
For those who aren't routinely involved with the nuts and bolts of high-volume mailing processes and regulations, the different postal codes and requirements can be confusing. There is a long history when it comes to following the USPS' migration to more streamlined, automated processes, beginning with the advent of the simple five-digit ZIP code. Since then, there have been several generations of barcodes with increasing capabilities, each providing more automation, efficiency and information.
Marketers who spend a great deal of time and money on the design of those mail pieces will be happy to know that IMB replaces the myriad barcodes with a single one that combines both the information and functionality needed, while allowing for a less cluttered look and larger space for design.
Basic vs. Full-Service
IMB is available at two levels: basic and full-service. The differences may seem slight at first, but can be significant. The basic IMB option qualifies you for automation discounts and can be implemented with less effort than the full-service IMB level, which requires a rigorous set of steps, as well as software. The full-service IMB option also offers sophisticated change-of-address information that enables feedback from the USPS in the form of detailed and downloadable reports.
Marketers who currently presort and receive automated discounts with the POSTNET barcode should consider moving to basic IMB before next year. Otherwise, beginning May 11, 2011, they will lose from 3.2 cents (unsorted) to 7.9 cents per piece (5-digit sorted) on automated First Class mail when the USPS phases out the discounts for POSTNET barcode use. For those marketers not currently barcoding and presorting, and paying the full rate postage of 44 cents per piece, there will be no impact (other than potential rate increases) when the POSTNET program is phased out.