Intelligent Mail Barcodes What They Are and Why They Matter

Intelligent Mail Barcodes: What They Are and Why They Matter

Posted by Alayna Frankenberry on Jun 9, 2017

You’ve already seen Intelligent Mail barcodes. Whether you work in the printing and mailing  industry, or simply receive mail at home, an Intelligent Mail barcode has passed through your hands. To many people, these codes may just look like a series of black lines, but there’s much more to the coding system than meets the eye. What exactly is Intelligent Mail barcoding and how can businesses make the most of it? Read on to find out.

What Are Intelligent Mail Barcodes?

Intelligent Mail from the USPS“Intelligent Mail” is a service offered by the United States Postal Service. The service uses a 65-bar barcode to sort and deliver domestic mail. This Intelligent Mail barcode is printed on envelopes with the recipient’s address. There’s a lot of data contained in those little black bars! They identify the distribution center, the carrier route, the sender’s business mailer ID, and even the type of mail being sent (first class, standard, etc).

All of this data can be read automatically by the USPS mail sortation machines. The result? Quicker, more efficient mail sorting and delivery. Since Intelligent Mail barcoding shortens delivery times, it also saves the Postal Service on production costs. To encourage more businesses to take advantage of the service, USPS offers a discount to businesses who use Intelligent Mail barcoding for bulk mailings, using First Class or Standard Mail Presort levels of service.

What Are the Benefits of Intelligent Mail Barcoding?

The United States Postal Service isn’t the only organization that reaps the benefits of Intelligent Mail barcoding. Businesses, nonprofits, and other groups that use the service can also experience multiple advantages including:

USPS Mail Discounts and IncentivesAdditional Mail Price Incentives from USPS

Presort discounts can also be combined with other promotions offered by USPS. There are several promotions available at any given time. Many of these promotions are aimed at encouraging mailers to embrace new technologies and capabilities. Here’s just one example:
Encourage mailers to integrate direct mail with advances in mobile technology using NFC technology, Video in Print (ViP), Beacon technology, "Enhanced" Augmented Reality, Virtual reality or a Digital to Direct Mail experience to allow the recipient to engage in innovative digital experiences triggered from their mailpiece. New for this year is the inclusion of Virtual Reality to generate opportunities to immerse consumers by creating interactivity and harnessing a first-hand customer engagement experience. The Post Office has also added Digital to Direct Mail to this year's promotion to elicit a higher response from consumers by using dynamically printed, personalized messaging that is automatically triggered based on a digital interaction

Reduced Permit Costs

Intelligent Mail now helps full-service mailers streamline their permit process. Through the Mail Anywhere service, mailers simply maintain a single permit and account to pay for all domestic mailings. There’s no additional permit application fee required for mailing to additional locations.

Automated Address Correction

Intelligent Mail barcoding integrates with another USPS service— OneCode ACS. This service keeps an updated list of mail that’s returned to the post office. Mailers can access this list online and use it to update their own mailing lists. This helps them ensure their mailings make it to recipients’ mailboxes, and saves them from wasting money sending undeliverable mail during their next campaign. This service is available for several classes of mail including:
  • Flat mailings, postcards, and letters that are first-class
  • Standard letters and flat mail
  • Bound printed matter flat mail
  • Periodical letters and flat mail

Pallet Tracing

Intelligent Mail barcodes don’t give mailers the ability to track each piece of mail. However, they are able to trace mail sent with Intelligent Mail barcodes. Tracing doesn’t follow a piece of mail all the way to a recipient’s mailbox, but it does tell mailers the last USPS location where a pallet of mail was scanned. This feature is free and automatic for senders using Intelligent Mail.  

Automated Integration

Creating a true omni-channel marketing experience is about more than delivering material on different platforms. It's also about connecting those touch points to create a stronger connection to consumers. Intelligent Mail barcodes make it easier than ever to strengthen these connections.

Marketers can create automated marketing campaigns to coincide with specific direct mail triggers. For example, when a mailing about a special offer receives its final scan, it can automatically trigger an email to recipients reminding them to check their mailboxes to learn about a big sale. In this way, digital and direct marketing can work together to drive brand awareness and sales.

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Can Small Businesses Use Intelligent Mail Barcodes?

The average mailer uses Intelligent Mail barcoding for mailings that include over 10,000 pieces. However, USPS does offer the service for smaller bulk projects. Mailers sending smaller bulk jobs can still take advantage of the benefits of Intelligent Mail by using the Small Business Mailers (IMsb) tool. This tool is available for bulk mailings under 10,000 pieces and for any sender mailing 250,000 or fewer pieces every year.

Intelligent Mail BarcodesVisit the USPS Business Customer Gateway and you’ll find a full list of the benefits of IMsb:

  • Send full service mailings with Intelligent Mail barcodes.
  • No need to print hard copy postage statements.
  • Manage your mailing activities, transactions and mailing history around the clock.
  • Receive delivery point validation and an automatically updated mailing list.

While IMsb does allow for smaller bulk mailings, it’s important to remember that this process requires extra steps. IMsb may be free, but extra time is required to register for the service and CASS-certify. A business may even need to pay for new software to create barcodes and to electronically submit larger full service mailings. CASS certification software itself can cost nearly $1,000 a year. For these reasons, businesses hoping to send small mailings may choose to forego Intelligent Mail barcoding.

Intelligent Mail Barcode Resources

Now that you know the basics about Intelligent Mail Barcoding, you may be interested in learning more about how to use the service for your own mailing projects. These resources can help:

Intelligent Mail Barcode Specification: This technical document from USPS details how data must be encoded for Intelligent Mail barcodes. It even goes into detail about the algorithms used and shares a sample of programming code.
Mailpiece Analysis Tools: These tools help mailers ensure their barcodes are compliant.
Encoder Software and Fonts: A full list of USPS Intelligent Mail barcode files, fonts and encoders that are available for download.
IMb Tracing: Additional information and resources on the real-time tracking information available through Intelligent Mail Barcoding.

As you can see, there’s a lot to learn about Intelligent Mail Barcoding. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, have additional questions, or simply want to make sure you get the most out of Intelligent Mail, Contact MSP today. We’ll put our expertise to work for you!

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Topics: Direct mail, USPS, Intelligent Mail