More than 400 billion letters, parcels, newspapers, magazines and advertising mail items are sent through the mail each year and the US and Canadian postal systems account for more than half of that total. Each year, the U.S. Postal Service delivers over 200 billion mailpieces including magazines, catalogues, statements, advertisements and packages to 291 million Americans at over 141 million different delivery points. According to its most recent annual report, Canada Post Corporation (CPC) delivers approximately 10 billion mailpieces annually.


The vast majority of these mailpieces are processed using direct marketing software, which offers a range of functionality from address coding and list processing to move updating and presort. Your organization is most likely utilizing these technologies on a daily basis.


A common misconception in the mailing industry is that this software is complex to use. However, that is only partially true. Direct marketing software can be complex to use but only if you want it to be! For example, direct marketing software can be used for the simplest of jobs, such as presorting automated First Class letters all weighing one ounce dropped at a local delivery unit. On the complex end of the scale, direct marketing software can presort multiple piece-weight mailings of palletized letters, flats or parcels dropped at bulk mail centers, sectional center facilities and destination delivery units all in the same job.


Mailing efficiency solutions are available from a number of vendors on all major platforms and operating systems. And there is a wide range of functionality and complexity offered by direct marketing software in the areas of address coding, list processing, Move Update and presort.


Address Coding

Nearly 30% of address records contain some sort of error when entered without using address validation software.


The business and operational costs associated with bad addresses are staggering. With incorrect address elements, you forgo tremendous postal savings, your communications do not reach customers, and you incur penalties from all major parcel delivery services.


The Postal Service and CPC certify and recognize software that meets certain matching criteria for validating and correcting address data.  Some solutions incorporate additional technologies from the different posts that provide a finer level of address data quality such as Delivery Point Validation (DPV), which is offered by the Postal Service and validates that an address exists down to the apartment or suite level. There are a wide variety of solutions that can help you validate and correct address data in both real-time and batch modes.


The simplest way to validate an address in real-time is to visit the Postal Service or CPC Web site. However, if you have thousands or millions of records, this could take years!


Most software includes relatively easy-to-integrate application programming interfaces for validating and correcting address information in real-time and batch. Depending on your available resources, these solutions can be purchased as client-side software with regular database and software updates, accessed via ASP where the service provider performs software maintenance and database updates or utilized via a Web Services interface. For companies that are implementing global direct marketing programs, there are also a variety of packages available as standalone software or accessible · via hosted service that perform address hygiene for countries overseas. 


Depending on the number of users and your performance requirements, you may need to integrate more complex client/server-based solutions. For example, a Web-based application with hundreds of customer service representatives all accessing the software simultaneously would outstrip the demand of a single-threaded, single-processor technology. Your typical client/server technology provides multithreaded, multiprocessing capabilities that can handle hundreds of simultaneous requests in milliseconds. Clearly, from your small-office, home-office business to your Fortune 500 corporation, today's address validation solutions can meet your business and technology needs.


List Processing

By identifying and eliminating duplicate records, mailers can realize tremendous operational savings. These technologies offer a wide array of sophisticated matching algorithms and processes that allow users to reveal duplicate records as well as relationships among records within their databases. By only sending recipients one mailpiece, organizations can avoid the unnecessary costs associated with duplicate postage and wasted printing and production costs. A standard use of this technology could include the simple removal of "Do not mail" or "Do not call" names and addresses from a list before producing a final mailpiece. A more complex use of this type of software could include merging a large number of outside lists together and determining those individuals to whom you would like to mail based on the frequency with which they appear across the lists.


Move Updating

More than 45 million individuals, families and businesses in the US move each year. The Postal Service tracks these address changes through its National Change of Address (NCOA) program. Organizations must track address changes to maintain important customer relationships while avoiding the high cost of having to manually process a Move Update and re-mail the original piece. Additionally, to qualify for postal presort incentive rates for First Class mailings, you must comply with Postal Service-mandated regulations for Move Update requirements.


On the basic end of the spectrum, there are a variety of hosted solutions that can be accessed over the Internet via easy-to-use, client-side interfaces. Database and software updates are done for you, and there is no license fee charge only a fee based on usage.


Software providing access to the Postal Service Move Update data can also be licensed for internal use. Such solutions are Windows-based with graphical user interfaces and can be used without a great degree of technical expertise.


Finally, the most complex jobs feature fully integrated, lights-out, multi-platform processing. For example, users can schedule Move Updates on a regular basis to coincide with multiple step data processing functions. High-volume mailers on larger platforms such as mainframes most often take advantage of such advanced functionality.



Businesses can take advantage of postal discounts for all classes of mail by sorting mailings according to Postal Service and CPC regulations. These organizations certify and recognize software that meets certain criteria for presorting address data.


The most basic presort technology is desktop software, which is offered by a number of vendors. These technologies provide support for most presort functionality, are designed to be easy-to-use and support the most prevalent mail types, such as preparing First Class automated letters.


However, these solutions do not typically support advanced options, such as manifest reporting, palletization and drop shipping. Many of the more advanced solutions also include analysis tools like the ability to import, view and manipulate Mail.dat files. More sophisticated presort software is generally available on enterprise-class systems. And if you want more control over the detailed product functionality, these packages are designed to be highly configurable to support more complex business rules.


The Final Word

The good news is, whatever your business requirements, there are a number of well-respected vendors that offer software solutions that can meet your mailing-related software needs.


Tim King, vice president of Postal Affairs, is responsible for the planning, development, rollout and management of products within Group 1's Enterprise Solutions Division. For more information, you may contact him at David Peikin, corporate productions manager, manages Group 1's corporate communications programs. For more information, you may email him at