This is part two of a multi-part series. You can read part one here.

On July 6, 1976, the USPS offered the first workshare discount for First-Class Presort mail. Thus began the opportunity for mailers to save money by “sharing the work;” sorting and preparing mail for presentation to the USPS. Workshare is fundamental to USPS operations and beneficial to mailers everywhere. Today, over 75% of mail is workshared, and the discounts have helped to create a $1.4 trillion industry that accounts for six percent (7.5 million) of all US jobs and 4.6% of US output.

Commingling is a piece of the overall USPS workshare program that allows all mailers to share in available discounts. Whether your mail volumes are large enough to warrant commingling in-house or you are a small mailer looking for ways to reduce your postage costs, commingling your mail with others affords every mail stream the best opportunity to receive the most competitive postage and along with predictable delivery.

“Commingling” mail is the process of combining multiple mail streams into one larger mail stream. Because all ZIP Codes are sorted together, maximum postage discounts can be obtained. Particularly in the Standard Mail or direct mail world, commingling offers excellent opportunities to reduce overall postage costs.

First, testing of campaigns has become a more common practice. Test cells are typically small by design, so that a certain aspect of the call to action or campaign slogan can be tested against the specific parameters of the mailing list. When commingled, a test campaign benefits from the larger pool of mail so the postage rate remains low.

A second way that direct mail campaigns can benefit from commingling is by pooling together the different separations or job breakouts within a larger mail campaign. Until recently, the theory was to send the same mail piece to as many people as possible to ensure a higher response. As more and better data has become available to marketers, it has inspired a change in thinking. Today’s marketers are gathering all the available data on the preferences of their clients and prospects, so a more targeted approach can be designed. A mailing targeted to moms ages 24-29 with toddlers might have a different picture or message than a mailing to moms ages 44-49 with older children. In a world without commingling, these are two separate mailings that would likely incur a higher mailing cost. With commingling, the postage rate is the same since these mailings are combined before presentation to the USPS.

Combining mail volumes to gain maximum zips and postage qualification is one way to save through commingling. Standard Mail also allows a second postage discount opportunity for those who want to bypass the local post office and transport their mail to the destination post office — a Network Distribution Center (NDC) or Sectional Center Facility (SCF). By combining mail volumes together, larger amounts of mail can be transported more economically. Truck costs can be managed with a trusted transportation provider or commingle provider who not only prepares, but also transports your mail to the USPS.

While postage savings is often a key factor in the decision to commingle mail, marketers have another reason to entrust their mailings to a commingling partner. Ask a marketer which is more important: on-time delivery or postage costs? Many will say on-time delivery. In certain industries, it is widely known that the first in the mailbox is more likely to get the order. Commingling allows the larger group of mail to be sorted and presented together to the USPS. Because larger volumes fill a truck more completely, it can drive directly to the NDC and/or SCF for input into the mail stream closer to the addresses on the mailing list. This eliminates days in the delivery process. The diagram below illustrates how commingling allows mailers to bypass the local USPS entry points and transport the mail directly to the NDC and SCF, reducing the overall delivery time. More importantly, controlling the mail closer to the destination USPS delivery point helps to ensure more predictable delivery. When a marketing campaign is mailed several times or has multiple aspects, such as a call center awaiting phone orders, consistent and predictable delivery is critical to ensure maximum results are achieved. Eliminating steps in the process increases consistency and predictability for mail campaigns, creating the best opportunity for maximum response.

Those who send Standard Mail often require postage savings and predictable delivery to ensure the success of their direct mail campaigns. Commingling offers both — savings opportunities for small test mailings, as well as larger mailings with multiple segment breakouts, and consistent, predictable delivery to the USPS.

Alison Hall is Product Manager, Direct Mail Solutions, Pitney Bowes Presort Services. She has over 25 years of experience in the mailing industry, helping clients drive revenue and develop innovative direct mail solutions. She can be contacted at and @p_AlisonHall.

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