This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Mailing Systems Technology.

    Every day, we see and experience more advances in technology: our lives are full of electronic gadgets that put all sorts of information at our fingertips. Smart people are taking advantage of this electronic “intelligence” to help them perform daily tasks more quickly and easily and to access data using just a click or scroll.

    The same is true in the mailing world: there are constant improvements to the way data is shared among partners in the supply chain and with the United States Postal Service (USPS). Despite all these advances, it constantly surprises us to see many mailers who only use electronic documentation (eDoc) for their Full-Service mailings. Even worse, there are just as many – or more – who don’t use it at all!

    It is very clear that the USPS intends to eliminate hard copy postage statements and other documentation. Just as we are getting rid of hard copy documents in our personal lives, the same is true in the mailing world. If you are delaying implementation of eDoc, or implemented it only for Full-Service mailings, you need to gear up and make the transition.

    Why, You May Ask? What Is in It For Me?

    The most obvious reason is that if you are not mailing at Full-Service, you are currently missing out on Full-Service discounts. One of the requirements for Full-Service eligibility is submitting mailings electronically. That plus unique barcodes means you are more than halfway there! And before you scoff at what those discounts are, consider how much money you’ve already passed up by waiting even this long – and how that money could be used to offset some or all of any investment you need to make to get into Full-Service. Remember, current discounts are $3/1000 pieces for First-Class Mail and $1/1000 pieces for Periodical and USPS Marketing Mail. True, these discounts are not huge for smaller mailers, but something is better than nothing. And, the longer the delay, the even slimmer chance of realizing any ROI whatsoever. Also — what about future discounts? The USPS may well decide to sweeten the Full-Service discount pot in future rate changes. If they do, will you be ready to take advantage of those bigger discounts? What if the USPS decides to completely remove ANY discount? Then you will have absolutely nothing to help with your return on investment. Best to make the conversion now while there are still financial incentives.

    Another benefit is better data. Documents submitted electronically not only have the advantage of being automatically validated for errors, but it also provides for improved data access. If you submit all your mailings electronically, all that data is available for you to access at a moment’s notice. If you need to get data on your mailing volumes or postage expenditures, whether by class of mail, by processing category, and so forth, it is all available for you on your Mailer Scorecard... if, that is, you are submitting all your mailings electronically!

    Speaking of trends, de-cluttering and down-sizing are also popular these days. Unless you are a hoarder, no one likes clutter, and paper is the number one clutter-creator in any office. Just think how much time is spent procuring that paper, loading the paper into printers, printing out those postal documents, sorting them, handling them, submitting them, filing them, the list goes on and on. Not to mention the costs of the paper, ink, toner, printer maintenance, filing cabinets, document storage, and so forth. And how much time is wasted trying to track down those necessary hard copy documents? Who needs it? Convert to eDoc, using a smart file naming and storage convention, and all this clutter goes away!

    What did we do before Google searches? Honestly? We asked family, friends, or neighbors. We went to the library and did research, using hard copy reference materials. How times have changed! Now you can access almost infinite amounts of data using just a few clicks. There is also a TON of data in those Mail.dat files you use for eDoc. Aside from what the USPS is asking for regarding your mailings, find out how you can capture and use all that data for your own purposes. It will help you automate or otherwise improve functions in your mailing operation. Take a deeper look at all this data because you just don’t know what you don’t know. Big Data and those who use it will have the competitive advantage moving forward. Don’t lose your clients to a smarter mailer.

    It's All About the Data

    Many mailers forget that using Full-Service provides access to some very valuable data, such as IMb Tracing data, Start-The-Clock data, and Address Change Service (ACS) data… all for free! Again, if you are submitting everything electronically, you are already a good way down the Full-Service path, so why not go the rest of the way and take advantage of this free data? Granted, the data from the USPS is pretty raw in format, but there are plenty of service providers out there who can help you turn that raw data into usable information. And, if you’re a Mail Service Provider (MSP), you may even be able to monetize the provision of this information to your clients. Again, there is no guarantee that the USPS will continue to offer this data at no charge in the future, so why not take advantage of it now while it is still free and contributes to the Full-Service ROI?

    Speaking of contributing to Full-Service ROI, probably the most lucrative contribution is the USPS promotion/incentive programs that are offered each year. Who doesn’t want a money-saving promotion? Well, the USPS offers six promotion/incentive programs for 2017 that require eDoc submission for participation. The trick is you need to use at least some elements of Intelligent Mail Full-Service in order to be eligible for these promotions, including submitting eDoc to PostalOne!.

    Operate Smarter, Not Harder

    Operating smarter, not harder, is a common adage in the business world. Switching back and forth between hard copy and electronic mailing submissions just introduces inefficiency and increases the chance of error in your operation. The sooner you start switching over to all electronic submissions, the sooner you can get it incorporated into your production environment in a smooth and efficient manner. If you are just starting out with electronic submissions, or don’t feel comfortable doing them, going through the Test Environment for Mailers (TEM) process allows you to practice making these submissions without impacting production. While practicing in TEM can take some time, it is time well spent to ensure everything will work smoothly once you flip the switch to production. Stop the confusion and time wasted switching back and forth between hard copy and electronic workflows in your mailing operation. One standard workflow is always more efficient and less prone to errors.

    Seamless Acceptance, eInduction, Mail Anywhere… the USPS continues to offer participation in all sorts of new programs designed to save you money or improve the mail acceptance process. The key? Electronic documentation! Get eDoc (and Full-Service, for that matter!) implementation under your belt and into production and you’ll be far better prepared to move on to these new opportunities and tackle new challenges.

    You can see that Intelligent Mail really IS intelligent… and not just for the USPS.

    Jeff Peoples is founder and CEO, Window Book. With over 20+ years of innovative postal solutions that make using the Postal Service easier and more profitable for mailers and shippers, he has done presentations at industry events, GraphExpo, MAILCOM, the National Postal Forum, Postal Customer Council meetings, Harvard Business Expert Forum, and other industry and direct marketing events.