Those of us in the direct mail business know that mail is an important marketing channel that gains the attention of customers and prospects while pairing synergistically with other marketing channels to drive improved performance across all channels. Creating successful direct mail campaigns requires a compelling mail piece delivered at the right time while also leveraging available tools to us to drive the best possible response and targeted in-home delivery. Two of the most important tools at our disposal are Informed Delivery and Informed Visibility from the United States Postal Service.

Informed Delivery

For those who aren’t already taking advantage of Informed Delivery, it’s a program that provides subscribers with a daily email showing what will arrive in their mailbox that day. Marketers can leverage those daily emails, adding supplementary color images, a call-to-action, and a link to an online experience to reinforce the messaging in their mail piece.

Informed Delivery boasts an ever-increasing number of subscribers, now more than 50 million, covering about 30% of eligible entry points. The open rate for the email notifications is strong, usually between 65% and 70%. This makes Informed Delivery an ideal way to generate additional digital touches for your mail piece, which is why we like to call it mail’s built-in digital overlay. In addition, the post-campaign reports are a great source of actionable marketing data, detailing how many recipients opened the emails and clicked through to your landing page, and leveraging matchback to align report data with your mail file on who those recipients are.

Informed Delivery can also provide visibility to household members who don’t manage the mail. With Informed Delivery they can bypass the “mail manager,” before that person filters the mail going to other household members. USPS VP Innovative Business Technology and golf fanatic Gary Reblin has a great story about how he became more aware of golf catalogs arriving at his home once he had Informed Delivery because he saw them in his Informed Delivery feed, even if his wife (their household’s mail manager) managed to “lose” them before he had a chance to review the mail.

Annual promotions are a great way to test out Informed Delivery at a lower cost. The 2023 promotion will run August through December and offers a five percent discount for eligible postage. If you aren’t already using Informed Delivery, testing a few campaigns during the promotional period is a great way to try out Informed Delivery while offsetting postage costs. Making your mail piece more effective while paying less postage: what’s not to like?

Our clients frequently test Informed Delivery during the promotion to earn the discount, but continue to create campaigns after the promotional period ends due to improved response. And the word is spreading — the Postal Service reports a 273% increase in the number of campaigns completed in October 2022 compared to the same month in 2021.

Our team has observed similar growth in Informed Delivery usage, as during the first four months of the 2022 promotion, we managed more than 1,400 campaigns with Informed Delivery that encompassed nearly 668 million mail pieces.

Informed Visibility

While Informed Delivery amplifies mail campaigns through digital channels, Informed Visibility provides data to enhance in-home delivery and ensure your mail piece reaches the recipient at the optimal time, coordinated with communications in other channels.

Informed Visibility allows mailers to track movement of mail pieces, handling units, and containers through the USPS processing network. This function is known as Mail Tracking and Reporting (IV-MTR). IV-MTR provides insight into how the USPS network is functioning and allows you to adjust production and drop schedules to foster optimal performance.

This type of insight is critical, as there are significant changes to the processing network on the horizon. The Postal Service is combining delivery units into Sorting and Distribution Centers (SDC) and replacing its 21 Network Distribution Centers (NDC) with a new network of 65–80 Regional Processing and Distribution Centers (RPDC), which will most likely impact delivery of your mail. IV-MTR will help you recognize how delivery patterns may shift in response to the network changes, allowing you to adjust mail drops to ensure desired in-home dates are met. If you aren’t already using Informed Visibility mail tracking data, now would be a good time to start before network changes begin in earnest.

The same unique Intelligent Mail barcodes on mail pieces, handling units, and containers that make IV-MTR function can also provide a wealth of data for following mail movement throughout your internal production processes. This can provide visibility into your processes, which helps teams better understand processes and improve efficiencies. IV-MTR is especially useful when managing multiple small mail groupings, such as postal-optimized mail that may be made up of a mix of direct pallets and commingled mail, to ensure all mail is completed accurately and on time.

As well as mail tracking, Informed Visibility also can provide information on mail quality. This function is known as Mail Quality Data (IV-MQD). IV-MQD can help you manage your Mailer Scorecard by offering the option to set up a data feed with frequency options of daily, weekly, or monthly. Its reports allow you to dig into and review the details of any errors or warnings shown on the Scorecard to identify root cause before they result in penalties.

Taking full advantage of IV-MQD to improve internal processes requires a commitment to ongoing oversight of mail data and a dedication to correcting issues as they are discovered. It is also often a collaborative process. As root causes are identified, you may be surprised by the number of departments that touch any given mailing, highlighting opportunities to improve hand-offs and communications during the manufacturing process. This in turn can drive a cycle of continuous process improvement and higher quality mail, which can be delivered more efficiently by the Postal Service, making in-home dates easier to achieve.

By taking full advantage of these tools offered by the Postal Service, direct mail becomes an even more powerful tool for marketers, with mailpieces delivering the right offer to the right audience at the right time to align with companion channels while delivering robust response and return on investment.

Kurt Ruppel, Director Postal Policy and Marketing Communications for IWCO Direct, is a 40-year veteran of the direct mail industry. He is the company’s resident expert on postal regulations and is “dean” of IWCO Direct’s Education Center. Kurt is the MTAC Industry Focus Area Leader for Marketing Mail Letters. He represents EMA on MTAC, and formerly served as Chairman of EMA’s board of directors and is a member of the board of DTAC.

This article originally appeared in the January/February, 2023 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.