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Shape of Things to Come

March 2007 By Mary Ann Bennett
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THE GREATEST opportunity to increase your print revenues is right here, right now! And the opportunity is sitting smack in the middle of the U.S. Postal Service’s postage rate increase of May 2007. The USPS is proposing that we change the way we calculate the postage on First Class mail. Currently, postage rates are based on the weight of the piece: one ounce, two ounces, etc. But in May the First Class rates are proposed to be calculated using a combination of weight and shape.

This is not a new concept coming from the USPS. In fact, weight/shape-based rate calculations have been in place for Standard mail since 1992. Essentially, the USPS and the mailing industry have categorized mailpieces into three shapes—Letters/Flats/Parcel—and a full schedule of Standard Class rates exists for all three shapes. Letter-shaped mailpieces remain the champions of processing and the USPS is simply extending the incentives and the discounts onto First Class rates.

Where do you start? The first step is to make every effort to design your piece so it can be categorized as a letter. Of course, there are additional physical criteria that must be met for total USPS automation compatibility. But you should worry about the issues (and costs) of tabbing, folding, sealing, spot gluing, etc., after you have paid attention to size and shape and identified the postage incentives for your mail class.

Then you will be in a position to determine if meeting the additional criteria for total mailpiece automation-compatibility is worth pursuing. Today, postal issues must be considered at the very earliest stages of the evolution of a mailpiece—whether you are mailing a single piece or a large direct mail campaign.

Postal automation-compatible mail has some very specific physical characteristic requirements, thus proper design is critical. New thinking results in new savings! But, your new thinking must involve the entire process from beginning to end and, now, must span all classes of mail. In May, mailpiece design will become even more critical than it is today. Also, the quality of the address placed on the mailpiece will have to meet even stricter standards in order to claim the biggest discounts. Of particular note is the requirement to identify through Delivery Point Validation (DPV) whether or not the address on your mailpiece actually exists in the USPS database.

Today, you can claim automation discounts if your address is ZIP+4 encoded; you print a POSTNET barcode on your mailpiece; and your mail is sorted and presented following specific requirements. The new CASS-DPV requirements go into effect August 1, so you will only be able to claim those same automation (barcode) discounts if your addresses are DPV encoded.
 

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