Discounts Spur Use of Intelligent Mail Barcodes

Feb 01, 2010 10:30 PM  By

MANY MAILERS WERE LEERY OF THE INTELLIGENT MAIL BARCODE (IMB) when the U.S. Postal Service began accepting mail bearing the new 65-bar barcode in May. But the discounts the USPS began offering in November evidently helped clear things up: The number of mailers using the full service IMB shot up.

As of early January, the number of IMB full-service mailers increased to 171, a 60% increase from mid-December, says Tom Day, senior vice president, Intelligent Mail and Address Quality for the USPS.

“That’s 3 billion uniquely identified IMB pieces,” he says. That figure is more astonishing, he says, since only four weeks earlier there were just 1 billion processed full-service IMB pieces.

“We’ll probably hit 5 billion [full service IMB] pieces by the middle of February,” Day adds. “We’ll make announcements like McDonald’s used to do with how many burgers have been sold.”

The IMB is designed to upgrade the current four-state customer barcode. The USPS in May began requiring all automation flats to bear barcodes (Intelligent Mail barcodes or POSTNET barcodes) that include delivery point routing codes. Catalogers will have until May 11, 2011, to abide by the IMB regulations.

Mailers can select from two options: basic and full service. The basic option requires the essential elements of an IMB — service code, mailer ID and the delivery point code. Full service has all the elements of basic, plus a unique identity on each mail piece.

Full service combines this individual mail identity with aggregate information for primary mail containers such as trays, tubs and sacks. The data from the primary containers is attributed to secondary containers such as pallets.

The USPS in November began offering discounts for using the full-service IMB. Mailers save 3/10 of a cent for automation letters and flats prepared and mailed using the full-service option and 1/10 of a cent for automation and carrier route flats prepared and mailed using the full service option.

By using the full service option, companies qualify for no-fee Address Changer Service (ACS).