Informed Visibility®

The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) is introducing Informed Visibility (IV®), to provide the mailing industry with more powerful insight into the USPS mailstream. This new program is designed to provide a one-stop shop for mail tracking data, consolidated into one system, as opposed to tracking the data via IMb Tracing® and PostalOne!®. The key to the success of this new program is the near real-time expanded visibility into mailings as the mail moves through the mailstream, that is much more powerful than the tracking data that exists today which can sometimes be delayed. Another benefit is a user-friendly data provisioning and data delegation, so it is much easier for mailers to specify what data they want, when they want it, and who receives the data. The result is increased value of the mail, enabling mailers to better plan mailing campaigns and resources.

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Shipping Price Changes for 2010 Make USPS A More Attractive Option Than Ever!

The major small package shipping companies have announced their new rates for 2010, which become effective on January 4, 2010. FedEx® announced an average increase of 4.9 percent, as did UPS™. Both companies announced increases for ground shipping options of 4.9%, with higher increases for expedited and international shipments. The higher increases, around 6.9%, are being offset somewhat by lowering the fuel surcharges by 2%. It is important to note that along with the increase to their base rates, UPS and FedEx are also increasing their accessorial charges and surcharges. It is important for shippers to take these additional increases into account as well as the base price increases, as the accessorial charges can really add up.

 The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) announced increases on their shipping prices of 3.3% on average. The USPS price structure does not include accessorial charges such as residential delivery, Saturday delivery or fuel surcharges.

 USPS Price Percentage Changes by Category

For companies who ship packages in bulk quantities, there are reduced rate Commercial Base prices and Commercial Plus prices. Commercial Base pricing reflects a savings of 5% to 10% over retail prices, depending on the shipping category. Commercial Base pricing is available for qualifying Express Mail, Priority Mail, Global Express Guaranteed, Express Mail International and Priority Mail International shippers. There are varying qualifying criteria for each category of shipper, such as using Permit, PC Postage, Click-N-Ship, or an approved Information Based Indicia (IBI) metering device.

 Commercial Plus prices are available for large volume shippers who meet the criteria for Commercial Base pricing, and who ship more than 100,000 Priority Mail packages per year, or more than 6,000 Express Mail packages per year, or who have a customer commitment agreement with the Postal Service. The savings over Retail prices for this category range from 9.6% for Priority Mail to 14.5% for Express Mail.

 The USPS also made some other interesting changes in their rate structure for 2010:

  • There are some rates that are actually going DOWN! The retail price for Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelopes went down from $4.95 to $4.90.  These Priority Mail flat rate envelopes are already a super deal, so this rate reduction makes them even more attractive. Like the TV commercials say, “If it fits, it ships.” For mailers shipping in bulk quantities, they may be able to qualify for even lower rates if they meet the qualification requirements for Commercial Base or Commercial Plus pricing.
  • The Priority Mail one pound price is now zoned (previously mailpieces under 1 lb. were the same price, regardless of the zone). I’m not sure why the USPS would want to complicate the rate structure with this move, so we’ll see what impact it has on shipping volumes.
  • There is a “new” half-pound price for Commercial Plus items.
  • The USPS added new Cubic Volume Commercial Plus price tiers (5 tiers) to encourage smaller & more space-efficient packaging. Cubic Volume is based on size rather than weight: the smaller the package, the lower the price (even if it’s up to 20 lbs.). Shippers should be able to save a lot of money using this option, both in packaging materials and in shipping charges. Shippers still have the option to use the weight-based rates.

Intelligent Mail®: More Than Just A Barcode


If you have been working on integrating Intelligent Mail (IM) your mailing processes, you already know that there is much more to this program than just a new barcode. In fact, printing the barcode may be the least complex part of the whole integration!


If you are just getting started with IM, or have not yet begun, you really ought to devote some time and planning to your integration process. If you think you can just ignore it, hoping it will all go away, think again. The United States Postal Service® (USPS) has invested millions of dollars in the IM program, and it really is the next generation of technology for mailing. Mailers who do not embrace this new technology will find themselves left out in the cold; unable to participate in the latest postal initiatives. Before you pooh-pooh the whole idea as not worthy of any investment in time or resources, consider the following:


The USPS is implementing a postal discount for mailers using IM, effective November 29, 2009. While the discounts don’t sound like much ($.003 per piece for First-Class and $.001 for Standard, Periodicals and Package Services mail), these small amounts can add up quickly for large volume mailers. This initial discount is only the beginning; at some point in the future, many discounts will be tied to the use of IM.


Use of IM allows you to take advantage of a number of mail tracking options. You can track individual pieces of mail or just containers of mail. This information can be extremely valuable to better pinpoint delivery dates of mail. This can help you or your clients in any number of ways:

  • Timing your direct mail message to related television, radio, newspaper or internet marketing messages.
  • Planning your staffing and other resources in call centers, product warehouses, shipping centers, retail stores, or internet sites.
  • Longer term analysis of direct marketing efforts to pinpoint the most successful times of the year, days of the week, etc.

IM also allows you to have proof that your mail has entered the postal stream and more importantly, you can track it through the USPS processing chain.


For mail service providers, if you don’t offer IM, your competitors will! Most businesses can’t afford to lose work for any reason, and never has that been truer than in this challenging economy. Before you dismiss IM as being too costly or time consuming to implement, consider the potential cost of lost revenue if you delay implementation or elect not to do so at all. IM is a critical part of just staying in the game at this point, so make sure you take this into account in your financial analysis.


IM helps improve address accuracy. With Full Service IM, mailers receive free ACS (Address Change Service). This service, which currently has a price of $.26 per correction, is FREE with Full Service IM and can provide up-to-date address information for your customers and prospects who have moved. Moreover, this service also provides helpful error codes on addresses which may not involve a move but may not be entirely accurate for postal delivery purposes. Keeping addresses current and accurate not only saves postage, but helps you stay in contact with your customers.


IM helps streamline mailing processes and reduce paperwork. Part of the USPS cost savings of the IM program comes from the requirement to submit electronic documentation via the internet. This cost savings accrues to mailers as well, in reduced costs for printers, paper, toner, etc. and reduced administrative costs of processing and storing all the hard copy documentation. This can also result in reduced amounts of time to process and present mail to the USPS and reduced time for mail verification and acceptance by the USPS.


If you are still procrastinating on integration of IM, don’t be afraid. There is plenty of help available. The USPS has numerous online guides and other information available, including recorded tutorials. Many of your suppliers, such as software vendors, logistics suppliers, mailing equipment manufacturers, etc. can offer all kinds of assistance and educational materials. Mailing and other industry associations can also provide a wealth of information. You need look no further than your local Postal Customer Council (PCC) for help and interaction with other mailers in your area who are also implementing IM.


The November 29 implementation date for IM discounts is just around the corner. The full impact of IM will go far beyond that date however, and the sooner you get on board, the sooner you can take advantage of the many benefits of IM. Don’t delay!

Monica Lundquist, Postal Affairs Manager, Window Book, Inc.