Recently in Postal Address Standards Category

Mailing List Accuracy Becomes More Stringent

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Mailers face additional penalties in not meeting new Post Service regulations requiring valid, deliverable addresses

 

The newest wrinkle from the U.S. Postal Service impacts businesses with substantial mass mailing efforts. New Mail Update regulations are intended to limit an unacceptable percentage of wrong addresses, which are costly for everyone concerned.

The key word here is "unacceptable."

Be warned: The threshold at which the Postal Service measures adequate mailing-list accuracy and the way it does it are changing dramatically.

Bad addresses already are costing businesses millions. When a letter or bill, package or flat, gets bounced as undelivered as addressed (UAA), the business and its mail house are on the hook not only for penalties, but also for poor customer communications and marketing effectiveness, lagging account receivables, fewer sales, and more unhappy customers.

As for the Postal Service, it doesn't want to eat the cost of hauling the bad stuff back to the mail facility, sorting it again, mailing it back to the mailer, and so on. It's no wonder the Postal Service has been levying compensatory costs on mailers with bad databases.

Now, as of March 1, 2018, that cost promises to become increasingly onerous--or shall we say increasingly motivating.

The old rules mandated that addresses be screened via a machine with the ungainly name of Mail Evaluation Readability Lookup Instrument. It's acronym, MERLIN, implies a certain magical ability to detect bad addresses, but in reality all these machines have been doing was randomly checking a portion of a submitted mailing list. If a generous 30 percent or more of that sample was faulty, the mailer was hit with a fee of 7 cents per piece for the percent of bad addresses above that threshold.

 

Now, the Postal Service will be leveraging its Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) technology to check every single address a mailer submits in bulk for accuracy, not just a random sample.

Further, the allowable threshold of 30 percent of bad addresses is history. Now, if only 0.5 percent of addresses are faulty, failing to mirror Postal Services change of address (COA) records beyond a certain cutoff point, the mailer is hit with an 8 cent fee on each bad address beyond this vastly more stringent threshold.

The potential for thousands of dollars in penalties due to out-of-date mailing lists is now very real.

 

What are direct mailers to do to achieve 99.5 percent address list accuracy?

First, they should get current with all change-of-address requests ... if they can. Each year some 40 million Americans move, and only a portion bother to submit COAs, and those that are filed only gradually find their way into the Postal Service's system.

Further, mailers should assure that all addresses match official Postal Service formats of street address, apartment number, accurate city name, and the like. It's amazing how often an addressee himself doesn't know what town he lives in ("Is it Hollywood or Los Angeles?"), and these sorts of things can easily gum up a mailing list.

Yes, there are some Postal Service aids, but they're not particularly user friendly. One service allows mailers to electronically receive change-of-address information after a mailing--a little late to avoid penalties, wouldn't you say?--while another provides a database of 160 million "permanent" change-of-address records.

A "permanent" database? I saw you smile!

Fortunately there are easier, more accurate, and less bothersome solutions. 

 

·         Melissa's SmartMover cloud service provides fast, easy change-of-address processing for U.S. and international addresses that are accurate in real time. With SmartMover, direct mailers can be assured of staying on the right side of the Postal Service's new Move Update and COA regulations, while increasing customer lifetime value and mailing ROI.

·         Melissa's Address Verification Service verifies addresses in the U.S. and worldwide, also in real-time. We're talking complete, standardized, and accurate USPS addresses while correcting errors and adding in missing components like postal codes.

·        And Melissa's Personator cleans, verifies, standardizes, and completes names and addresses (as well as phone numbers and emails if you need those), matching names to addresses to authenticate the identity of a customer.

 

Staying on the right side of the U.S. Postal Service's new Move Update regulations is good business for direct mailers and mail houses. It avoids costly penalties while assuring optimal mailing accuracy and customer satisfaction.

 

And you'll want to do it with a partner who's the leader in data accuracy: Melissa.

 

How to Minimize the Effects of Postal Rate Increases

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It is that time of year again, the annual postal rate increase. There will be a rate increase averaging 1.9% for Mailing Services products and an average increase of 3.9% for most Shipping Services products (3.9% for Priority Mail and an average of 0.8% for Priority Mail Retail) starting Sunday, January 21.

 

The Mailing Services price changes include:

Product

Current

Proposed

Letters (1 oz.)   

49 cents

50 cents

Letters additional ounces    

21 cents

21 cents

Letters (metered)

46 cents

47 cents

Outbound International Letters (1 oz.) 

$1.15

$1.15

Domestic Postcards   

34 cents

35 cents

 

The domestic Priority Mail Flat Rate Retail price changes include:

Product

Current

Proposed

Small Flat Rate Box

$7.15

$7.20

Medium Flat Rate Box

$13.60

$13.65

Large Flat Rate Box

$18.85

$18.90

APO/FPO Large Flat Rate Box

$17.35

$17.40

Regular Flat Rate Envelope

$6.65

$6.70

Legal Flat Rate Envelope

$6.95

$7.00

Padded Flat Rate Envelope

$7.20

$7.25

 

Although $0.01 may not seem like much of a price spike, the money adds up! Now, companies mailing to 20,000 individuals will incur an additional postage charge of $200 per mailing. Organizations that mail conservatively (let's four times a year) will have to budget for an extra $800 in postage, per year, for that same mailing.

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So how can you minimize the hit? Here are a few quick-fixes to help you save money:

1.      Clean your data - eliminate unnecessary waste from duplicate mailings or UAA mail

2.      Suppress your list(s) - remove individuals that match to one or all of these suppression files: Do Not Mail, Deceased or Inmate

3.      Presort your mailing lists - get the best postage rate when you mail more efficiently

With the deadline fast approaching, now is the time to figure out how you will be prepared for these changes.  Fortunately, we've got the perfect tools to help you prep and presort your mail effortlessly. Whether you are looking to clean your data, suppress your list or presort your mail, we've got you covered.

 

Here's how each of our solutions can assist you with incorporating the new postal rate changes into your business' mailing process:  

 

MAILERS+4 - CASS™, PAVE™ and SERP Certified™ Postal Automation Software will:

  • Reduce UAA mail by CASS and NCOALink® processing your mailing lists, updating outdated addresses, and verifying addresses are valid and complete
  • Add missing data like ZIP codes, carrier routes, delivery points, and suite and apt. numbers to ensure accurate and speedy deliveries
  • Eliminate duplicates to save on costs associated with waste
  • Presort your mailing lists to mail more efficiently and less expensively

 

MAILERS Online - The Cloud-based PAVE certified Postal Software alternative will:

  • ·         Standardize, correct, and verify address data to ensure deliverability & qualify for letter and flat-sized presort and automation rates
  • ·         Presort your mailing lists to mail more efficiently and less expensively
  • ·         Eliminate duplicate records in single mailing list to save on costs
  • ·         National Change-of-Address process your mailing list to eliminate mailing to the wrong address
  • ·         Add intelligent Mail barcodes for additional tracking

 

Presort Object - Our on-premise API solution that supports high-volume mailings will:

  • USPS PAVE Gold Certified for First Class, Marketing Mail (Standard Mail), nonprofit letters, cards, flats; automation, non-automation, non-machinable; Standard Carrier Route; and destination discounts for SCF, NDC and DDU
  • Provide palletization option for First Class and Marketing Mail for essential efficient processing of high volume mailings
  • Full Service Intelligent Mail® compliant and Mail.dat - generates iMB barcodes and all reports and e-documents necessary
  • Include a free Mail.dat License Code
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5 Ecommerce Issues You Forgot--And How to Fix Them

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Want to increase conversions, provide customers with a better shopping experience, and cut down on cart abandonment? Check out these five ecommerce issues you probably forgot and how to fix them to solve these problems and more.

1. The Fat Finger Syndrome

Customers are terrible at typing--especially when it comes to filling out incredibly small contact forms on their smartphones. The fat finger syndrome accounts for many name misspellings, incorrect addresses, email bouncebacks, and invalid order submissions. To take the burden off the customer, try implementing a real-time autocomplete solution. By automatically showing verified addresses and emails as the customer types, you'll help alleviate fat finger syndrome and cut down on form abandonment.

 

2. International Postal Standards Vary

Did you know that in Japan, the last name goes first on shipping labels? And in Canada, the postal codes consist of letters and numbers arranged in a specific way? Those are just two examples of how address standardization can differ from country to country. So, if you're planning to go international, be mindful of varying postal requirements and make sure you have an address verification solution that can verify, standardize, format and transliterate. Solutions like Melissa's Global Address Verification do all of this and more--like adding precise lat/long coordinates to addresses for 40+ countries.

 

3. Upfront Shipping Matters

Amazon has shown the way towards better conversions, more sales, and cost-effective shipping with upfront shipping costs and delivery dates shown at every step of the order process. Now, you can, too! With Decimal, a comprehensive shipping rates manager and delivery dates predictor, you can provide your customers with calculations for shipping while they shop, without interrupting their purchase. That means more customers hitting Submit Order without delay.

 

4. Clean Data Affects Everything

Are you sure you're only storing accurate customer data? The data you collect directly on your site, via call-in orders, through internal systems, and mobile all need to match to show accurate customer records in order to better know your customers, increase upsell opportunities, and provide good customer service. By cleaning data before it enters your database and maintaining it after, you can ensure that every customer's name, address, phone, and email are accurate and verified.

 

5. Fraud Costs More than Lost Sales

Let's look at some stats--every year, businesses lose $3.5 trillion in revenue to financial crimes, and 15.4 million consumers were victims of identity theft in 2016 alone. Don't let fraud and chargeback costs steal your bottom line. Instead, use an ID verification solution like Personator®, which combs through 2.1 billion records to match name-to-address and verify that every customer is exactly who they say they are.

 

On March 22, the USPS® PAVE™ (Presort Accuracy, Validation, and Evaluation) program renewed Gold Certification for all of Melissa's presort mailing solutions. In fact, Melissa presorting solutions have been PAVE Certified for over 22 years, and we are committed to achieving this honor every year. 

Melissa PAVE Gold certified products include:

·         MAILERS+4® Standard Edition Desktop Software

·         MAILERS+4 Professional Edition Desktop Software

·         MAILERS Online - Cloud Based Postal Software Alternative

·         Presort Object® API

Products that achieve Standard certification undergo an extensive manual review to determine that all documentation including the USPS® Qualification Report, PS forms, barcoded tray and sack tags, and other user documentation meet with DMM® regulations.

Products like Melissa's presort solutions achieve Gold Certification by undergoing extensive electronic analysis in addition to the manual documentation review. Electronic evaluation allows for more rigorous and in-depth examination for each piece in the test mailing to ensure compliance.

Using a PAVE Gold Certified product gives mailers assurance that their mail will be prepared accurately and qualify for the lowest postage rates available. Melissa PAVE Certified products support First-Class Mail, Marketing Mail™ (Standard Mail®), Periodicals, and NonProfit Mail including card size, letter size, flat size, automation, non-automation, non-machinable, Standard Carrier Route, and destination discounts for SCF, NDC, and DDU.  

Looking for Geo-Referenced Data You Can Integrate in a Flash?

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Global GeoPostcode data provides a common dataset structure for all countries, containing all localities, ZIP/postal codes, administrative divisions, statistical units, reference codes, time zones, elevations and, for selected countries, neighborhoods, suburbs and streets. All data are geo-referenced and available in local language, transliterated English and non-accented ASCII versions.


Global GeoPostcode data can be integrated into professional software, websites and mobile applications, and can be used to generate statistics, complete addresses, validate forms, and more.

 

Learn more:

http://www.melissa.com/reference-data/index.html#4

MAILERS Online: On Demand & In the Cloud Presorting

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Say hello to a no-contract, end-to-end mailing solution that's in the cloud and easy to use. MAILERS Online is a one-stop-shop for all your mailing and presort needs, where you can upload your text or Excel® files to our server and let Melissa take it from there. We'll presort your list, based on your selected parameters, to get you the lowest postage rates! MAILERS Online is a flexible, on-demand, software as a service (SaaS).

 

There is nothing to install and MAILERS Online never requires disks or updates. Use on a list-by-list basis--with no contract or subscription, you're never locked in. Use NCOA to locate customers who've moved; clean and verify address data to reduce undeliverable-as-addressed mail; and append missing data like ZIP® Codes, carrier routes, and suite numbers for stronger targeting and more efficient processing and delivery.

 

Find out what can MAILERS Online do for you today:

http://www.melissadata.com/service/presort/uploadws.aspx

Address Quality - Take 2

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By David Loshin

We have dealt with some of our core address quality concepts, but not this one:
The intended recipient must be associated with the deliverable address.

The problem here is no longer address quality but rather address correctness.
The address may be complete, all the elements may be valid, the ZIP+4 is the right one, and all values conform to standardized abbreviations ... and still be incorrect if the recipient is not associated with the address!

This is the bigger challenge with address data quality, since address correctness or accuracy is a factor of real-world events that are not necessarily synchronized with your databases. Some level of control is again served by the Postal Service through the NCOA (National Change of Address) data set that is licensed to tools providers.

Checking against the NCOA data set will notify you if an entity linked to a location has self-reported a change of address, and this accommodates a large portion of the address correction issues. However, there are estimates about the percentage of people that moved, and I recall reading a Census Bureau press release about their 2006-2007 statistics noting that 14% of the population moved over the year.

Not all changes propagate to the NCOA file at the right time, and it may take a while before all consumers of that data actually synch up with the NCOA data set. Even if you do a quarterly review, if we trust that 14% statistic, then there is a pretty good chance that by the end of the quarter you will still have a 3-4% inaccuracy rate for mapping entities to locations.

And there are other considerations that are not incorporated into this calculation. For example:

• Individuals change jobs and therefore change business addresses
• Third-party data vendors incorrectly link individuals to locations
• Miskeyed data
• Purposely incorrect data
• Propagation of legacy addresses overwriting updated addresses
This a small sample of challenges. But what it means is that there are many aspects of assessing and assuring the quality and correctness of addresses, and it may be worth reviewing the ways that your organization verify, validate, standardize, and correct location data!

Postal Standards and Address Quality - Take 1

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By David Loshin

The USPS Postal Standard (Publication 28) provides at least some of the specifications we need for address quality. For example,

 "The Postal Service defines a complete address as one that has all the address elements necessary to allow an exact match with the current Postal Service ZIP+4 and City State files to obtain the finest level of ZIP+4 and delivery point codes for the delivery address."
The next paragraph provides some additional details:

 "A standardized address is one that is fully spelled out, abbreviated by using the Postal Service standard abbreviations (shown in this publication) or as shown in the current Postal Service ZIP+4 file."
A large part of the remainder of the document guides what is valid and what is not valid, as well as the postal standard abbreviations (as mentioned in the definition of standardized). So an address must be complete, which by definition implies that it can be matched with current Postal Service ZIP+4 and City State files.

This match is to obtain the ZIP+4, so the implication is that verification means that a complete address matches the USPS files and has the correct ZIP+4. The address components must be consistent with the postal standard in terms of valid and invalid values. For example, a street address cannot have a number that is outside the range of recognized numbers (that is, if the USPS file says that Main Street goes from 1-104, an address with 109 Main St is invalid). So validation means that the street address is consistent with what is documented by the USPS files. Standardization is also defined by the above reference: it is spelled out, and uses the USPS standard abbreviations.

In turn, the process for address quality would be to:

1) Ensure the address is complete.
2) Ensure that the address values are valid by checking it against the USPS files.
3) Verify the address's ZIP+4 by matching against the USPS fles.
4) Standardize the address according to the USPS standardized abbreviations.

Senate Green Lights Postal Reform - But Is It Enough?

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Postal Reform legislation passed the Senate this month, but according to the Postal Service (and who should know better?) S. 1789 falls disappointedly short of restoring the USPS to financial viability.

For the past two years, the Postmaster General and the Board of Governors of the USPS have worked diligently preparing a comprehensive five-year plan to profitability that would enable revenue generation and achieve cost reductions of $20 billion by 2015 - restoring the Postal Service to long-term growth. The USPS is currently losing $25 million a day and has a debt of more than $13 billion.

Following the two days of sessions it took to vote on all the amendments in the bill, PMG Patrick Donahoe stated: "Based on our initial analysis of the legislation passed today, losses would continue in both the short and long term. If this bill were to become law, the Postal Service would be back before the Congress within a few years requesting additional legislative reform."

So where do we go from here? To the House of Representatives with an entirely new bill - H.R. 2309 - and with their own ideas for Postal Reform.

In the meantime? Take a look here at S.1789 to see exactly what the Senators voted for, and against, and then review the USPS Plan to Profitability - 5 Year Business Plan ... It's a good read. After that ... well, we'll keep you posted.


Characterizing the Quality of Address Data

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By David Loshin

My company is currently working on a couple of projects associated with address quality and location master data. We are reviewing a lot of the existing documentation that has been collected from a number of different operational systems, as well as reviewing the business processes to see where location data is either created, modified, or read.

And there are many references to operations or transformations performed on addresses, mostly with the intent of improving the quality of the address.

Curiously, there are a number of different terms used to refer to these different transformations: validation, verification, standardization, cleansing, correction. I am sure there are others. But what do all these things mean? And why are these different terms used if they mean the same thing?

The first step in exploring the answer to this question is reflecting back on the nature of deliverable addresses. When an item is sent to an addressed location, there are some core concepts that need to be right:

1) The item must be directed to a specific recipient party (either an individual or an organization).
2) The address must be a deliverable address.
3) The intended recipient must be associated with the deliverable address.
In addition, there are certain incentives provided to senders when the addresses are completely aligned with the Postal Standard, adding one more concept:

4) The delivery address must conform to the USPS standard.
These directives provide us with some material with which to work for differentiating the different terms used for postal data quality. More next week...

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