Unique scannable bar codes will start to show up in May 2009 on business- and first-class mail and packages. The codes should speed up processing of that mail and will allow businesses as well as post offices to track the movement and delivery of each piece sent.
Businesses can expect the bar codes to bring the same kinds of efficiencies in data mining and management found online to snail-mail billing and direct marketing.
The digital mail revolution, named "Intelligent Mail" by the USPS, will help companies zero in on their best sales prospects by much more quickly gauging response rates to mail offers and tweaking pitches if they flub.
It'll be a huge improvement over today's system of not knowing for weeks whether an ad or promotion was a hit or a dud. "By knowing exactly when a piece of mail has arrived, a company can use e-mail to follow up with the customer and make another offer," says Jerry Cerasale, a senior vice president with the Direct Marketing Association -- assuming the person hasn't opted out of receiving e-mail from that company.
Intelligent Mail will deliver benefits on the businesses operations side, too. Customers won't be able to brush off collections calls by saying "the check is in the mail" because companies can verify that instantly. Analysis of mail and bill paying patterns can save businesses big legal bills, as well.
One company that participated in a test of Intelligent Mail reported saving $1 million by using digital mail feedback to determine when it shouldn’t send past due bills to the collections department.
Photo by enimal.