JULY - AUGUST 2020
Special Sponsored Sections Vote By Mail Equipment and Software PAGE 22 Ink and Toner Printing Solutions PAGE 14
DETERMINING THE ROI OF YOUR DIRECT MAIL CAMPAIGNS.
INKJET VS. TONER: HOW THESE TECHNOLOGIES CAN IMPACT YOUR MAIL PIECES
ELECTION + POLITICAL MAIL = OPPORTUNITY IN 2020 AND BEYOND PAGE 20
ENSURING MAILâ€™S SURVIVAL IN A POST-COVID WORLD. PAGE 28
TABLE OF CONTENTS
JULY-AUGUST 2020 | VOLUME 33 ISSUE 4
DEPARTMENTS 05 Editor's Note
Navigating the New Normal By Amanda Armendariz
06 Real-Life Management
Thinking Upstream: Preventing Problems Before They Occur! By Wes Friesen
08 The Trenches
Print/Mail Service Providers: What’s Your Pitch?
By Mike Porter
10 Software Byte
Researching Undocumented Mail Pieces By Jeff Peoples
FEATURES 16 Selecting the Right Inserter for Your Operation An overview of the main factors to take into account.
By Mark M. Fallon
18 TransPromo Is Still a Game-Changer
If you’re not utilizing the white spaces on your customer communication pieces, you’re missing an avenue of connection.
By Pat McGrew
20 Election & Political Mail
A world of opportunity in 2020 and beyond.
By Kathleen J. Siviter
24 Determining the ROI of Your Direct Mail Campaign A profitable direct mail strategy requires a thorough understanding of the factors that contribute to a campaign’s success.
By Alan Sherman
26 Understanding CCM Platforms and Regulations
As a document services provider, regulatory compliance should be top of mind, and the right solutions can ease the burden.
SPONSORED CONTENT 09 Understanding Election Season Mail in 2020 11 Vote by Mail Processing Enhanced Through Automation 14 Inkjet Vs. Toner: Which Is Right for Your Mail?
By Matt Mahoney
28 How the Postal Sector Can Succeed in a Post-COVID World
By Dr. Ahmed Kada
JULY-AUGUST 2020 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
Inkjet vs. Toner: How These Technologies Can Impact Your Mail Pieces By Colin McMahon
A look at why multilateral cooperation and innovation with respect to opeartions is key.
12 Inkjet Info
22 5 Vote By Mail Partner Possibilities
EDITOR’S NOTE VOLUME 33, ISSUE 4 MAGAZINE STAFF President Chad Griepentrog Publisher Ken Waddell Editor Amanda Armendariz firstname.lastname@example.org Contributing Writers Mark M. Fallon, Wes Friesen, Dr. Ahmed Kada, Matt Mahoney, Pat McGrew, Colin McMahon, Jeff Peoples, Mike Porter, Alan Sherman, Kathleen J. Siviter Audience Development Manager Rachel Chapman email@example.com Advertising Ken Waddell 608.235.2212 firstname.lastname@example.org Design Kelli Cooke
MadMen3 PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098 Tel: 608.241.8777 Fax: 608.241.8666 Email: email@example.com
NAVIGATING THE NEW NORMAL BY AMANDA ARMENDARIZ
SUBSCIRBE Subscribe online at MailingSystemsTechnology.com. Subscriptions are free to qualified recipients: $20 per year to all others in the United States. Subscription rate for Canada or Mexico is $40 per year, and for elsewhere outside of the United States is $45. Back issue rate is $5. SEND SUBSCRIPTIONS TO: Mailing Systems Technology, PO Box 259098, Madison WI 53725-9098 Call 608.241.8777 Fax 608.241.8666 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Online at MailingSystemsTechnology.com. REPRINT SALES ReprintPro 949.702.5390 www.ReprintPros.com All material in this magazine is copyrighted ©2020 by MadMen3 All rights reserved. Nothing may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. Any correspondence sent to Mailing Systems Technology, MadMen3 or its staff becomes property of MadMen3. The articles in this magazine represent the views of the authors and not those of MadMen3 or Mailing Systems Technology. MadMen3 and/or Mailing Systems Technology expressly disclaim any liability for the products or services sold or otherwise endorsed by advertisers or authors included in this magazine. MAILING SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY (ISSN 1088-2677) [Volume 33 Issue 3] is published six times per year (January/February, March/April, May/June, July/August, September/October, November/December) by MadMen3, PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098, 608-241-8777. Periodical postage paid at Madison WI and additional offices. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: Mailing Systems Technology PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098
hen the COVID-19 pandemic hit our society in February, most of us hoped (foolishly, as it turned out) that things would be back to normal by summer. Visions of family barbeques, vacations spent at amusement parks, and lazy days spent by the city pool certainly flitted across many of our minds. But instead, most states are seeing an unprecedented rise in cases, which necessitates continued social distancing practices, closure of many public places, and company requirements stipulating that employees are to remain in their home offices. Suffice it to say, this summer is not exactly shaping up as many of us hoped. And unfortunately, one of the industry side effects of COVID-19 was a steep drop in mail volumes, and we are continuing to see that as we enter the summer months. On the bright side, as this is an election year, the mail stream will get a much-needed injection into the mail stream as candidates and campaign officials try to sway voters via the power of
the printed word. And as more voters decide to cast their ballots at home in order to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19 at their local polling places, opportunities abound there as well. Now is the time for mail service providers to look for the opportunities in the political and election mail space, whether they take advantage of those opportunities in 2020 or in the future. Despite the digital world in which we live, mail still provides a stronger sense of legitimacy than other mediums. No one knows what the future will hold in terms of the economy, mail volumes, and the pandemic, but we’ll be your industry partner as you attempt to navigate these challenging times. As always, thanks for reading Mailing Systems Technology.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2020
THINKING UPSTREAM: PREVENTING PROBLEMS BEFORE THEY OCCUR! BY WES FRIESEN
enjamin Franklin famously wrote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He wrote those words in the specific context of fire safety, contributing to the establishment of the Union Fire Company and impressing the importance of fire safety upon the general public. The wisdom of those words ring true today and can be very valuable to us, our teams, and the people serve. Dan Heath builds upon Franklin’s concept in his new book, Upstream, in which he advocates for “upstream” thinking, which is defined as efforts to prevent problems before they occur. This is in contrast to “downstream” thinking, which is reacting to problems after they occur. Preventing problems before they occur can save time, energy, frustration, money — and, in some cases, human injuries or even lives (e.g., upfront medical tests for life threatening illnesses). But it’s not all smooth sailing; Heath points out some challenges to adopting upstream thinking, such as: Problem Blindness – This includes not seeing the problems, or seeing the negative outcomes but believing they are regrettable but natural and not solvable (e.g., we will always have “x” level of unhappy customers or have “y” error rates). 6
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Lack of Ownership – This is the feeling that the problem is not one specific person’s responsibility to fix (i.e., refusing to own the problem). Sometimes problems lack owners because of fragmented responsibilities — where multiple departments touch a problem but there is not one clear owner — or just due to a feeling that it’s not our place to intervene. Tunneling – Sometimes if we are juggling multiple problems, we can give up trying to solve them all (“I can’t deal with that right now”). Tunneling can result in tunnel vision, which leads to short-term, reactive thinking. Key Principles to Thinking Upstream 1. Take ownership of potential problems. Embrace the upstream thinking mindset, which includes looking for potential problems, taking ownership of them, and not waiting for someone else to resolve. Strive to be a “problem finder” and realize small problems often precede big problems — so it is better to discover and resolve problems early on when they are small before they grow into big issues that can do great harm. 2. Plan ahead. President John F. Kennedy wisely said, “The time to repair
the roof is when the sun is shining.” The best time to think upstream is when the water (life) is calm and you can carefully plan to keep it that way. It’s hard to think upstream when you are in the middle of a storm and just trying to stay afloat! The advice of Pimco CEO Mohamed El-Erian applies: “It’s better to be prepared for events that don’t happen than unprepared for events that do.” 3. Learn from the past. We are wise when we learn from our past experiences, including mistakes and the resulting problems. Michael Alter (President of SurePay) remarked, “Mistakes are the tuition you pay for success.” I concur with this advice from Warren Buffett: “It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.” A special learning opportunity comes from going through a major crisis, like the COVID pandemic we are working through. Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” We can seize the opportunity to learn and be prepared for any future crisis that comes our way. 4. Strongly consider strategic sourcing. Strategic sourcing involves not using a single vendor (source) for our key materials, supplies, and services (although exceptions may apply). The concern of being single sourced is, what happens to our ability to produce our goods and services if that one vendor has financial, supply chain, or operational problems? Strategic sourcing also considers where the vendor is located — do we really want to rely on having a crucial item we need coming only from a supplier in an overseas location like China? 5. Encourage collaboration and involve people. All of us are smarter than any one of us. We need people on our teams, supporting teams like IT, and our key vendors and suppliers to anticipate potential problems before they occur, and then to design and implement effective preventive solutions. We can encourage all people, especially our front-line employees, to share their concerns and potential future problems they foresee. One tool we can use is to have planned brainstorm sessions, where we ask people to share potential problems they think might be in our future. We can also think about potential scenarios (e.g., pandemics
or natural disasters like earthquakes and fires) and discuss how we can be prepared to prevent or at least minimize the impact. 6. Change systems as needed. Remember this key principle: “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” We need to continually evaluate the results of our systems based on their actual outcomes, including their impact on our key stakeholders. Getting stakeholder input like customer feedback is valuable. And part of our system evaluation should include our ability to prevent problems or at least mitigate their impact. 7. Have proven back-up systems in place. We should have back-up systems and processes in place for our key equipment and operations. One strategy is to have prudent internal redundancy. For example, in my print and mail operations, we had two printers and two inserters, and we had the ability to produce key deliverables with only a single printer or single inserter if one unit was down. Another back-up option we used was to have a reciprocal agreement with a comparable operation — we could use the partner’s equipment and technology to produce our outputs and vice-versa. A third strategy we used was relying on a vendor for back-up purposes. One important tip for all three of these options is to test out on a regular basis — you don’t want to be in an emergency mode and find out your back-up plan doesn’t work! One additional tip: make sure that crucial spare parts are stored on-site or available to be delivered on short notice. 8. Test thoroughly. In addition to testing our back-up systems and processes, we should thoroughly test all proposed solutions before they go live. We have all seen new systems go live with poor results due to inadequate testing — we don’t want to join that club! 9. Pursue Poka-Yokes. Poka-yoke is a Japanese term that means “mistake-proofing” or “error-proofing” a process. We see “error-proofing” examples in our everyday lives — examples include car safety features, elevators and garage doors equipped with sensors that prevent doors from closing if there is something or someone in the way, and spell check functions in software programs and phones. We can intentionally implement poka-yokes by tools such as checklists that provide guidance to avoid errors; ensuring software applications have built in checks (e.g., require entries on key data fields and in correct format); and using technology and “smart” equipment (e.g., camera systems on inserters). 10. Measure regularly and track progress. We should monitor leading indicators and measures that can warn us of potential bigger problems ahead, such as an increase in customer complaints or a spike in error rates. We also need to be responsive to external sign posts that may affect our operations. Example: if you are a print and/or mail vendor for your state, and your state is exploring adding vote-by-mail, be ready! Wes Friesen (MBA, EMCM, CMDSM, MCOM, MDC, OSPC, CCE, CBF, CBA ICP, CMA, CFM, CM, APP, PHR, CTP) is a proven leader and developer of high-performing teams and has extensive experience in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. He is also an award-winning university instructor and speaker, and is the President of Solomon Training and Development, which provides leadership, management, and team-building training. Wes can be contacted at email@example.com or at 971.806.0812. MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2020
management tools that enable print/mail service providers to satisfy the demands a client’s customers have about the way they want to receive communications.
PRINT/MAIL SERVICE PROVIDERS: WHAT’S YOUR PITCH? BY MIKE PORTER
or decades, companies have struggled with the best way to create and distribute business documents. Should they print, mail, and distribute digital communications themselves or outsource the responsibility to someone else? On the surface, this seems to be a simple financial decision, but the right answer for many businesses depends on several other factors, which are too often glossed over. Every prospective document processing client wants to trim expenses. They are interested in saving money on equipment leases, software licenses, maintenance, and labor. Shutting down an in-plant print and mail operation can make for a persuasive outsourcing argument. But should cost be the driving force? Lower Cost Is Still Important There’s validity to the financial argument. Print/mail service providers process higher volumes of documents. They invest in efficient equipment that does the job quicker, at a lower per-piece cost, and they reduce labor expenses through automation. They can also qualify more mail for maximum postage discounts; something standalone businesses cannot do on their own. Not so long ago, outsource print and mail companies did just fine by showing a prospective client a cost comparison; nothing much else was required. This is no longer the case. Today, print/mail service providers should change their approach. Leading with cost savings reduces the value of their offering to a single measurement — one that rivals can easily match or undercut by doing the work for less. I
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suggest sales representatives start the conversation by talking about the client’s business objectives and highlighting the value the service provider can add to outbound customer communications. Save the cost-reduction discussion for later. Take the Focus Off the Price The actual value of an outsource print/ mail service provider is how well they can help their clients achieve their business goals. No company mentions lowering print and mail costs as their organization’s prime objective! They are more interested in items like gaining market share, retaining customers, growing profit margins, or improving the customer experience. Every situation is different. The one-size-fits-all outsource provider sales pitch will not work. Discussions with prospective clients will reveal their chief business objectives. Modern print/mail service providers have many tools that allow them to deliver the benefits each of their clients sees as most important. It’s up to the salespeople to match their client’s goals with the outsource provider’s strengths. Some examples include: Sophisticated equipment that creates full-color personalized documents and ensures items are distributed accurately. Dashboards that allow clients to track work in progress and request last-minute pulls or inquire about individual document disposition without disrupting production. Multi-channel document composition software and channel preference
Service provider access to payment gateways, which can provide more payment options to the client’s customers and improve cash flow. Expertise with postal products like Informed Delivery, Informed Visibility, and One Code ACS, which give document service providers the ability to track the mail, add interactivity, and correct addresses in ways their clients could never accomplish on their own. Business continuity arrangements that ensure print/mail service providers continue to process client work, even during natural disasters (or a worldwide health crisis). Speedy response to client requests for document changes. Clients often experience long waits for internal IT resources to change legacy documents. Print/mail service providers are more responsive. As new technologies and techniques develop, print/mail service providers invest in them and become experts in how to use the new components to serve their clients. Individual companies processing lower volumes cannot justify the expense of a million-dollar inkjet press or inserting machine, for example. Outsource document service providers can deliver the benefits expensive equipment provides, without requiring capital expenditures. With the right approach, print/mail service providers can attract new business without competing on price and cutting their rates. Make no mistake, clients will save money by shutting down in-plant document operations, reallocating space, and re-purposing employees into higher value jobs, but, more important, they gain much more with access to new features and capabilities their outsourcing partner provides. Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNDERSTANDING ELECTION SEASON MAIL IN 2020 In these unprecedented and challenging times, many businesses and industries are having to find ways to adapt to the “new normal” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is easy to feel a loss of control and general panic over the state of things, especially for those of us in the mail and print industry. Amid all this adjusting and learning, election season is here in full swing — and because of the pandemic, election season mailings are expected to see a surge during the 2020 cycle. In fact, according to PostCom’s June bulletin, absentee balloting will easily be doubled in 2020 and many states have expanded voting options for spring and summer elections. Certain states have reduced the number of available polling places, and five states are having mail-only elections. With this in mind, in this article, we will explore the important differences between political and election mail and offer some ways mail service providers can take their mailing operations to the next level. Political Mail vs. Election Mail Election mail is a highly specific class of mail that is used solely for information on the election process; it is not for information regarding an individual campaign or a political candidate. It covers voting information, voter registration, absentee ballots and applications, and other related
materials. The margin of error for these mailings is zero, and they require specialized mailing operations to complete them accurately. In contrast, political mail is a type of mailing sent from a specific candidate, a political party, or a committee. These mailings can range from anything from endorsements, information on a specific candidate to push for certain initiatives, or registration information for a political party. Generally, these mailings cover most political mail individuals will see during an election season. A much more accessible class of mail than election mail, political mail is a great avenue for mail service providers to explore. Take Your Business to the Next Level Every Door Direct Mail® (EDDM®) is a great tool for mailers looking to start or enhance their political mail capabilities. Specifically designed with the mail campaigns of small businesses and local political campaigns in mind, EDDM enables users to send at least 200 and up to 5,000 pieces per day per ZIP Code™ — no special mailing permit is required. Once a thorough understanding of EDDM is reached, astute mailers are ready to advance to the next level of political mailings — this is where Delivery Sequence File (DSF2) Processing comes into play. For example, if you are doing a campaign for a localized election,
where the campaign is to encourage voters to vote for or against a specific proposition, then you will need a service such as DSF2 to maximize postal discount qualifications and better target your mailing efforts. BCC Software’s DSF2 Processing updates your lists by identifying known addresses and specific address attributes and returning a Walk Sequence and a Business/Residential Flag for each record that matched. This information can be used to hone your mailing lists and produce mailings that are targeted more precisely. Effective Donor Outreach Donors are a vital piece of any campaign, and it is easier to retain donors than to attract new ones, so data quality is critical. Due to the infrequency of elections, it is easy for mailing lists to become outdated. A donor may not have updated their address since the previous election years ago, so they are no longer in the NCOALink database. Investing in tools to contact with donors will pay for themselves. When you are trying to reach a person at all costs, this is where a service like BCC Software’s COMPLIANCE+™ is a great tool to have. It allows you to update your lists of record with clean data to ensure messages are getting into the right hands. Going beyond traditional compliance found with CASS™ and NCOALink, COMPLIANCE+ combines these effective solutions with powerful industry tools — PCOA (Proprietary Change of Address) and ARS (Address Resolution Services) — to get the most accurate data possible. To learn more, visit bccsoftware.com and download our exclusive Guide to Election Mail today!
https://bccsoftware.com email@example.com 800.337.0442
RESEARCHING UNDOCUMENTED MAIL PIECES BY JEFF PEOPLES
ne of the challenges of participating in the Seamless Acceptance program is dealing with undocumented mail piece errors. The assessments for these errors can be quite expensive. Unlike some of the other assessments that are passed onto the respective mail owners, assessments for undocumented pieces will usually come right out the mail preparers’ pockets. It is often difficult for mail preparers to pinpoint the source of these errors to either correct the issue or to provide documentation to the USPS to dispute the error. What Is an Undocumented Mail Piece? An undocumented piece is one with an Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) that has been scanned by USPS Mail Processing Equipment (MPE), but it can’t be associated with any eDoc. For validation purposes, the USPS checks against the eDoc Submitter Customer Registration ID (CRID) and submissions within the last 45 days. The current error threshold is .3%; however, mail preparers must explain any errors over the .1% level. The mail piece barcode data is populated in your eDoc during the presort process, whether you’re using presort software or a multiline optical-character reader (MLOCR). So, what causes these undocumented mail pieces, and how can mail preparers prevent this issue? Causes One common cause is regenerating Mail. dat files after the barcodes have been printed on the mail pieces. While this may be necessary for a variety of reasons, it is critical to make sure that when these files are regenerated, new IMbs are not being generated. To prevent undocumented pieces, having QA procedures in place to
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verify that the barcode data in the newly generated file matches the barcode data printed on the pieces is vital. Another common cause is use of an incorrect Mailer Identification (MID), either in the barcode on the mail piece, or in the Piece Detail Record (PDR) or Piece Barcode Record (PBC) of the Mail. dat file. To prevent this, it is important to implement quality assurance (QA) steps in your workflow to provide a check point to ensure that this data matches between the physical mail piece and the eDoc. Yet another common culprit is that many mailers have small jobs, usually single-piece rate First-Class Mail, that have been printed with IMbs and metered but would not be presorted in any way. By definition, these pieces will be undocumented since no eDoc was provided. The resolution is to presort these small mailings. Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) 604.5.1.2 allows for presort of these small jobs that are less than the minimum for a bulk mailing. The Mail.dat files for these small jobs may be merged using post-presort software, so that there is a single submission to PostalOne! rather than numerous small submissions. Unauthorized use of MIDs by another mail service provider or mail owner can also cause issues. Likewise, removing physical pieces from the mailing due to
production issues, such as spoilage, can also cause issues. If those pieces are removed from the eDoc, but inadvertently get left in the physical mailing, the USPS won’t be able to match up the scanned barcode. Again, solid QA procedures to validate MIDs and to ensure physical removal of spoiled or pulled pieces helps prevent undocumented piece issues. MLOCR environments can have their own issues that can lead to undocumented pieces: double feeds of pre-barcoded mail, one pass mail, improperly fed rejects, and Move Update pieces culled from the mailing are some common examples. Here, too, QA procedures can help to minimize these occurrences. There can also be USPS-caused issues that create the “illusion” of undocumented pieces, when in fact they can be documented. Examples of this are “loop” mail that loops through automated processes multiple times, or technical/maintenance issues with MPE that cause mis-reads. There are numerous causes for undocumented pieces, so it is a good idea to start identifying why you are seeing undocumented pieces on your Mailer Scorecard and then develop plans to eliminate those issues and to be able to provide the USPS with the information required to successfully challenge an incorrect assessment. The best way to identify undocumented pieces on your mailer’s scorecard is to review your scorecard every day. It is much easier to discover a problem the day after it happened then a week or a month later (even if it is tedious to see the small differences in the scorecards each day). It is also important to have a process to obtain the undocumented piece data from PostalOne! and analyze the data to determine the source of the errors. Jeff Peoples is founder, president, and CEO at Window Book. With over 30 years of innovative postal solutions that make using the Postal Service easier and more profitable for mailers and shippers, he has done presentations at many industry events, including GraphExpo, the National Postal Forum, Postal Customer Council meetings, and more.
Resources The USPS provides information regarding your undocumented pieces on your Mailer Scorecard, available on the Business Customer Gateway (https://gateway.usps.com/eAdmin/view/signin). The USPS Guide to Mailer Scorecard (https://postalpro.usps.com/node/766) includes instructions for drilling down into the error reports to locate the details of undocumented piece errors. Some software and other mailing services vendors have solutions to help you with reducing your undocumented pieces or to help with the research and documentation for contesting the assessments. Now is the time to develop an understanding of the issues you may be facing and work with your vendors to implement a cost-effective solution.
VOTE BY MAIL PROCESSING ENHANCED THROUGH AUTOMATION California has an established history with absentee voting, originally seeing 5% mail-in ballots when an excuse was required, such as for overseas military personnel or for citizens who may be traveling. In 2010 the state passed no excuse vote by mail legislation and the number of mail-in ballots has steadily grown. In the most recent 2020 primary election, the Solano County Registrar of Voters in Fairfield, CA, located between Sacramento and San Francisco, saw 80% of ballots issued via mail for 240,000 registered voters across 600 precincts. The state has addressed COVID-19 concerns for voters in that the upcoming presidential election in November will be the first where 100% of ballots will be sent to Solano County voters and can be returned via the post office, or collected from 115 drop boxes throughout the county. To address mail-in ballot volume, the Solano County elections office originally employed a variety of individual tasks and dedicated equipment such as manual signature tab removal, standalone mail sorters, and offline envelope openers to complete specific, time-consuming processes on ballot mail before consolidating tasks with
a Fluence Automation solution. The elections office can now efficiently handle increased vote by mail volumes and automate the process with a Fluence Automation Elevate small footprint sorter. The Elevate sorter configured for Solano County features a laser tab removal system to cut and remove the security cover on top of a voter’s signature, an automatic signature verification (ASV) system to compare a voter’s reference signature against the signature on the mail piece, and an inline cutter to open ballot mail. John Gardner, Assistant Registrar of Voters, estimates that 75% of incoming pieces are processed in a single pass and go from sorted bins to tabulation at the end of the day. The other 25% of pieces are quickly reviewed on screen with Fluence software for verification and subsequent tabulation the next day. He cites the removal of pain points and reduction of steps through hands-free automation on a single device to eliminate overtime for the two weeks prior to election night for elections staff. “It’s a lot easier to ask people to stay late on election night if you haven’t been killing yourself every other day of the week working on vote by mail.” Gardner additionally notes
the increase to 100% vote by mail requirement in California can easily be absorbed by the speed and scalability of the Elevate sorter. Further, Solano County has also reduced temporary labor and associated polling place costs, eliminated multiple service maintenance contracts and, in some cases, click charges across a variety of machines. For nearly a decade, the Fluence Automation technology has been reliable enough for Solano County that no significant hardware failures have resulted in loss of operation for more than a day, and the elections office typically processes 2 elections per year. Fluence technicians are staffed locally to ensure maximum uptime in the two weeks California jurisdictions can process election mail. Solano County also benefits from the integration between the Fluence Automation vote by mail server and the county Elections Management System (EMS) for a complete audit trail of ballot mail as well as reporting and organization for quick retrieval of ballot mail pieces. The system’s sortation method positions the county to be ready for unique situations such as a recount. Recent state requirements for online ballot tracking for voters is fully supported by the Fluence solution in conjunction with EMS and ballot tracking notification services. In addition, as elections change, the Fluence system and county must adapt. Gardner added, “The software is very flexible, whether it’s envelope design, or where we target the laser, or read the barcodes, all those things are super easy to modify.”
fluenceautomation.com firstname.lastname@example.org 888.832.4902
INKJET VS. TONER: HOW THESE TECHNOLOGIES CAN IMPACT YOUR MAIL PIECES BY COLIN MCMAHON
lenty of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like to talk about the many capabilities of their hardware solutions. While it’s true that some print technologies are quite flexible, not all of them will be ideally suited for every situation. The printing industry is extremely diverse, and there is a great deal of additional variety within its subsegments. Mail pieces are just one example, and they represent one of the larger sectors
within the print industry. Although mailed communications might seem uniform, they can have multiple variations in color, paper type, and volume quantity. Inkjet and toner are two different printing technologies that bring their own unique set of advantages to the table when it comes to the creation of mail pieces. Fully understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each allows you to make the very best decisions for the mailing campaigns for which you are responsible.
The Importance of Mail The advent of the digital age has brought much change to our industry. The proliferation of digital technologies like laptops, tablets, and smartphones has opened up new lines of communication. Email is now far and away the most commonly used communication channel, which has caused some to declare — rather prematurely — that print is dead. While it is true that print cannot compete with email in terms of sheer volume, direct mail remains the second most common form of communication. According to the United States Postal Service (USPS), an average of 472.1 million pieces of mail are processed and delivered each day. Although direct mail may not be as prolific as email, it is still widely used. More importantly, it can help drive engagement. According to research from Keypoint Intelligence, most consumers reported reading and reviewing their direct mail before discarding it. This was true across all age groups, even the youngest respondents. Perhaps even more interesting, the tech-savvy early adopters were even more likely to read and review their direct mail than the other groups. On average, nearly 60% of total respondents read all or most of their printed direct mail before throwing it out. This speaks to the
Figure 1: Share of Printed Direct Mail that Is Read
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Figure 2: Factors and Techniques that Make Direct Mail Stand Out
continued relevance of direct mail as a communication channel (see Figure 1). How Does Inkjet Measure Up? An inkjet printer can be simply defined as any device that prints by propelling (or jetting) droplets of ink onto paper. Inkjet machines are generally less expensive than toner printers, so they are traditionally viewed as an affordable alternative for printing companies that hope to generate content on a budget. For those that are willing to invest in more expensive inkjet machines, however, the quality can be quite good. High-end inkjet devices can produce vibrant color and detail on various paper types, including glossy, matte, photo metallic, and satin. Today’s consumers receive a lot of direct mail, so it is important for providers to ensure that their communications stand out. Print providers with inkjet capabilities can offer their clients a wide array of professional-looking communications that will get noticed in customers’ mailboxes. Although toner-based devices are faster, inkjet printers can also create documents in a timely manner. Inkjet technology is ideally suited for producing short-run mail campaigns that can grab attention with full color and personalization. As shown in Figure 2, personalized content and color are the top factors that get consumers to read/engage with direct mail.
That said, inkjet technology has its limitations. Although the machines are generally less expensive than some other print technologies, inkjet inks can be pricier. As a result, you will pay more for supplies in the long run. Inkjet inks can also bleed or smudge if they are not handled properly right after printing. Certain inkjet inks (e.g., aqueous) can also bleed when exposed to water — and this is a problem that is frequently encountered with mail deliveries. How Does Toner Measure Up? Toner printers shine in their ability to produce consistent, accurate print runs at high volumes. A toner printer is likely the best bet for any high-volume mail campaign that needs to be produced quickly. When created using a toner device, printed communications can be handled immediately with no risk of color bleeding. At the same time, however, toner machines are often expensive, particularly when printing in color. This can limit a printer’s capacity to purchase and maintain toner devices on a larger scale. One the equipment has been acquired, however, toner-based devices are often simpler to maintain. The Bottom Line When it comes to producing direct mail communications, there is no
single technology that is superior for all applications. Both toner and inkjet have their benefits as well as their limitations. While inkjet technology is better suited for handling smaller, more personalized direct mail communications, it cannot compete with the speed of toner-based devices. Inkjet is a great choice for delivering eye-catching pieces that will likely make recipients more inclined to engage. Although toner-based technologies form the backbone of many direct mail campaigns, they fall short with color production. Businesses that require the capacity to send out mostly monochrome deliverables like bills and statements will likely be better served with a toner device. Today’s savvy mailers have discovered that they must be masters of multiple printing technologies. As is the case with many other industries, the trick is understanding which technology is best suited for the specific task at hand. Colin McMahon is a Research Analyst at Keypoint Intelligence. He primarily supports the Business Development Strategies and Customer Communications consulting services. In this role, he creates and reﬁnes a high volume of written content, including forecasts, industry analysis, and research/multi-client studies. He also assists with the editing and formatting processes for many types of deliverables. MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2020
INKJET VS. TONER: WHICH IS RIGHT FOR YOUR MAIL?
| MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MailingSystemsTechnology.com MAY-JUNE JULY-AUGUST 20202020
The look of your mail piece has such an impact on how the recipient views your offer and your organization as a whole, so itâ€™s not surprising that many businesses put a lot of effort into determining whether inkjet or toner printing will help them achieve the results theyâ€™re looking for. The right choice will vary by company, but take a look at these three solution providers. One of them could be the partner you need to help transform your direct mail and customer communications.
The benefits of high-speed variable data inkjet printing for print service providers and their customers are well known. Many commercial print operations, with highly developed workflows and huge investments in offset equipment, find it difficult to envision an inkjet migration path without disrupting the entire operation or spending a fortune to replace fully depreciated equipment. One way to mitigate the cost of “going digital” is to adopt a hybrid approach. Print service providers can streamline production, extend the life of presses and in-line finishing equipment and distinguish themselves in the marketplace by adding inkjet print modules to their existing production equipment. DDS has already helped numerous commercial printers offer variable data digital printing without buying new inkjet presses. The newest hybrid digital inkjet print modules from DDS produce high-quality, 1200 DPI text and images in monochrome, spot color, and full CMYK color.
Advantages of Hybrid Inkjet Printing: • The most cost-effective method of printing large jobs containing variable information. • Inkjet print modules are retrofitted onto a web press you already own. • Leverage current investments in web presses and in-line finishing equipment. • Retain all the embellishments available for offset printing such as die cutting, slitting/perforating, foils, metallic or fluorescent colors, UV coating, heavier weight stocks, etc. • Reduce potential touchpoints down to one. • Camera systems can provide realtime production information and reporting.
Digital envelope presses often employ either toner or inkjet-based print engines. While inkjet offers high speeds and attractive printing costs, you may sacrifice print quality. On the other hand, if you strive for offset like quality, and want to select from a wide range of media, then toner (Laser/LED) technology should be considered. And unlike inkjet, toner print engines are able to print at their highest resolution and deliver full color coverage without slowing down production. Unique to toner-based technology, the OKI C942DP+ is a 5-station envelope press that is able to apply white, under CMYK in a single pass. White toner opens up the opportunity to print color output on colored stocks/envelopes. And because it’s toner-based, you get the added value of no drying time, and the printed product is waterproof, smear-proof, and laser-safe.
Today’s latest inkjet technology improves upon the risks of clogged heads, less wasted ink, and continues to strive for longer life print heads. But it’s good to be aware that the cost associated with maintaining inkjet print heads is often overlooked and not factored into the total cost of printing, while toner-based systems such as the OKI C931DP+ have the advantage of virtually no maintenance. Plus, components associated with print quality are renewed as part of their normal consumable life, and still offer toner costs around 1 cent for a color logo as the return address.
www.dds-usa.com email@example.com 203.794.0520
How many of you feel like we need to hit the reset button for 2020? Maybe jump to 2021 now and restart with a clean slate! Barring that, all of us need to prepare for what will be a new economy. It will come back, it may take 9 months to hit its stride but it’s coming back. However, it will be a very different beast. Few office types are going back to the daily grind of twice daily rush hour traffic and the expenses associated with life at the office. Accordingly, a less populated office will require smaller and fewer MFPs as print volume shifts, in small part, to the “workfrom-home” office. Long-run print jobs including the mailing of invoices and promotional material will transfer to some form of CRD (commercial print shops or in-plant). Office technology dealers will have to follow that print volume out of the office and recapture it at the production print shop. And what better way to capture that volume in the new economy than with an innovative technology like RISO Inkjet that prints at speeds up to 320 color pages per minute (19200 color, letter-size pages per hour) at an operating cost that will fit most budgets. Print output that requires “No Heat” and that allows for envelope printing of all sizes. Stay relevant, think RISO and get ahead of your competition. www.us.riso.com firstname.lastname@example.org 978.777.7377
https://www.oki.com/us/printing/ products/envelope-print-systems/ index.html email@example.com 972.891.3304
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2020
By Mark M. Fallon
SELECTING THE RIGHT INSERTER FOR YOUR OPERATION
f you were in the mailing business before 1936, letters sent out in envelopes were stuffed by hand. Albert Williams of the Inserting and Mailing Machine Company in Tatamy, PA changed that with his invention of the mechanical inserter. Other companies joined the fray, and the following decades introduced important changes: Folding and inserting in a single pass Optical mark and optical character readers In-line metering Barcodes for specificity of handling Matching stations for special inserts Computerized piece weighing Job information files to track pieces on the machine Printing on the envelope after inserting Speeds over 20,000 pieces per hour
When buying an inserter, the principles of Mr. Williams’ invention remain important today — efficiency, accuracy, and reliability. Additional considerations include systems integration and reporting. To understand how to calculate and apply those standards, a manager first needs to classify their current documents, 16
JULY-AUGUST 2020 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
including print software, total volumes, number of jobs per shift, physical characteristics of completed pieces, and service level agreements with customers. There are multiple types and components of print software. Most intelligent inserters require barcodes, while others also use job information files (JIF). Having the capabilities on an inserter isn’t helpful unless there’s software to utilize those features. An operation must have the tools that can create the proper barcodes in the correct placement along with any JIFs. Inserters are machines with limits, so total volume is the first limit to consider. Not just the volumes for a shift, but the total volumes per day and per month. The equipment has to have the capacity to complete the required volumes, while allowing time for job set-ups, cleaning, and preventive maintenance. If different jobs require different setups, that will further influence the type of machine selected. Managers should attempt to consolidate jobs where possible. However, for multiple reasons, jobs may have to remain separate. The inserters should be able to easily switch from one job type to the next, with minimal operator intervention.
Physical characteristics include paper stock, envelopes, inserts, and pages per envelope. With the advent of color printing, the types of substrates used to create documents have grown. Treatments and ink may impact how an inserter handles the paper. The flaps and throats of preferred envelopes may further restrict choices. Companies that haven’t moved to white-paper processes will require multiple insert stations for additional materials. These factors combine to influence how many pages will fit into an envelope. In the past, service level agreements (SLAs) with internal or external customers allowed for a small percentage of mistakes. Operations would be expected to get 95% of the work done correctly. Today’s SLAs demand 100% accuracy, accounting for every page of every piece of every mailing. With these requirements in mind, managers can select the model of inserters by examining the following characteristics:
Speed – number of pieces per hour Capacity – number of pieces per month Turnover – minutes to change jobs Throughput – number of envelopes per shift
Flexibility – types of paper and envelopes accepted Adaptability – options to selectively insert, divert, or add messaging Expansion – number of pockets for additional inserts Accuracy – methodology to track pages and pieces Accountability – reporting system that provides information on every job and every piece Until recently, many managers would think these complexities were limited to large production facilities producing transactional mail. Smaller organizations using desktop equipment didn’t have the ability to add barcodes or reporting. Direct mail companies didn’t see the need for high levels of machine integrity. Advancements in technology have changed the options that are either required or available. Affordable software can add integrity barcodes and JIFs. Accuracy in mailings, as measured by the US Postal Service Mailer Scorecard, requires accounting for every specific piece, not just counts. Actionable reporting to clients adds value to services provided.
But value at what cost? Every additional option adds to the price of the inserter and the software required to support the system. Faster inserters will reduce labor costs in the mail operation, often enough to justify the additional expense of the new equipment. Sometimes, the savings are elsewhere. We’ve had clients save considerable money in other areas. One bank had account managers hand-stuffing statements because the mail operation couldn’t process multiple-page statements. An insurance company had adjusters printing and mailing claims documents from their desks. A healthcare payer faced a penalty when personal health information (PHI) was compromised. An improvement in a business process can significantly impact a company’s bottom line. Account managers and adjusters are paid considerably higher salaries than inserter operators. A single PHI violation fine can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation. Automation and integrity solve those problems. Service providers can leverage the investment in new technology when selling to clients. Having the lowest cost-per-piece doesn’t guarantee a sale. Customers are looking to their partners to bring innovation and improvement. Companies look to
increase responsiveness through better looking mail pieces and provide secure customer communications with tracking and reporting. Smart managers involve their best employees and operators in the decision-making process. The people who process the work every day can provide helpful feedback on new equipment and software. During reference calls, they can speak with other operators and understand the challenges and advantages of the proposed system. Participation in the evaluation will promote acceptance with the required adjustments of the new procedures. A lot has changed since Mr. Williams introduced his new invention. Managers have more options when choosing the right equipment for their operation. Knowing their operation, the characteristics of their mail, and the needs of their customers remains integral to making the right purchase. Mark M. Fallon is President & CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his blogs at www.berkshire-company.com/the-berkshire-company-blog or www.markfallon.com/blog
Maintain an Accurate VOTER LIST Address Verification Change of Address Processing Voter Record Dedupe Limited Time Offer Free List Processing for States & Counties. Call for Details
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2020
TRANSPROMO IS STILL
A GAME CHANGER By Pat McGrew
If you’re not utilizing the white spaces on your customer communication pieces, you’re missing an avenue of connection.
he mailbox is an amazing environment. It welcomes communication from the companies we do business with, our insurers, our banks, and from companies who believe we might be interested in their products and services. It is also the depository for invitations, cards, and letters from our family and friends. It is tied to our home address and carries some implied demographic information because of the location information tied to it. It is perceived differently from our email inbox, which often filters inbound communication from our eyes before we get to it. And, while email can carry some demographic information, for the most part, email is not as cognizant of who we are as our trusty mailbox linked to our street address is. That is why mailed communication from our credit card companies, utilities, other billers and
JULY-AUGUST 2020 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
transaction communication providers, and government shines when it arrives in the mailbox. And that makes it an opportunity, because the data tells us that the rush to e-delivery may have hit its plateau. Transactional documents carry gravitas. They are sent by companies we have a financial relationship with or by the governments we interact with. We know when the envelope comes that there is information that is relevant to us. While it is true that some people toss the envelope directly into a filing cabinet in case it is needed, more than 90% of people open their bills and statements when you aggregate the available research. They also read them. And that is not an age-dependent statement! Research from the Keypoint Intelligence Customer Communication Service has shown for the last two years that customer preferences point to the desire for multiple
channels of communication from trusted billers. It’s not just the over-55 cohort! In all age ranges, including the millennials and GenZ segments, more than two-thirds of customers said that they wanted to decide which channel their providers should use for communication, and there was a strong preference for both e-delivery and print. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Everyone is busy. They want the convenience of quickly checking a bill and paying it online, but also the freedom to spend some time with the printed edition to check line items and the various offers available to them. You have their attention, so use it to put your best, targeted offers in front of your constituents! The opening volley of TransPromo, back in 2007, was to call attention to the power of a whitepaper factory for transactional communication. Eliminate the preprinted shells by printing the entire
package on a full-color press, and then leverage the available whitespace by adding educational and promotional content targeted to the recipient. Whether you call it TransPromo or something else, you see it on bills and statements from all sectors today. That graph that shows your FICO score or information on how to get help if you are impacted by a disaster are all based on the same ideas that began with the first forays into TransPromo. And, today, the options are more varied than ever before. TransPromo doesn’t require a deep dive into the customer data lake or detailed analysis of a customer buying history. If you have them, and are permitted to use them, fabulous. But if you are among the companies that do not open access to that type of data for marketing purposes, consider what you know about every customer and use it to build a TransPromo starter program. You know the mailing address for every customer. That mailing address contains a vast array of demographic information, most of it publicly available. You can learn the relative economic level of the neighborhood. You can identify the region, which gives you information on how the seasons
behave. You can determine if the address is in a mountain town, on a lake, on a golf course, or in ranch country. Just the ZIP Code becomes a pointer to things you can know to develop offers that will be relevant to a customer without becoming too personal. It becomes serendipity, and it is a great way to use data. But Remember… Now, before you get too excited, remember: There is a wrong way to use data. If you have access to specific customer transactions, it might be tempting to make an offer based on a specific purchase or other type of transaction. For example, the data show that Jim bought a pair of black wing tips, so you want to make an offer for coordinating socks and belt. Or, Mary bought a green suit, so you want to make an offer for a coordinating blouse and shoes. Don’t do it. The power of TransPromo is to use it to create that magic moment that will delight the recipient when they open their statement. But if the offer seems too personal, you may lose that customer for a very long time. Making TransPromo work for you might take some statement re-engineering, but it will be worth it. Start with the baby
steps. Begin by adding a page with offers as an additional page while you work on re-engineering your bills and statements to manage the whitespace to handle offers and education. Remember, you may already have the tools to do the re-engineering. If you don’t have them, there are vendors who specialize in helping you to refresh your documents. Consider a second step that adds educational content, including available spend or a breakdown of spend categories. Charts and graphs are appreciated to give a quick view of the relationship. When you are ready to incorporate offers into the fabric of the statement, start with high level offers and ask permission over time to use deeper levels of data to create more relevant offers. It’s a process. Some customers will be happy to see personalized offers, while others will not. If you aren’t considering TransPromo today, you should be. If you are already using TransPromo techniques, it’s always a good idea to assess how they are working and give them a makeover if needed. Pat McGrew is Managing Director, McGrewGroup, Inc. She can be reached at email@example.com.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2020
BY KATHLEEN J. SIVITER
ELECTION & POLITICAL MAIL –
A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY FOR 2020 AND BEYOND
ith all the press right now on Vote by Mail and the upcoming presidential election, it would be impossible for folks not to be aware that election mail can bring both challenge and opportunity within the mailing industry. But there is so much more to the topic that mail service providers (MSPs) should be aware of — particularly for 2020 elections. And the bottom line is that both political and election mail present growth opportunities for MSPs, way beyond 2020. Political Mail vs. Election Mail First, let’s be clear on the difference between political mail and election mail, because it is key that mailers understand the differences. Political mail is anything mailed for campaign purposes by a registered political candidate, campaign 20
JULY-AUGUST 2020 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
committee, or committee of a political party. Think of the types of mail you receive leading up to local and national elections from candidates — these are great examples of political mail. Political mail can be sent Marketing Mail or First-Class Mail. Political mail is a great medium for campaign marketing — studies show it is received well by consumers, and it can help shape voter opinions. The USPS shares research on political mail and its effectiveness on its “Deliver the Win” website as well as promoting its use through webinars, ads, and a dedicated marketing team. Political mail is a great growth opportunity for MSPs, many of whom already process such pieces. The key to growing that business is building relationships with political consultants, campaign managers, legislators, and others who make decisions around what companies to use for their mail marketing. With tens of thou-
sands of local, county, and state elections happening every year around the US, there is no shortage of opportunity! Election mail is any mail sent to or from authorized elections officials that enable citizens to vote. That doesn’t mean just the voting ballots themselves; it also includes things like voter registration cards, voter address updates, sample ballots, voter instructional materials, absentee ballot requests, polling place notifications, etc. Election mail can be sent First-Class Mail or Marketing Mail… but the USPS recommends use of First-Class Mail with IMb, and all election mail sent by voters to state/ local election officials MUST be sent via First-Class Mail. Vote by Mail makes it easy for most people to vote and adds yet another option to support that goal. There is an additional layer of security with Vote by Mail in that sophisticated processes are used to track outgoing
ballots and returns, and irregularities can be detected and dealt with. Vote at Home is an umbrella term that includes both Vote by Mail as well as receiving a ballot in the mail and dropping it off at a local site when voting. Challenges and Opportunities for MSPs From the standpoint of an MSP, processing election mail may not be an easy opportunity to get into — it takes knowledge, equipment, security/tracking/data proficiency, and more. And it is not without risk. But for those companies that have mastered the process, it is a profitable business line. And there are many parts in the end-to-end process that may be done all by one provider, or may be contracted out separately — such as ballot printing, inserting into envelopes, applying barcodes, sortation/entry, tracking/data management, and more. For those MSPs who have never offered election mail services, 2020 could be a very challenging time to start doing so. Not only is it late in the year for newcomers to get up to speed on all that is involved in processing election mail, but new equipment likely would be needed — and no one is ordering new equipment until after they have a contract locked in with the elections group overseeing mailing of absentee ballots. The barrier to entry for some will be the significant capital investment in the printing, binding, inserting equipment, and software required to be able to process the ballots with the high quality and short turnaround times required. There also could be issues in 2020 with equipment availability from suppliers who are already pushing their manufacturing to the limit to accommodate new orders, so those that wait too late may find they can’t get the equipment they need in time. Although there is an immense amount of pressure pushing down on providers during the 2020 election cycle, the entire supply chain is working to meet the needs of election officials and ensure that every vote counts. It is important for voters and campaigners to understand that the industry, USPS, and state/county/local election offices are doing what they can to execute Vote by Mail successfully. That doesn’t mean that just because a company can’t get set up to do an election mail contract in 2020, they should not look at election mail as a viable long-term opportunity. While 2020 and other national election years bring lots of absentee voting volume, they are not the only years that mailers can provide these services, and the national election is not the only game
in town. And the volume of absentee voting is on the rise — now more than ever. Even prior to the pandemic, Vote by Mail has been increasing in the US. According to Vote at Home (https://www. voteathome.org/), for the 2018 mid-term elections, about 25% of voters nationally voted by mail ballot; for the 2020 primaries, about 45% of Americans voted from home, and election experts predict that for 2020, nearly 70% of all votes cast could be through absentee ballots in the mail. Prior to the pandemic, only a small group of states were entirely Vote at Home, with another small group having lenient (no excuse needed) absentee voting policies. Since the pandemic, however, more states are moving to make their absentee voting policies more lenient and allow more Vote by Mail. And that direction is continuing, with states that formerly had little or no Vote by Mail now considering mail ballot options. Almost every day, there are articles in the press about changes at the state level that will increase mailed ballot numbers. Experienced election MSPs are seeing a significant increase, and many are expanding that business line with new equipment and capacity. Not All Smooth Sailing There is much concern within the election mail community, however, that many states will experience significant increases in absentee ballot voting without being sufficiently prepared to handle it. Increasing election mail service contracts requires funding, then not only do those contracts need to be filled by qualified mailing partners (who may or may not have the additional capacity), and those mailing partners need to obtain additional equipment (which may or may not be available in time), there is also the return ballot piece of the processing that the election officials need to be prepared for. Many may have used hand counting/processing of absentee ballots in the past — which may have worked for small volume of return ballots — but won’t be a viable option if the number of absentee ballots coming back significantly increases (as predicted in many areas). They may need to purchase equipment to perform the return ballot processing — and will that equipment be available if they wait too long to anticipate that need? So if 2020 is going to be a banner year in terms of election mail volume, suppose your company could bid on an election mail contract, get the necessary equipment/ processes in place, and prepare to offer the service. Should you? The advice from those who offer election mail services
today (and many that tried it for the first time lacking sufficient education and processes in place) would be: proceed with extraordinary caution. Providing election mail services is not for the faint of heart. There is a great deal of risk and liability involved, not to mention the likelihood that the bad press if things go wrong could put you out of business! And with all the politically heated debate this year around whether Vote by Mail is secure, there undoubtedly will be a bright light shone on any errors with ballots. The USPS is working hard to prevent some issues with election and political mail that could occur. In late May, the USPS sent a letter to all local and state election officials and state party officials around the country with guidance on a successful vote by mail effort. The USPS stressed that its delivery standards need to be considered when informing voters how to vote by mail to ensure ballots have sufficient time to be processed and delivered prior to the election date. The USPS also stresses that proper labeling of containers with political or election mail is key, as is mail piece design and tracking of ballots. The USPS also provides a lot of publications, guides, and materials to support vote by mail (you can get more information at http://www.about.usps.com/ election-mail/election-mail-resources.htm and the USPS’ https://www.deliverthewin. com/ website, which provides research and support of political and election mail). USPS also has teams dedicated to working with election officials and others on political and election mail. Of course, those MSPs that have experience successfully handling election mail also have great resources and can help guide election officials on issues such as ballot design, envelopes, delivery timeframes, data/tracking, IMb usage, and much more! 2020 promises to be an interesting election mail year, for sure, but smart MSPs are looking at election mail opportunities in the long term (which supports the necessary investment), as well as focusing on political mail for 2020 and beyond as a huge opportunity to rebuild some much-needed mail volume. Kathleen J. Siviter is Asst. Executive Director of the National Association of Presort Mailers (NAPM) as well President of Postal Consulting Services Inc. (PCSi), and she has over 30 years’ experience in the postal industry. She has worked for the U.S. Postal Service, Association for Postal Commerce (PostCom), PostalVision and others, as well as providing consulting services to a diverse set of clients with interest in the postal industry. MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2020
5 VOTE BY MAIL PARTNER POSSIBILITIES 2020 is a big year for the American public. The mail stream is about to get a significant boost as candidates send printed materials out to targeted voters, hoping to capture their votes by the power of the printed word. Mail still bears a sense of legitimacy lacking in digital channels, which is why volumes will likely soar in the months leading up to the election. Not to mention, the current COVID-19 pandemic will likely have more voters taking advantage of Vote By Mail than ever before. However, for election mail and VBM to succeed, it’s important that campaign managers, election officials, cities, counties, and states all have the right partner by their side. Check out each of the following solution companies and then email or give them a call to find out how they can help with your Vote By Mail needs.
With over 40 years of experience in postal presort software and address quality solutions, BCC Software is a proven industry leader. We are experts from data to delivery, offering the widest range of solutions to enhance direct communications anywhere along the mailing workflow. Our products include best in class data enhancement services, postal preparation software, and mailpiece tracking to ensure your mailpieces reach the voter in the upcoming election season. For thousands of mailers, our suite of desktop software products improves deliverability and reduces postage. Introduced in 2019, Bulk Mailer SMB® is designed for ease of use with small and medium-sized businesses in mind. Our flagship BCC Mail Manager™ product suite offers additional capability for businesses in need of more robust solutions. Mailers looking to supercharge their operations should explore BCC
JULY-AUGUST 2020 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
Software’s enterprise solutions that improve capacity and maximize postage discounts on high volume mailings and throughput through advanced automation. These solutions include Mail Manager Full Service™, BCC Ignite, Integratec®, and BCC Post-Presort. BCC Software also offers comprehensive data marketing services, including COMPLIANCE+™, which combines CASS™ and NCOALink® with powerful industry tools. When it comes to mail tracking, BCC Software’s Track N Trace® uses USPS Informed Visibility® technology to provide unbeatable mailpiece intelligence and reporting. To learn more contact us today. https://bccsoftware.com firstname.lastname@example.org 800.337.0442
Processing mail ballots presents a unique set of challenges and is often a critical bottleneck in timely election processing. Fluence Automation offers affordable, practical solutions based on our advanced sorting platforms that solve many of the most difficult mail ballot processing challenges. We design, build, and support our systems, and therefore control the long-term product direction. Our solutions deliver valuable capabilities, developed over years of working with elections officials and built on platforms proven through decades of high-volume production mail processing. Fluence Automation brings together a unique set of capabilities that is unmatched in the industry. In 2007, we launched our Vote by Mail platform to serve the mail ballot market, and we’ve steadily grown our presence in this space over the last 10 years. Time-consuming challenges that include labor intensive, multi-touch processes like sortation, envelope opening, and paper-based voter signature comparison present severe time constraints to complete processing, and our solutions handily reduce multiple steps to a single pass, as well as one-pass automatic signature verification and inline laser security-tab removal to further streamline the process. Fluence Automation has Vote by Mail installations in several states across the country, including customers whose ballot returns range from fewer than 50k per election, to those who process over 1M ballots. As a result, our product platforms and support team are well versed in addressing the wide variety of needs different counties may have. fluenceautomation.com email@example.com 888.832.4902
With health and safety concerns surrounding COVID-19, “vote by mail” has gained popularity in recent months. To capitalize on the promise, election officials must accurately identify voters that have moved to reduce waste and cost of undeliverable election-related mail, as well as avoid potential voter disenfranchisement when election materials are not received. In data reported by Nevada’s Douglas County Clerk-Treasurer’s Office, nearly a tenth of the mail-in ballots sent to active voters in Douglas County (3,745 of 38,260) were returned as undeliverable. Overall, 1,829,050 ballots were mailed to Nevada voters in 2020 with approximately 14%, nearly a quarter million ballots, returned by USPS® as undeliverable. Because voter data changes in real time as people move, get married, and die, an ideal voter validation system should ensure records are up-to-date, deduped, and authenticated. As a
USPS NCOALink® Full Service Provider Licensee, Melissa will match an existing voter list against the last 48 months of permanent change-ofaddress records filed with the USPS. However, approximately 40% of the over 35 million Americans that move each year do not file a USPS change of address notice. To identify these movers, Melissa offers proprietary change of address processing using data curated from sources including magazine subscriptions, catalog houses, insurance companies, credit bureaus, and mail order firms that can be utilized. Talk to us about a smarter data quality approach that helps save costs, protect voter rights, and ensure election integrity for the long term.
Commercial reliability, media handling, and the ability to deliver customized solutions has made OKI Data the preferred choice for Election Solution Providers. In fact, if a ballot is printed in the U.S., there’s a good chance it was printed on an OKI device. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a significant challenge for election officials as they struggle to develop deployment plans for onsite voting systems, as well as the expected surge in demand for absentee ballot production and fulfillment. With OKI’s diverse line-up of election printing solutions, we enable
Election Solution Providers to implement high-volume ballot production for absentee requirements, as well compact, responsive print solutions for on-demand ballot printing.
www.melissa.com firstname.lastname@example.org 800.MELISSA (635-4772)
https://www.oki.com/us/printing/ services-and-solutions/markets/ election-services/index.html email@example.com 972.891.3304
Tritek’s ‘Correct Elect’ inbound ballot processing systems are available in many configurations, including a portable model. The ‘Correct Elect’ system reads all styles and sizes of machine-printed and hand-addressed mail ballots. Tritek software seamlessly integrates with any county or state voter registration software. Tritek’s field proven technology counts the ballots and offers additional features that process the voter’s address, signature, and barcode metadata. This system also offers these features: thickness detector, opener, duplex reading, and tray tag printer After capturing the data and verifying the signatures, ‘Correct Elect’ systems sort the ballots to configurable bins assigned to the precincts or other desired sorts for your elections. Our portable, small footprint machines operate on standard electrical power. Signature verification can be handled automatically or manually, depending on the needs of the customers. Tritek ‘Correct Elect’ machines are field upgradable. As elections’ needs change and the number of vote-by-mail ballots increase, the Tritek automated ballot processing system can provide additional bins or technology to grow with them. Tritek’s ballot processing equipment has been operating reliably in several states for many years. With over 36 years experience in mail processing, Tritek continues to be a leading-edge provider of mail processing solutions worldwide. To learn more about Tritek ‘Correct Elect’ Inbound Ballot Processing Solutions, please visit our website: www.tritektech.com or call 302-239-1638. www.tritektech.com 302.239.1638
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2020
DETERMINING THE ROI OF YOUR DIRECT MAIL CAMPAIGN By Alan Sherman
A profitable direct mail strategy requires testing and an thorough understanding of the factors that contribute to a campaign’s success.
irect mail is often referred to as the most measurable marketing medium. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that it IS measurable, making return on investment (ROI) for direct mail fairly easy to calculate and, with the proper history, easy to project results. However, it’s also a curse because its ability to be measured ensures it is often held to a higher standard than other marketing channels. For example, where else do we expect to see an 80%+ open rate? Plus, its users don’t make claims about direct mail “awareness,” “impressions,” or “engagement,” though we probably should. Direct mail has been tested and successfully used in just about every industry one can think of. If done correctly, it can produce consistent, positive ROI superior to digital channels. When direct mail is combined with digital channels, reaching the same prospect via multiple channels, we often see even better results. Determine Costs Before Determining ROI How is direct mail ROI measured? It helps to have an understanding of direct mail’s cost components, which at a high level
consist of production, postage, and data (the list). Marketing costs, such as creative and strategy, may also be included. Production costs include paper, package components, printing, data handling/ personalization, insertion/assembly, and sorting. Postage costs depend on the mail piece type (postcard, self-mailer, or letter), shape, weight, and whether it is being sent at a First-Class, Marketing Mail (formerly Standard Mail), or non-profit rate. Savvy marketers can reduce postal costs through postal presort, use of Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb), commingling mail with other marketers’ mail, and trucking the mail to a postal facility near the point of delivery. Data — the list being targeted — can vary widely in cost, depending on how specialized it is, or whether analytics were used to determine those most likely to respond. Another cost factor is mail volume: the more you mail, the greater the cost, though typically, the more you mail, the lower the unit cost of each component. The mailing costs will vary depending on what is mailed and at what quantity (see a simple ROI calculation in the example on the next page). Response and conversion rates, as well as cost per acquisition (CPA), will vary based
on past performance or industry benchmarks. In some cases, conversion is the same as response — immediate response is what matters. Some argue that it is the mailing’s purpose to deliver targeted leads, and what happens afterward online or in a call center should not factor into direct mail performance. In some instances, gross margin is not available, and calculations are based on gross sales. Metrics will vary depending on the industry, and depending on the business and industry, other metrics may come into play. Robust Testing Helps to Measure and Improve ROI How can you maximize ROI? We recommend a test and learn approach to direct mail, and find that with continual creative, data, and frequency testing, and increasingly refined analytics, response rates and ROI continue to improve while CPA continues to decline. The opportunities for creative testing are endless. Marketers can test various sizes, unique feels and paper stock, outer envelope appearance (official, branded, use of windows), interactive devices, letter layout, offers, messaging, and personalization. We
find that “bolder” testing, such as changing package format, leads to greater lifts in response vs. smaller iterative changes, such as changing a headline. Creative “audits” are good for identifying opportunities for improvement. Remember to consider the costs of various formats, which should play into your decision-making. The list is even more important than creative because it allows you to reach the right people. List recommendations should be based on the industry, available client data, and previous results. Your data can be analyzed to provide insights into performance and make use of predictive analytics to predict likely responders. If response data does not exist, it may first be necessary to build a more simple demographic “profile model” based on existing customers for the next mailing, and then once response data has been gathered, rebuild the model to be a more sophisticated predictor of direct mail response. In some cases, you could test specialty lists. As testing lifts response, ROI improves. When data testing, as in creative testing, one should never “rest upon one’s laurels,” and instead should always be testing. In direct mail, doing too much of anything for too long leads to the false conclusion, “direct mail doesn’t work for us.” Understanding frequency is also important. How many times should you contact a prospect? Is once enough? In marketing, success is sometimes just about the right timing. Sometimes you need to reinforce the message with follow-up campaigns. Frequency testing can tell you what works. For example, the same group of prospects can be split into three test groups for test-
ing over three months. Group A receives one piece of mail over three months. Group B receives mail in Month 1 and Month 3. Group C receives mail monthly for three months. Proper testing can determine the highest ROI. In some initial cases, the immediate ROI may not be positive, but with a longer-term testing approach, your campaigns can become profitable. When we speak with marketers who tell us “direct mail didn’t work for us,” we inevitably find that there was no prior organized testing strategy. In all three of the testing types covered above, testing is a balance of response vs. cost. We can add package components, new lists or additional mailings that drive incremental response, but they may add enough cost that it negatively impacts ROI. The aim is to make improvements that keep costs steady or reduce them. It’s also important to keep customer lifetime value in mind. Depending on the business and industry, you may acquire a customer at a loss, but they may well become a profitable customer as additional purchases are made over the life of the relationship. Always think beyond the immediate campaign. Taking a longterm test and learn approach to direct mail always pays off, enabling you to achieve an ever-improving ROI. While direct mail’s measurability can be both a blessing and a curse, following these recommendations will allow you to maximize the blessings and see great improvements in your direct marketing efforts. Alan Sherman is VP-Marketing Strategy at IWCO Direct. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2020
UNDERSTANDING CCM INTEGRATION PLATFORMS AND REGULATIONS By Matt Mahoney
As a document services provider, regulatory compliance should be top of mind, and the right solutions can ease the burden.
egulatory compliance is, at worst, a scary thing and, at best, a huge cost of doing business. What it means to comply varies depending on industries and applications, making it especially tricky for document services companies that work with clients covered by different regulating authorities. Non-compliance is a risk for both the companies and their customers. Ensuring their organizations don't run afoul of the law is an ongoing concern for many company executives. The applications that document service providers use to create and distribute documents are frequently a collection of hardware and software products from multiple vendors. Sometimes the same function is handled by several pieces of software. Itâ€™s not unusual, for instance, for a large enterprise to use a dozen different systems to compose documents. Unintegrated applications make it difficult to control operations and prevent privacy breaches, but they also hinder efforts to respond to alleged security violations. A comprehensive system that collects all the data in one place is needed.
In healthcare, HIPAA, HITRUST, and HITECH protect the medical information of individuals. When privacy incidents occur, the government can investigate and audit the offender. Covered entities, including business associates like document services companies, can be fined or forced to make substantial changes in their operating procedures. In the financial world, regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLBA) come into play. Insurance companies face regulations of their own that can vary from state to state. A common problem for organizations that find themselves under investigation because of a suspected security breach is a lack of internal audits and procedures. An investigation that reveals a print and mail service provider did not implement adequate controls can compound the problems caused by the initial infraction. Remedying the workflow or documentation deficiencies can have a greater negative impact on the company than the original breach incident! Unintegrated Processes Many document service companies that produce and distribute paper and electronic
documents on behalf of their clients work with a patchwork of software and hardware solutions. How a company processes their jobs depends on the clients or the applications. Some job steps may be manual. Many steps do not fully integrate with other processes. The company never combines the data from individual applications to give management, or their clients, a complete picture of the entire document workflow. Because of this arrangement, quality controls may be lacking, documentation could be spotty, and comprehensive, ongoing audits are impossible. Environments like these also make it easy for employees to make mistakes that result in a regulatory infraction! Print service providers and in-plant print operations are generally concerned with three facts concerning regulatory compliance: 1. Is it right? Are the documents composed correctly? Do they contain accurate information belonging only to the intended document recipient? 2. Was it produced? Did all the documents make it out of the document generation
step? If they are physical documents, did they all get printed?
ates a timeline and evidence of how the data is handled.
3. Did it go out? Can the service provider account for every document and prove when it was conveyed to the Postal Service or other carriers?
SCENARIO 3: Mis-Directed Documents with Personal Information For applications where documents are distributed via multiple channels, each recipient of the documents may manage their delivery preferences via an online portal or some other seamless interface to the CCM integration platform. An investigation into the stored preferences in the CCM system shows when a recipient changes their channel designation and which physical or digital address they supplied. The document services provider can prove they attempted delivery via the customer’s selected channel.
When a regulator asks you to prove those three points for a specific mailing 90 or 120 days ago, can you do it? Perhaps, but I bet it’s not easy. The manual process of gathering logs and manual records to piece together the progress of a mailing from data reception through delivery to the Postal Service might cause auditors to question the accuracy of the information. Undocumented gaps might spur further investigations or trigger more audits that disrupt your operation and cause key employees to focus their attention away from other critical tasks. It is better if all your diverse systems report to a common place. That’s what a customer communications management (CCM) integration platform does for you. These kinds of software platforms vary in approach, but the idea is that they become your master system that manages the work and, for many tasks, performs the work. That does not mean you throw everything away and start over, but rather, a good platform wraps around the software and hardware you already have. Here are some examples where a CCM integration platform either prevents your company from being accused of a regulatory violation, or makes it easier to respond should a violation occur. SCENARIO 1: A Missing Mandatory Mail Piece The platform’s proofing and approval function may allow clients to suppress certain documents from being printed. The system records exactly when this happened and who did it. It’s a more powerful argument of innocence than your employee’s vague recollection of a similar client instruction conveyed by phone. SCENARIO 2: Customer Personal Information Leaked The platform’s automated workflow ensures data is encrypted at rest and at key points in the production process. Measurements from the system show the dates and times data was received, encrypted, processed, and destroyed. It also shows what people and systems have access to the data. This information cre-
SCENARIO 4: Regulated Data/Documents is Wrong What do you do if you’re asked to produce an image of a single document or a series of documents sent to an individual if they were printed months or even years ago? Having versions of the data and documents as they travel through their production and distribution lifecycle takes the pain out of identifying faults or proving accuracy. Compliance auditors look for documentation that proves a document service provider is following the regulations. Many companies are unable to produce a reliable accounting of how they processed certain jobs. An ad hoc explanation of how they prevent personally identifiable information from being seen by unauthorized individuals may not be acceptable. Document service providers should back up their claims with logs, statistics, and an accounting of actual processed work. Manually producing documentation when under the pressure of a regulatory investigation can lead to inconsistent reporting or missing data. A CCM integration platform collects and reports on the data and the process, making incident response less risky. The time to work on a security incident response strategy is before a breach happens, not after. Matt Mahoney is the Executive VP of Sales and Marketing at Racami, a fast-growing and innovative software, IT services, and staffing company that improves the performance of customer communications processes and advances multi-channel initiatives. He is responsible for cultivating Racami’s relationships with customers and partners involved in the production of highly regulated consumer communications, direct marketing, and book publishing. MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2020
HOW THE POSTAL SECTOR CAN SUCCEED IN A POST-COVID WORLD
A look at why multilateral cooperation and innovation with respect to operations is key. By Dr. Ahmed Kada
s a vitally important tool in national and international social-economic ecosystems during regular years, the postal service is more important than ever during a major public crisis like the one we face today. With COVID-19 shutting down workplaces and putting entire business sectors into stand-by, the transition to digital communication and remote working has been rapid. However, the exchange of physical goods is still needed, which is why national postal services find themselves on the list of “critical infrastructure.” In this spirit, the postal operators have shown their solidarity and are committed to supporting governments, public administrations, and citizens during this crisis. To combat COVID-19, many people are recognizing that multilateral cooperation is the way out. The pandemic has spotlighted the crucial need for international collaboration in all domains. It is within this framework that the Universal Postal Union (UPU) played an important role during this crisis, serving as a forum for sharing best practices, giving solutions to maintain resilient international postal systems and services, and supporting the postal operators in offering safe services to their citizens.
JULY-AUGUST 2020 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
This is no small task. Of the pre-COVID-19 international volumes, more than 70% passed through the UPU channel of postal companies (letters and small parcels). The crisis disruption of the international postal supply chain led to nearly one in two international mail items being stranded, international volumes dropping by 23%, and customs clearance times increasing by a factor of 32. In light of the continued pandemic, volumes will likely continue to decline due to reduction in capacities as airlines gradually recover and an eventual increase in domestic e-commerce to reduce overall demand for international shipments. Therefore, keeping this market relevant will be a challenge. Opportunities vs. Threats The COVID-19 pandemic will offer several opportunities to the postal sector, but it can also pose grave danger to postal operators’ ability to provide crucial service to citizens and to its financial situation if decisive action isn’t taken to address the challenges both in the short- and long-term. Indeed, the postal sector relies on the sale of postal products and services to fund their operations, and these sales are plummeting as a result of the pandemic. The sudden drop
in mail volumes, the most profitable revenue stream, is steep and may never fully recover. As an example, Swiss Post, which took first place in the recently published Integrated Index for Postal Development (UPU) 2019, generated a lower result in the first quarter of 2020 than in the prior-year period. Group profit fell by 46 million, while operating profit came in at 57 million francs below the comparable figure for 2019. The decline in profit is principally attributable to the decline in volumes in the letter business (–5.6%) and additional expenses incurred to secure operations. In this regard, there is an urgent need to prioritize and further develop the main postal industry pillars (standardization, digitalization, e-commerce, transport, e-cash) with regards to the evolution of the market behavior and the postal socio-economic environment requirement. The present COVID-19 crisis will not mark and impact only our postal activity but the history of humanity in general. The rapid spread of the pandemic and the containment policies aimed at managing the crisis have changed the way we live and consume. This is the new reality that the postal industry will likely face for an indefinite period of time. The last updated parcels market figures from Apex Insight News show that the overall market volume fell by 11% and revenue by 13% in January 2020 vs. January 2019. However, China Post has released figures for February that show that it performed better that month, with parcel volumes being flat and revenues being up by four percent compared to February 2019. And in France, during the fourth week of confinement, the sending of packages had not weakened, and 15 and 7 million packages had been delivered, respectively, with the two Colissimo and Chronopost services. Also, in one day,
more than 50,000 packages were deposited into France’s postal stream, surpassing even those daily volumes of the Christmas period. Indeed, this difference in volumes around the globe illustrates the opportunities vs. threats discussion highlighted earlier. The Postal Sector Post-COVID Indeed, there will be a pre-COVID-19 era and a post-COVID-19 era. So, new horizons for the postal sector should be sketched within its socio-economic environment as much as at the national, regional, and international levels. In the current coronavirus context, posts, like other sectors, are currently faced with a situation for which they were not specifically prepared in advance and to which they must adapt their processes by shaping tactics to contribute to the collective effort of combating this epidemic. As an example, many postal operators have implemented temporary procedures to replace the “proof of delivery;” postal drivers in many countries are nowadays not allowed to collect the recipient’s signature or to have any contact with the recipient at all. But for the medium and long term, adequate strategies to shape the future of postal activities in the light of the major post-COVID-19 socio-economic trends should be defined. So, with the objective of facing the post-COVID-19 economic crisis and the changes in behavior and the requirements of the customers related thereto, the posts should give a particular focus to the aforementioned five pillars. The post-COVID-19 era will be marked, as shown via the market reactions to the crisis, by an acceleration of the use of the digital and e-commerce solutions.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2020
of working, playing, socializing, and learning. During this crisis, we have observed that operators and administrations made a quick transition to conducting operations almost completely online. So, the need to urge the highlighting of digital postal services as the efficient, central communication hub and secure tool to support this transformation of working modes is imperative. In this regard, the key success depends on the capacity to promote and to establish the notoriety of the postal brand on the internet. In this regard, a UPU ground-breaking initiative based on the .post (the first top-level domain internet space governed by a United Nations body) should be the postal unified response to gain a foothold in this fast-moving environment and to embrace the new paradigm of e-society. Hence, the postal communities should adapt their organizational culture and strategy to highlight e-marketing and further develop .post as the main postal brand in the internet and key component to bring an inclusive postal ecosystem for the digital economy. In addition, the digital postal solution should symbolize inclusion, with the unique values of trust offered by .post. It would offer a post-specific internet space with a wide range of services including trusted postal electronic address, e-addressing in three dimensions, e-registered mail, electronic postal identities, postal e-archive and e-box, postal e-mail, and e-payment systems.
Also, particular attention has been observed concerning hygiene’s aspects with respect to the delivery and cash payment services. Indeed, we are witnessing an effort by the world postal community to adjust the current norms and standards to comply with hygienic requirements dictated by the pandemic to ensure the health and safety of postal clients and workers. The estimated survival time on cardboard for SARS-cov-2 of the virus pathogen may be up to 24 hours. Thus, all the UPU standards governing the postal supply chain especially (quality, security, social accountability, advanced electronic data, etc.) should be adjusted to address the COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts. These standards might need to integrate new dimensions of compliance with hygienic requirements, in particular those arising from World Health Organization recommendations on the subject. Digital Disruption On another strand, the adjustment of the postal standards should take into account the creation of infrastructure, for pandemic surveillance “raises fears about scope creep for the future.” Whether data collected will be used by agencies other than public health while respecting key provisions of personal data protection standards is unknown. However, the blockchain technologies and postal digital qualified signatures could be used to address the associated security problems. The postal service, as a historic player in connecting citizens to business and administrations, is grappling with its greatest challenge yet: the digital disruption of COVID-19. The impact of this pandemic is felt by all around the world. It has changed our way 30
JULY-AUGUST 2020 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
The Role of E-Commerce Circling back to e-commerce, we saw that while the pandemic had negatively impacted the physical stores, it was great opportunity for e-commerce activities and postal delivery services. Indeed, several studies show that as consumers stay away from physical stores, e-commerce revenue increases. However, with a lengthening list of border closures and the disruption to air routes worldwide during the crisis, several difficulties have arisen with respect to commercial air flights that transport most of the international postal flow transport. Also, the ability to switch to the land and cargo transport wasn’t trivial. The postal community is urgently called to adjust their standards and process of postal transport in order to integrate the land and the cargo transport in the postal supply chain. As futurists, now is the time for the postal community to further investigate the delivery drones and droids technologies. The goal is to position the posts as the main players in the ecosystem; the postal incumbents need to set up their game by focusing on standardization, regulation, and collaboration with the other stakeholders. As operators and administrations are adjusting their business continuity plans as they look forward to a post-COVID-19, it’s the time to market and promote the postal services under the three dimensions (physical, financial, and electronic) as the mains pillars of these plans. Also, we should rethink regulation by reconsidering recalibration of mail service levels (e.g., frequency of delivery, service standards, delivery points). The challenge is not to establish mega projects with big investments but rather intelligently updating what we had already on the basis of process facility and organization flexibility in order to keep the parcel and last-mile delivery sectors healthy. Due to increases in multichannel retail, e-commerce, B2B, and same-day or next-day delivery offerings, both challenges and opportunities abound in this space. Dr. Ahmed Kada is acting as vice chair of postal operational council for the Universal Postal Union, and he is the Director International and Cooperation for GBAM.
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Mailing Systems Technology July/August 2020