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ENVELOPES:

An Integral Factor in Improving Postage Costs and Customer Response Rates By Mark Rheaume

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f all the elements we consider as we produce printed communications, the importance of the envelope is often overlooked and under-appreciated, but envelopes can have a significant impact on postage costs, payment processing, and customer response rate. How does something as old and foundational to the mailing process get overlooked and underutilized? Look no further than your mailbox. It happens all the time: Mail is delayed or, worse, rejected because the basic elements we all should know about envelopes are forgotten, mishandled, or simply not applied. Proper envelope design is essential to ensure that postage is optimized. The slightest increase in any dimension can move the piece from USPS “letter-sized” to “flat” and the postage costs skyrocket. To be specific, the piece inside may not require the envelope size used but the postage is charged on the size/dimension of the mailed piece, which the envelope dictates. For envelopes, the areas of consideration that I want to highlight fall into four areas explored below. Design Diving right in, design is a very important consideration. There are USPS regulations related to envelope design that most mailers discover are easy to find and follow. The USPS design requirements focus on getting the mail piece delivered through the USPS network. In process, the envelope

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MAY-JUNE 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com

could travel through several processes (manual and automated) before it is delivered. To achieve (timely) delivery, it must allow the processing equipment to efficiently operate, highlighting the need for barcode clear zones and other standardized elements necessary for high-volume mail processing. These requirements are not restrictive, per se, but can become so when they are not incorporated into the envelope design. They can literally stop the mail and cause it to be returned or mailed at retail postage rates. An investment in time reviewing your design with a USPS Mailpiece Design Analyst (MDA) is recommended. Here is a link to this valuable resource: https://postalpro.usps.com/ mailing/mailpiece-design-analyst-mda-customer-service-help-desk. Reply Envelope Type Although reply envelopes often look unassuming, unnecessarily plain, and are represented as utilitarian only, they are one of the most critical elements in a mail package. There are some simple things we all should know and consider about reply envelopes. The two most common “versions” we see in our industry are business reply (postage paid by business requesting payment) and courtesy reply (postage affixed by respondent). Both are effective but we must consider their purpose and our desired outcome to properly use each in an optimal manner. The USPS-compliant artwork needed for each is available to anyone via the same MDA link provided above. It

should also be noted that they do not have to be “plain” and can be designed to stand out in the envelope, inviting the recipient to send it in. By using colored stock or appropriate graphics, this can easily be achieved. The prepaid postage on business reply envelopes is generally used to incent timely response for a request for payment (bill pay). Yes, many people still mail in their payments! The tenet here is that the respondent will act more quickly if they do not have to pay for postage. It may seem old-fashioned and strange to some in the industry, but this idea has stood the test of time and is still effective today. The courtesy reply envelope has its own unique requirements but can be effective. In the recent past, when tested against each other, the BREs would win every test. This is no longer true. Now, BREs and CREs perform about the same when measured solely on response rates. There is an oddity related to this testing: When organizations that regularly use one type of return envelope (“Champion”), and then test the other type against it (“Challenger”), the Challenger does better. This points to the fact that people generally notice the change, which provides an uplift in response! Operational Stability All envelopes have a purpose. All are generally used in automated inserting environments and should meet the specifications of the equipment manufacturers to optimize productivity. These can be difficult for most people to understand and

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Mailing Systems Technology May/June 2021  

Mailing Systems Technology May/June 2021

Mailing Systems Technology May/June 2021  

Mailing Systems Technology May/June 2021

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