When one organization faced USPS rate increases at the start of 2002 and international delivery times of several weeks or more, it didn't take a computer engineer to realize it should explore new mailing options.
Actually, it did take a bunch of computer engineers. The group was the IEEE Computer Society, the largest of 36 groups comprising the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The society publishes more than 20 magazines and scholarly journals. Members have more than 200,000 active subscriptions, with half being for the group's flagship monthly magazine, Computer.
“With so many subscriptions to fulfill, including 80,000 outside the U.S., managing postage and shipping costs is a significant ongoing challenge for us,” said Richard Price, associate publisher at the IEEE Computer Society. “This situation came to a head in 2001. As we began planning for 2002, the U.S. Postal Service announced its intention to implement substantial rate hikes. We anticipated this would have led to an increase of nearly 30 percent in our international distribution costs.”
The new USPS international rates took effect in January 2002 with average increases of 4.3 percent for International Priority Airmail, 4.9 percent for International Surface Air Lift and 7.6 percent for publishers' periodicals.
Compounding the society's concerns was that shipments via USPS often took 30 to 90 days to reach recipients in Europe and Asia and up to five months to reach members in India, where the society has a strong presence. This was because deliveries were made by surface transportation such as boats and trucks rather than planes.
“These extraordinary delivery delays meant that the publications were often outdated before they even arrived at their destinations,” Price said.
The postal service also lacked advanced tracking, address hygiene or direct injection services, he said, making it difficult to follow deliveries and verify the accuracy of mailing addresses.
The computer society settled on Deutsche Post Global Mail, a Herndon, VA-based division of Deutsche Post World Net that provides direct mail, publication distribution and other services to U.S. businesses sending mail internationally. DPGM handles more than 70 million pieces of mail daily worldwide, and it has more than 7,000 business customers in the United States.
Price said DPGM streamlined distribution by picking up the society's international mailings via truck at its two printing plants in Kansas and Kentucky twice weekly and bringing them to a central sorting facility in Chicago. Then, all the shipments are prepared for delivery via plane to specific countries monthly.
The air transportation has sped delivery. And as a division of Deutsche Post World Net, DPGM has a worldwide distribution network with individual offices in many countries so it can better manage speed and delivery in those countries.
The society also has had a double-digit cost reduction on international mailings by letting DPGM merge the mailing lists for all its publications, Price said. As a result, members who subscribe to multiple publications receive all their materials in one shipment.
This lets the society divert resources to other areas, such as small-circulation journals that were difficult to cost-justify previously, he said.
He also noted a reduction in bad addresses, resulting in greatly reduced administrative costs to track or re-send missed issues, and anecdotal evidence of increased subscriber satisfaction, which has led to higher membership retention.