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Deliver: Carriers, Suppliers Offer New Initiatives

New mail programs and smart labels. Greater capacity and consolidation. The four major carriers and postal suppliers are busy devising new services for the mailing industry. Here are recent initiatives from the U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Service, FedEx Corp. and DHL as well as a sampling of suppliers.

U.S. Postal Service, Washington, DC

A key direct marketing initiative for the postal service this year is repositionable notes, also known as “yellow stickies.” A test began this month allowing for the use of RPNs on some types of mail for which they are currently prohibited – but a fee also was instituted.

As a result, RPNs are allowed on all letter- and flat-sized mail sent at discount First-Class, Standard and Periodicals rates. The added rate is half a penny for First-Class and 1.5 cents for Standard and Periodicals pieces. The test ends April 3, 2006. The USPS will issue a notice before then as to whether the new RPN rates will be made permanent. The test allows RPNs “on all letters and all flats, whether automation-compatible or not,” said George Hurst, brand manager for direct mail at the postal service.

The postal service’s Confirm tracking system also is getting more attention from mailers. This lets customers track letter-size and flat mail such as catalogs through the mail system using barcodes called Planet Codes. Confirm has two services: Destination Confirm and Origin Confirm. Destination Confirm tells mailers when outbound pieces such as bills, statements or advertising solicitations will be delivered. Origin Confirm provides information for inbound pieces such as business reply or courtesy reply mail.

Hurst said customers understand that it’s important in a multichannel campaign to know “when the mail is going to hit, so I can time it with the TV and time it with the radio and staff up my inbound telemarketing and make sure my inventory is on the shelf in time.”

The USPS also saw more use of its Customized Market Mail classification last year. The classification, which took effect in August 2003, lets companies mail nonrectangular pieces without having to enclose them in a package or envelope. CMM pieces may be as large as 12 inches high by 15 inches wide by three-quarters of an inch thick. They may be as small as 3 1/2 inches high, 5 inches long and .007 inch thick. They can weigh up to 3.3 ounces.

Pieces must be delivered to USPS Destination Delivery Units, and there is a minimum of 200 pieces per mailing. Prices are based on Standard Regular and Nonprofit mail basic tier rates plus a residual shape surcharge. Postage rates for these mail pieces are 57.4 cents for Regular Standard mail and 46 cents for Nonprofit Standard mail.

United Parcel Service, Atlanta

Senior business leaders increasingly recognize that visibility is one of the most vital issues in managing a global supply chain, according to UPS. Visibility means the ability to view in real time the movement and status of goods and funds as products move through the supply chain.

“It’s virtually impossible to run today’s complex supply chains without real visibility into the process,” said Jordan Colletta, UPS vice president for e-commerce. “Supply chain visibility enables direct marketers to do everything from synchronizing supply chain partners to slashing inventory carrying costs, improving customer service, speeding cash flow and expediting customs.”

UPS built a massive information technology network during the past two decades with a $20 billion investment to help capture and leverage real-time package information. The key is the “smart label” – with its odd-looking bull’s-eye icon, tracking number and barcodes – that adorns nearly all of the 13.6 million packages traveling through the UPS system daily. Seven years ago, only 3 percent of its package volume carried electronically created smart labels. Now that figure exceeds 93 percent.

The label is scanned as many as 16 times as a package goes through the UPS delivery network. Each time, information is fed to UPS databases, producing a wealth of information about goods moving around the world. UPS has developed Internet-enabled tools to help customers pull out the information that’s most important to them.

The most basic visibility service is tracking. UPS averages 9.1 million online-tracking requests a day, a number that has grown exponentially from the 100,000 package-tracking requests it received in all of December 1995. While many tracking requests are generated through www.ups.com, others come from the Web sites of the thousands of customers in 40 countries that have integrated UPS OnLine Tools into their sites.

The returns process is another area that UPS is focusing on this year.

“This whole idea of having the ability to effectively manage returns is critical for direct marketers,” Colletta said. “We have a robust set of solutions that help customers with returns.”

UPS Return Services, introduced in 2003, let businesses manage returns as easily as they handle the customer’s original outbound orders. The company said its eight returns solutions provide an easy way to handle return shipments with the level of customer service appropriate to business’ needs.

FedEx Corp., Memphis, TN

FedEx instituted several initiatives last year that will continue to aid direct marketers. A key one was acquiring Parcel Direct, a residential parcel consolidator and division of Quad/Graphics, New Berlin, WI, for $120 million. The move marked FedEx’s entry into the emerging parcel consolidation market and let it deliver low-weight, less time-sensitive goods to residential customers.

Parcel Direct is now a subsidiary of FedEx Ground – the shipping giant’s trucking company – and known as FedEx SmartPost. Parcel Direct takes advantage of the U.S. Postal Service’s Parcel Select service, a wholesale ground package-pricing program. With it, companies can enter packages deeper into the mail stream and receive reduced rates because delivery zones are skipped.

Thousands of packages are taken daily by FedEx contractors from FedEx’s customers’ facilities to the 12 Parcel Direct sorting locations nationwide. The packages are consolidated and transported to local post offices for delivery to residential customers.

FedEx SmartPost delivers to 6,000 local post offices (DDUs) serving more than half of the U.S. population, 29 bulk mail centers and more than 300 sectional center facilities. Packages are delivered in two to six days with Parcel Direct as opposed to one to five days with FedEx Home Delivery. FedEx SmartPost has nearly 200 customers including major clothing retailers, online gardening companies and personal healthcare providers.

“The cost of transportation is becoming a greater part of delivered goods,” said Bram Johnson, executive vice president of FedEx Ground. “As a result, we have made a commitment to expand this operation.”

SmartPost complements other FedEx residential services including FedEx Ground’s FedEx Home Delivery, which provides shippers a money-back guarantee, evening delivery, service options such as appointment delivery and end-to-end online-tracking capabilities through fedex.com.

FedEx also is completing the rollout of its latest scanning technology, the STAR III scanner, to FedEx Home Delivery contractors. The scanner operates with lasers for faster, non-contact scanning of barcodes, and it eliminates paper delivery records by incorporating a screen that lets recipients sign for their packages. The scanner uses wireless technology to transmit this information directly into FedEx’s network, “providing customers with real-time capture of delivery information and signatures on fedex.com,” Johnson said.

Rollout for the scanners is expected to be complete by June.

DHL, Plantation, FL

A key growth area for DHL has been its [email protected] business-to-consumer delivery service, offered through a partnership with the U.S. Postal Service. DHL picks up, sorts and delivers parcel shipments via its network to the postal facility nearest the consumer, and the USPS performs the last part of the delivery process.

[email protected] offers delivery options of two to four or two to seven days. The program originally was called [email protected] but changed its name after DHL Worldwide Express bought the ground delivery business of the U.S. freight shipping company for $1.05 billion. DHL is 100 percent owned by Deutsche Post World Net.

[email protected] is something we’ve greatly expanded since we closed on the acquisition of Airborne,” said Dick Metzler, executive vice president of marketing at DHL Americas. “Actually, it has become our hugest growth product overall, largely on the backs of support from catalogers, e-tailers and multichannel marketers.”

DHL also said last year that it chose Newgistics’ SmartLabel as its preferred retail merchandise returns solution. The service lets customers return merchandise purchased online or through catalogs. Customers detach a prepaid, pre-addressed, barcoded SmartLabel from their order summary and affix it to their return package. SmartLabel’s barcode links the package to the customer’s invoice and provides package visibility early in the process, which lets customer service representatives better address customers’ exchanges or credit needs.

DHL also is expanding its capacity, announcing last summer a $1.2 billion investment in its North American operations to increase capacity and enhance overall service.

And DHL formed DHL Smart & GlobalMail last year, a one-stop solution for high-volume mailers that unites the domestic and international capabilities of Deutsche Post Global Mail, SmartMail Services and QuikPak. Through its global distribution network of 40 processing centers, the company provides secure, reliable distribution of business correspondence, direct mail, catalogs, publications and parcels.

Though DHL Smart & GlobalMail shares this brand with DHL and presents one face to its customers, it will stay a separate business unit under the Deutsche Post World Net parent company.

Currently, DHL Smart & GlobalMail has 24 processing facilities located near high-volume cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Once processed, mail is inserted deep into the mail stream. This streamlined delivery model achieves volume discounts in every city served, by air or ground, because mail is commingled to meet high-volume density requirements of the destination postal service.

Firstlogic, La Crosse, WI

Firstlogic received certification last year as an interface developer and distributor to support the U.S. Postal Service’s NCOALink program.

NCOALink replaces the National Change of Address and FASTforward Mailing List Correction products that mailers use to update mailing lists with one product designed to give developers and distributors more convenient, secure access to address data. NCOALink replaced NCOA last fall and replaces FASTforward Mailing List Correction on Sept. 30.

Certification of its Mover I.D. solution as the technology to meet NCOALink requirements means that users of Firstlogic Move Update solutions at end-user and mailing service provider organizations can ensure that mailing lists have the most accurate information available.

The company also said it is working to provide a LACSLink solution. LACSLink is a new entry in the postal service’s Link line of products. LACS, or Locatable Address Conversion System, gives mailers an automated method to obtain new addresses when a 911 emergency system has been implemented. These address conversions normally involve changing rural-style addresses to city-style ones, but in some cases conversions may result in the renaming or renumbering of existing city-style addresses. Since 1994, 400,000 rural route/box numbers have changed annually.

As for mail sortation improvements, Firstlogic added a Periodical Co-Palletization option to its Postalsoft postal presorting software. This lets mailers combine subsets of smaller periodicals mailing jobs into larger groups that qualify for drop-shipping and per-piece pallet discounts recently approved by the USPS.

Firstlogic also expects to offer software to support the postal service’s Customized Market Mail classification. Firstlogic’s solution will sort the names and addresses by DDU. The software will produce the paperwork, appropriate audit trails and postage statements as well as calculate the postage.

Mailnet Services Inc., Nashville, TN

Address Pass Order Customization, which launched last year, is available through MailnetExpress (www.mailnetexpress.com) and allows the printing of custom information on the address panel side of direct mail pieces.

Direct mailers, specifically franchises, can use the service to include customized information on the mail piece, such as different locations, products or services, and still take advantage of bulk printing cost savings.

Mailnet Services’ Online List Rental is the company’s direct-mail-in-a-box solution. Mailers starting a regional or national campaign can order a targeted mailing list through MailnetExpress and have it loaded into an account in 40 minutes. Customers can order and customize their lists through a selection of criteria and demographics.

Mailnet also developed three new-mover programs this year used through MailnetExpress. The programs are with clients in the grocery and consumer goods verticals. Mailers target offers to new movers in defined geographic areas. Users may choose a new-mover template from the company’s library and select the geographic area for distribution.

MailnetExpress will select new-mover lists monthly and deliver the mail campaign automatically for a preset duration.

Melissa Data Corp., Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

SmartMover is the newest add-on to Melissa Data’s MAILERS+4 presort software. This software, released last fall, lets mailers update their mailing lists in-house with the most recent address changes from the U.S. Postal Service. The data are updated monthly and delivered directly to the end user for list cleansing.

SmartMover was designed to support NCOALink. Melissa Data is certified as an NCOALink interface developer and distributor. With a subscription to SmartMover, mailers can apply to the USPS for their own certification as an NCOALink end user or service provider. One of the criteria set by the USPS is that applicants need a monthly subscription to CASS-certified postal software from a licensed interface distributor for NCOALink. Melissa Data’s MAILERS+4 fulfills that requirement.

Melissa Data also introduced its Residential/Business Delivery Indicator service late last year. It lets package shippers verify whether an address is a residential or business delivery point.

Also new is Melissa Data’s Planet Code tracking service. Planet Codes are barcoded labels scanned by the USPS as the mail moves through postal delivery points. Companies can track their mail using the Melissa Data Planet Code Tracking Web site, where they can view and print out mail delivery reports by date, state, sectional center facility, bulk mail center and ZIP code. The service offers preprinted Planet Code labels in TracKits provided by Trackmymail.com.

Another product is Melissa Data’s Address Validator for Oracle. Released in January, this data-cleansing product is certified by Oracle Corp. for Oracle Warehouse Builder. Melissa Data is a member of the Oracle PartnerNetwork. Melissa Data’s interface for Oracle Warehouse Builder lets its customers cleanse, validate and standardize critical customer data such as names and addresses.

Pitney Bowes, Stamford, CT

PSI Group Inc., a Pitney Bowes company: Pitney Bowes said its PSI Group will continue its build-out of mail presort operating centers. PSI Group serves clients in 30 cities and surrounding areas, sorting 35 million pieces of First-Class and Standard mail daily.

For midsize to smaller mailers and direct marketers, PSI provides Standard mail services in most operating centers and will concentrate its specialized Standard mail services in seven major cities. Its Pennsylvania location has been expanded to sort more than 2 million Standard mail letters each day. Its proprietary software developed for First-Class mail has been expanded to serve Standard mail.

Pitney Bowes Distribution Solutions: Last year, this unit introduced Ascent package management software and PB TMS (transportation management software), which include RDI (Residential Delivery Indicator). The technology gives insight into carrier surcharges that may apply to residential deliveries so shippers can compare charges from multiple carriers and identify the best rates and service.

Supplied directly to customers via a licensing deal with the U.S. Postal Service, RDI data give users more information about shipping fees by automatically determining whether the USPS considers the address residential or commercial.

Group 1, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pitney Bowes: Group 1 acquired an unrestricted source code license for the data profiling technology of AMB Dataminers, Chicago. This technology provides a solution to understand the structure, content and quality of corporate data.

Pitney Bowes Global Mainstream Solutions: This division last year launched the Pitney Bowes DI500/DI600 FastPac Inserting System, an integrated desktop solution that combines software and paper-handling technology to cut the costs of preparing business communications such as bills, statements, letters, newsletters and paychecks.

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To read more deliver stories go to www.dmnews.com/production

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