Most of us have a limited view of the US Postal Service. We deal with clerks behind the counter or observe postal carriers dropping off the mail. Unseen are the machines and computers doing most of the work required to get mail from entry point to delivery address. The postal system is actually a set of highly automated processes.
The US Postal Service rewards mail that speeds through those processes efficiently with discounted postage. Automation-compatible mail costs less to send and often gets to the destination faster.
In a previous blog, we highlighted size and the address format. Lower postage combined with timely delivery are keys to achieving the return on investment direct mail is famous for providing. Consider the following ideas during campaign design stages and follow the Postal Service guidelines for postal savings.
Paper stock – The paper chosen for mail pieces affects their ability to pass through various types of USPS equipment meant to read addresses, sort, bundle, and route the mail. Overly-glossy material can slip when passing under rollers, causing jams. If it is too stiff, it won’t bend around corners of high-speed sorting machinery transporting the mail. The USPS actually has a “droop test” for measuring the flexibility of certain mail types, with minimum and maximum tolerances.
Naturally, the mail pieces must remain intact throughout processing. Flaps that open because of insufficient glue are going to be a problem, but using clasps, buttons, or strings to secure mail pieces aren’t an option. Closures like these will erase your automation discounts.
Envelopes or self-mailers are frequently printed with barcodes and other marks during their travels through the postal delivery system. Material must be able to hold ink without bleeding or smearing. EarthColor’s UV inkjet capabilities adequately deal with smudging issues on coated and laminated or plastic stocks,
Background – It may be tempting to design mail pieces in vibrant colors. That’s actually a great idea for making mail pieces stand out and get opened more often, but they still have to get delivered. USPS cameras scan certain reserved areas on the front of a mail piece to read the addresses and postal barcodes responsible for routing the mail all the way to the individual mail carrier trucks. If there isn’t enough contrast to allow the printed characters to be accurately read, the mail could be subject to a surcharge, disqualified from automation postage rates, mis-routed, or even rejected.
Refrain from dark backgrounds or patterns that will prohibit the cameras and scanners from collecting the information from the mail pieces. If a full-color envelope is integral to the design, it may be necessary to leave white areas where the postal information can be printed.
The physical design requirements for various types of mail are too numerous to list here. The best approach is to consult with our mailing experts before committing to any design that might be considered unusual. We’ll evaluate the mail pieces against the relevant USPS regulations to make sure they comply. Take advantage of our expertise, contact us here.