What You Should Know About Mail Forwarding

Address quality software used by mail service providers does something unheard of in other messaging channels. Unlike digital delivery methods, there is an excellent chance mail will still reach the intended recipients, even if addressing information used to send the pieces is obsolete. Assuming addressees have filed a change of address with the USPS, mail service providers will replace the old addresses when they print the pieces or the Postal Service will forward the mail.

Some mailers have come to rely upon these services and neglect to update their source files with correct address information. That can be a costly mistake.

Important Even If You Don’t Mail

Companies who have migrated to digital delivery via email, text, or web portals have learned this lesson the hard way. When companies stop generating physical mail, they no longer receive notices when addressees move. This may not matter if customers are still receiving their communications electronically, but what happens if it is necessary later to mail them something in physical form?

Maybe it’s a benefit book, a regulatory notice, a check, a membership card, product samples, or something else that a company can’t deliver digitally. Or perhaps a mailer is running a multi-channel marketing campaign with QR codes linked to personalized landing pages. Without the proper addresses on file, mail pieces will be delayed or destroyed if undeliverable as addressed. The effectiveness of such campaigns will diminish.

But wait, you say! The USPS will forward that mail for free!

Well, maybe and maybe not. Free forwarding only applies to First Class mail. The Postal Service destroys undeliverable mail sent via Standard Class unless mailers agree in advance to extra fees. Another factor to remember is that forwarding addresses remain on file for only 48 months. Even if mail has been successfully forwarded ever since they moved, recipients will stop receiving it after four years unless mailers update their records.

Address files can get outdated in a hurry. Experts estimate address accuracy in an average mailing file decays by 15% per year. Additionally, the USPS adds new delivery points all the time. It’s not unusual for 600,000 new addresses to be added in a year. Some of these additions will cause the USPS to split or combine zip codes. Address records could be invalid even if the addressees didn’t actually move!

Geolocation Variables Affected

If products or promotions are connected to customer addresses then losing track of those who move can affect messages whether delivered digitally or printed. Examples might include maps to the nearest store location, coupons redeemable at neighborhood stores or restaurants, or even terms and conditions based on the customer’s locality.

Regularly updating the source data from which businesses extract their mailing files with information from the National Change of Address (NCOA) database will help them get more of their communications delivered accurately and on time. This practice can also help in other ways such as giving businesses better insight into geographical market penetration, providing more effective customer service, and crafting more relevant messaging across all communication channels.

Earthcolor postal experts regularly work with all the tools necessary to cleanse and update address data. Contact us today for advice about keeping your source files up to date.

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