One thing is for certain. Postal logistics technology continues to move forward at a rapid pace. For shippers, mailers, parcel and posts this means that processes that were once manual and paper-based are rapidly being automated, streamlined, and enhanced to a point that was not imaginable a couple of decades ago.
There are many technology enablers that have contributed to the transformation of postal logistics. We’ll discuss a few of them here.
The Evolution of the Humble Barcode
The first iteration of the barcode was Postnet™. It helped the U.S. Postal Service® process and distribute mail more efficiently than ever before and spurred the use of high speed sorters. Although the information contained in the Postnet™ barcode was sufficient for delivery purposes, it didn’t contain the type of information that would help with tracking mail or packages efficiently due to size limitations.
Fortunately, a collaboration between the United States mailing industry, the parcel industry, and the U.S. Postal Service® resulted in the Full Service Intelligent Mail and Intelligent Package programs supported by Mail.dat®, Mail.XML® and Shipping Services File (SSF). These three data standards provided a means for communicating data for purposes such as mail entry, mail arrival, the mailer, the mail owner, the details on the mailings and parcels, postage information, nesting information, sorting information, acceptance, induction, processing, and delivery processes and reporting.
The next step in the transformation of postal logistics was the Intelligent Mail® barcodes. The IMb barcode is used to sort and track letters and flats. Its counterpart, the IMpb barcode, is used to sort and track parcels. Together, these barcodes increase the amount of information collected and stored, that’s associated with individual mailpieces, handling units, containers, and parcels.
QR Codes and Consumer Interaction
The Quick Response Code, better known as the QR Code is a technology enabler that shows great promise when it comes to increasing interactivity with consumers. For example, a consumer could use their mobile device to scan a barcode placed on a letter or package. Once scanned, the consumer could be directed to complementary marketing materials such as coupons and brochures.
HF RFID & NFC Tags Enhance Consumer Interaction
Like the QR Code, HF RFID (High Frequency Radio Identification) tags and NFC (Near Field Communication) tags can also be used to trigger interaction with consumers or to track mail, parcels, containers, trays, luggage or anything moving. The benefit of these tag technologies is that the consumer or operations folks within a delivery organization doesn’t have to scan the letter or package. That’s because the interactivity application works as long as the consumer’s mobile device is within range of the letter or package bearing an HF RFID or NFC tag. In recent years the cost of RFID tags has been significantly reduced.
Social Media & Physical Mail
In the near future, marketers will be using social media data to enhance their physical mail delivery. Posts or list providers will be able to match social media handles with physical addresses to allow marketers to enhance their targeting capabilities.
Additionally, social media interaction, shopping behavior, and demographic data culled from online sources can be used to initiate targeted electronic and physical marketing campaigns to save cost, increase revenue, and improve customer experience.
In many ways, the technology evolution of postal logistics is following the path of the banking system. There was a time when people stood in line to make deposits, cash checks and handle other transactions. Now, the lines are much shorter thanks to online banking services that feature direct deposit, mobile deposit, and a wide range of services that were once only available by visiting a bank branch.
For years, organizations such as Stamps.com and PC Postage have been approved by the U.S. Postal Service® to offer online or software-based capabilities that empower consumers to pay for and print their postage using a computer, printer, and internet connection.
Also, as an additional convenience to customers, many online retailers allow customers to print postage labels containing barcodes right from home for the use of returning items. This trend is expected to continue as organizations seek to make it easier for consumers to interact with their brand using the mail.
Assurety Understands the Postal Landscape
As a thought leader in the field for more than 18 years, we are in the position to predict changes in the postal landscape and help our clients fine tune their postal strategy to experience cost savings while discovering emerging revenue opportunities. Only organizations that have a plan to keep up with the pace of the transformation of postal logistics will improve efficiencies through automation of processes as well as improve delivery of products and services.
*Mail.dat and Mail.XML are trademarks of the International Digital Enterprise Alliance. U.S. Postal Service, Postnet, and Intelligent Mail are trademarks owned by the United States Postal Service.