Decoding the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB)

Any way you slice it, the Intelligent Mail Barcode, or IMB, is just simply a good idea. Think about it – it’s been a challenge facing direct marketers for decades… How can you tell when the mail is actually being delivered? Normally, a direct mailer sends out a piece of mail to their list, never knowing if gets there on time, or is ever received at all. I’ve even heard a story about a mail truck that was ‘lost’ somewhere in Philadelphia, while the marketer waited, and waited, and waited… for responses that never came. All the while, the marketer was left in the dark – until a few months later when the truck was discovered in an a remote alley, and then it all made sense. Yes, that is a true story; you can’t make this type of thing up. 🙂

With IMBs, the problem is finally solved. Leveraging the power of the IMB, is now able to provide you with real-time tracking of both 1st and 3rd-class bulk direct mail. Based on scan data provided to us by the USPS, you can now see when the mail is being delivered, down to the day. But how does it work?

Let’s take a moment to dive in and discover what the IMB is, how it works, and how it can help save your business money.

Know your USPS Barcodes

What exactly is an IMB?

IMB stands for Intelligent Mail Barcode.  Formally known as a 4-State Customer Barcode, IMBs are used to sort and track domestic letters and flats. Combing the capabilities of POSTNET™ barcodes and PLANET Code® barcodes into one unique barcode, IMBs provide customers with greater visibility of the mailstream.

What can my business do with them? Hint: Save Big Bucks!

Since 2007, mailers who have used IMBs have been able to qualify for discounted mailing rates. USPS will require use of IMBs to qualify for these discounts starting in May 2011 (it is important to point out that this date may change; the post office is notorious for changing deadlines!). In other words, if you’re a direct mailer and you’re not currently using IMBs, you’re going to have to start very soon if you want to continue qualifying for the most competitive rates around.

Can you track mail pieces with IMBs?

IMBs just by themselves may qualify you for better postal rates, but they do not include mail tracking. In order to receive tracking data from USPS, you’ll need access to or have a special (and quite costly) subscription to their CONFIRM® system. CONFIRM® uses IMBs to provide you with real-time tracking information about your First-Class Mail®, Periodicals, and Standard Mail letters and flats, up to their final destination facility. This system is crucial for tracking important or time-sensitive mail, such as direct mailpieces, catalogs, checks, and statements. This program comes at a high cost, however, which can run upwards of $25,000 annually for the license fee alone.

Mail Tracking with the CONFIRM® system also requires building a Reporting Dashboard to receive and present that data in an intelligible manner. Keep in mind, the CONFIRM® program simply gives an organization a license to receive the date in its raw form. It’s then up to you figure out what to do with the data. Building a Reporting Dashboard requires technical expertise – not to mention funds for R&D – and thus poses an additional barrier to entry.

Tracking IMBs with

Luckily for EasyPurl subscribers, we’ve done all the work for you. Any IMB created within our platform will have immediate access to USPS CONFIRM® account, and will receive scan data that indicates each time a mail piece is passes through a USPS location. Moreover, this data will pour seamlessly into our proprietary Reporting Dashboard, where it is presented an a variety of attractive and useful reports. For example:

USPS Mail Piece Delivery Report in

Based on the scan at the final destination facility, our software can predict the day that the piece will be delivered to the office or home, with better than 99.5% accuracy. The report above, for example, breaks down mail piece delivery on a state-by-state basis, along with percentage delivered and undelivered, date and time of final scans, estimated delivery dates, and so on.

IMBs not only helps save you money, but it tracks your direct mail like never before! How has your business benefited from IMBs? Let us know in the comments section!

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