Informed Delivery Infrastructure Trying to Keep Up with Its Popularity

Excerpted from the latest issue of Mailers Hub News

Although there were plenty of skeptics when the program was being developed, as well as after it was introduced on a limited basis in 2014, since it went nationwide in 2017 Informed Delivery has become very popular – perhaps more popular than even the USPS expected.

Informed Delivery Statistics and Performance

Enrollment in the service is growing faster that the agency had forecast; over 189,000 new enrollments are occurring monthly, and that figure increases every month. So far, Informed Delivery has 17.2 million registered users, more than was expected by mid-2019, and may have 20 million or more by the end of the calendar year.

Outrunning its support

Exceeding expectations is good – but in this situation it means the technology supporting Informed Delivery, designed for lower planned volume, is struggling to keep up. The number of images that have to be delivered to the higher than anticipated number of subscribers sometimes exceeds the capacity of USPS servers.

As a result, some customers get messages on Mondays – the highest mail volume day – that images aren’t available. What’s happening is that the agency’s Informed Delivery system is timing out due to the volume of images that are being processed. The Postal Service is adding hardware and making technical changes to its system to improve performance, but whether enough can be done to catch up with demand remains to be seen.

Adding to the load

Ironically, while the infrastructure supporting Informed Delivery is struggling to keep up, the Postal Service is expanding the service and offering incentives to advertisers to enhance what Informed Delivery customers see.

One of the agency’s 2019 promotions encourages advertisers to provide color images that can be used to replace the black and white mailpiece images Informed Delivery customers usually would see. Though this enhances the appearance of the mailpiece, it also can contain a link to the mailer’s website, enabling (mailers hope) faster response and greater engagement by the recipient. The USPS hopes the promotion (including the related 2% postage discount) will drive adoption of Informed Delivery campaigns as a component of advertisers’ mailings. Registration for the Informed Delivery Promotion opens July 15, and the promotion period is September 1 – November 30, 2019.

Problems and limitations

However, even before the promotion period begins, interested advertisers are having problems getting the necessary files uploaded into USPS systems. Reportedly, only 25-30% of the mail.dat files (containing the color images) are getting uploaded successfully, and the associated files that are required for Informed Delivery are not populating correctly. When one mailer tried to upload a mail.dat campaign with versioning (i.e., the barcodes were not sequential) the entire postal system crashed. Consequently, it’s being strongly suggested that interested mailers send files through the Informed Delivery portal – not as part of the mailing’s mail.dat.

Meanwhile, some categories of mail are not among those eligible for participation in the Informed Delivery promotion. Nonautomation letters, postcards, and flats; saturation mail flats; flats entered at a DDU; Every Door Direct Mail letters, postcards and flats; flats with a Detached Address Label/Detached Marketing Label; and mailings sent to business addresses are excluded. The USPS explained that the exclusions are based on the agency’s challenges in getting scans of such mailpieces; the current scan rate in only about 50%.

Some suggest that an Assumed Event could be used, e.g., if the container barcode is scanned, such as for DDU flats, it could be assumed that the pieces related to that skid are being processed; the Informed Delivery image could be triggered based on that Assumed Event. Barring a more refined fix to the scanning problem, some critics say that using Assumed Events would be preferable to excluding mail from the promotion.

Of course, until these technical problems can be resolved, achievement of the goals of the promotion might not be fully realized.


 

To access the full issue of Mailers Hub News from June 24, 2019, please click here for the Mailers Hub News archives.

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