If you’ve earmarked budget for direct mail in 2018, chances are you’re aware of the new USPS® postage rates that went into effect this month – on January 21 to be exact. Accompanying the new rates and equally important, are the changes to the USPS’ Move Update Standards.
First introduced over 15 years ago, the goal of the standards was to reduce costs resulting from the additional handling needed to manage mail pieces that require forwarding or return services – an expensive problem that remains today.
A Quick Refresher
The basis of the standards state that direct marketers who submit mailings for basic or full-service automation prices for First-Class or Marketing (Standard) Mail service must demonstrate that their mailing lists are in compliance with the Move Update standards by using one of the following methods:
- National Change of Address (NCOA) – Must be performed on mailing list within 95 days prior to the mail date
- Address Change Service (ACS)
- Ancillary Service Endorsements
- 99% Accuracy (First Class Mail only)
- Legal Restraint
Through these methods, the mailer’s address records are compared to change-of-address (COA) orders received and maintained by the Postal Service. If an address is incorrect, missing an element, or if the recipient moved, the piece could become Undeliverable-As-Addressed (UAA) mail. Usage of the NCOA method identifies these errors pre-mailing while the ACS and Ancillary Service Endorsements identify the errors post mailing.
So What’s Changed
New Address Verification System
As part of the new Move Update standards, the USPS is replacing the existing MERLIN method with a new address quality verification technique referred to as the “Census Method.” Rather than rely on sampling, the Census Method will use Intelligent Mail bar code technology to verify address accuracy at the individual piece level.
New Tracking Methodology and Increased Penalties
The biggest change to the standards – errors will no longer be tracked by each individual job. Instead the USPS will now calculate deficiencies based on the total number of pieces exceeding the postal threshold of .5% within a calendar month. The less-than-good news: the USPS will assess a monetary penalty to the tune of $0.08 per piece for any excess above the 0.5% tolerance.
Driving the Need for Accurate Data
List hygiene is crucial to modern marketing success, and even more so now with the new Move Update standards.
“Accurate addressing is rapidly becoming the number one focal point of direct mail promotions. You can no longer rely on thinking your addresses are good. Companies must take ownership to improve how and what type of addressing information is gathered and implement procedures that enhance address hygiene,” says Mike Buttita, Senior Director of Postal Affairs at SG360°. “No matter how good a piece looks or how relevant the message, if it isn’t delivered accurately and in a timely fashion, it has no value. Address quality saves money and increases your ROI through improved deliverability, bringing value to your marketing messages, while helping to keep postage rates reasonable.”
Marketers should keep in mind that CASS™ Certified™ address-matching software, among others, does not perform name lookups, making it unusable to meet the Move Update standards. If you’re using rented lists, the USPS recommends that the addresses are processed with NCOA or MPE after the mail pieces are created. One of the biggest factors in successful data hygiene is how far back list managers check in data systems for the National Change of Address (NCOA).
“With the various USPS endorsed hygiene programs on the market, the differentiator for SG360° is the length of time we go back,” says Craig Jenkins, Senior Vice President, Technology Services. “Some mailers only go back as far as 18 months, and that’s not nearly far enough for the new Move Update standards. By adopting a 48-month standard, we not only are able to fully meet the new standards but also allow our customers to reach a wider customer base and improve ROI.”
Leverage Existing Expertise
When it comes to list cleaning, direct mail marketers need not go it alone. A full-service print and mailing partner is a huge asset when it comes to postal compliance. SG360°’s data services team provides a full suite of data hygiene and addressing solutions designed to enhance deliverability and avoid USPS penalties.
While the new Move Update standards are good for the USPS, they are also good for marketers. Another step toward identifying UAA mail, the standards encourage list owners to maintain accurate, up-to-date data, ensuring your direct mail programs reach their intended audience.
The complete Move Update Standards Compliance handbook is available on the USPS website.