You’ve already seen Intelligent Mail barcodes. Whether you work in the printing and mailing industry, or simply receive mail at home, an Intelligent Mail barcode has passed through your hands. To many people, these codes may just look like a series of black lines. Yet, there’s much more to a direct mail barcode than meets the eye. What exactly is Intelligent Mail barcoding? How can businesses make the most of it? Read on to find out.


What Are Intelligent Mail Barcodes?

Intelligent Mail Barcode IMB mail tracking“Intelligent Mail” is a service offered by the United States Postal Service. The service uses a 65-bar postal barcode to sort and deliver domestic mail. This unique barcode is printed on envelopes with the recipient’s address. There’s a lot of data contained in those little black bars! They identify the distribution center, the carrier route, the sender’s business mailer ID, and even the type of mail being sent (first class, standard, etc).


All of this data can be read automatically by the USPS mail sorting machines. The result? Quicker, more efficient mail sorting and delivery. Since this system of barcoding shortens delivery times, it also saves the Postal Service on production costs. To get more businesses to use the service, USPS offers direct mail marketing automation discounts to businesses who use Intelligent Mail barcoding for bulk mailings, using First Class or Standard Mail Presort levels of service.


What Are the Benefits of a Direct Mail Barcode?

The United States Postal Service isn’t the only organization that reaps the benefits of Intelligent Mail barcoding. Businesses, nonprofits, and other groups that use an IMB envelope barcode generator can also gain multiple advantages including:



postal barcodeAdditional Mail Price Incentives from USPS

Mailers may combine presort discounts with other promotions offered by USPS. There are several promotions available at any given time. Many of these offers aim to encourage mailers to embrace new technologies and capabilities. Here’s just one example:
2017 Emerging & Advanced Technology Promotion
Encourage mailers to integrate direct mail with advances in mobile technology using NFC technology, Video in Print (ViP), Beacon technology, “Enhanced” Augmented Reality, Virtual reality or a Digital to Direct Mail experience. These allow the recipient to engage in innovative digital experiences triggered by their mail piece. New for this year is the inclusion of Virtual Reality to generate opportunities to immerse consumers by creating interactivity and harnessing a first-hand customer engagement experience. The Post Office has also added Digital to Direct Mail to this year’s promotion. This will elicit a higher response from consumers. Mainly by using dynamically printed, personalized messaging that is automatically triggered based on a digital interaction.

Direct Mail Barcodes Reduce Permit Costs

Intelligent Mail now helps full-service mailers streamline their permit process. Through the Mail Anywhere service, mailers simply maintain a single permit and account to pay for all domestic mailings. There’s no added permit application fee needed for mailing to additional locations.


Automated Address Correction

Intelligent Mail barcoding integrates with another USPS service— OneCode ACS. This service keeps an updated list of mail that’s returned to the post office. Mailers can access this list online and use it to update their own mailing lists. This helps them ensure their mailings make it to mailboxes. It also saves them from wasting money using an envelope barcode generator to send undeliverable mail during their next campaign. This service is available for several classes of mail including:
  • Flat mailings, postcards, and letters that are first-class
  • Standard letters and flat mail
  • Bound printed matter flat mail
  • Periodical letters and flat mail

Pallet Tracing

Intelligent Mail barcodes don’t give mailers the ability to track each piece of mail. However, they are able to trace mail sent with Intelligent barcodes. Tracing doesn’t follow a piece of mail all the way to a person’s mailbox. However, it does tell mailers the last USPS location where a pallet of mail was scanned. This feature is free and automatic for senders using Intelligent Mail.  


Automated Integration

Creating a true omni-channel marketing experience is about more than delivering material on different platforms. It’s also about connecting those touch points to create a stronger connection to consumers. Intelligent Mail barcodes make it easier than ever to strengthen these connections.

Related: What is Omnichannel Marketing?

Marketers can create automated marketing campaigns to coincide with specific direct mail triggers. For example, when a mailing about a special offer has its final scan, it can trigger an email to recipients reminding them to check their mailboxes to learn about a big sale. In this way, digital and direct marketing can work together to drive brand awareness and sales.




Can Small Businesses Use Intelligent Mail Barcodes?

The average mailer uses Intelligent barcoding for mailings that include over 10,000 pieces. However, USPS does offer the service for smaller bulk projects. Mailers sending smaller bulk jobs can still gain the benefits of Intelligent Mail. They just need to use the Small Business Mailers (IMsb) tool. This tool is used for bulk mailings under 10,000 pieces and for any sender mailing 250,000 or fewer pieces every year.


IMB envelope barcode generatorVisit the USPS Business Customer Gateway and you’ll find a full list of the benefits of IMsb:


  • Send full-service mailings with Intelligent Mail barcodes.
  • No need to print hard copy postage statements.
  • Manage your mailing activities, transactions and mailing history around the clock.
  • Receive delivery point validation and an automatically updated mailing list.

IMsb does allow for smaller bulk mailings. But it’s important to remember that this process requires extra steps. IMsb may be free, but it requires extra time to register for the service and CASS-certify. A business may even need to pay for new software to create barcodes. they may also need to electronically submit larger full-service mailings. CASS certification software itself can cost nearly $1,000 a year. For these reasons, businesses hoping to send small mailings may choose to forego Intelligent Mail barcoding.


Intelligent Barcode Resources

Now that you know the basics about Intelligent Mail Barcoding, you may be interested in learning more about how to use the service for your own mailing projects. These resources can help:


Intelligent Mail Barcode Specification: This technical document from USPS details data encoding for Intelligent Mail barcodes. It even goes into detail about the algorithms used and shares a sample of programming code.
Mailpiece Analysis Tools: These tools help mailers ensure their envelope barcode generator creates direct mail barcodes that are compliant.
Encoder Software and Fonts: A full list of USPS Intelligent barcode files, fonts and encoders that are available for download.
IMb Tracing: Additional information and resources on the real-time mail tracking information available through Intelligent Mail Barcoding.

As you can see, there’s a lot to learn about Intelligent Mail Barcoding. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, have additional questions, or simply want to make sure you get the most out of Intelligent Mail, Contact MSP today. We’ll put our expertise to work for you!

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