Five signs it’s time for a postage meter upgrade

Find out how mailers and shippers can tell it’s time to upgrade their postage meters.

Mailing and shipping hasn't changed much since the United States Postal Service first started issuing stamps back in 1847. There's still one sender, one recipient, two addresses, some form of postage, and a container (envelope, box, or tube) to hold the item being delivered. The steps of mailing are the same, too – creating, folding, inserting, sealing, adding postage, and, more recently, tracking and accounting.

What has changed is the mailing technology that makes these steps possible. No longer do businesses have to go through time-draining steps like folding every letter by hand and weighing each piece manually to determine proper postage. Now, there are tools that do it all for you, and ultimately put time back into your day.

Tom Ryan, Director of Product Marketing, SMB Global Mailing & Solutions at Pitney Bowes, says, "If you had leased a postage meter 10 years ago, you may not have even been aware that these services were available."

How do mailers and shippers know the time has come to look into upgrading technology? Here are five signs:

1. You're Sending More Packages

The U.S. Postal Service processed more than 103 million First-Class mail pieces in 2001 – its most ever – and that figure has been declining steadily ever since. Businesses have been helping drive this trend, as they move certain communications over to digital channels, even as direct mail continues to deliver response rates that are about 30 times higher than email.

During the same time period, package volume has been ticking steadily upward. Shipping and package services are so popular that they now account for one-fifth of the Postal Service's total revenue.

As Ryan says, this shift is a critical one for businesses. While your mailing system may have been perfect for sending letters and flats, is it just as effective for sending packages? Package recipients have great expectations – quick fulfillment and delivery, end-to-end tracking, ongoing notifications until their delivery arrives, and deeper discounts – and it's up to your mailing system to help you meet those.

2. Your Employees Have Less Time to Manage Mail

In the last five to 10 years, in response to the economic downturn, U.S. businesses eliminated many mid-level management positions, leaving their existing employees to fill multiple, sometimes unfamiliar, roles. Ryan gives the example of a finance manager who may now have a variety of tasks in different departments, including managing the mail.

This sort of reorganization happens all the time, and the effect is the same whether the business is going through layoffs or in the middle of a merger. Those who manage the mail could simply have less knowledge of what's going on day-to-day, and may prefer a high-level approach.

For these managers, a hands-off, versatile, flexible mailing solution will help put time back in their day, allowing them to specialize in what they want to do, without having to deal with any mailing complexities. Reorganization in a business puts more emphasis on having automated tools, such as inserters, so employees can do the job right, quickly and efficiently, and with confidence that the mail is secure.

3. You're Ready to Regain Control and Stop Outsourcing

Another kind of reorganization has to do with whether mailing services are managed internally or by another party. Years ago, businesses that lacked the experience or resources to manage mailing services in-house would turn to service providers.

Recently though, Ryan says he's seen these organizations reverse course and start to bring mailing services back in-house, as part of a process he calls an "outsourcing tussle." The reasons why come down to cost. Whereas a business once had to pay $100,000 to accomplish certain mailing tasks in-house, now, with the help of mailing technology, they can handle more jobs internally, and at an affordable cost, according to Ryan.

Another reason businesses may want more direct control over their mail is for security purposes. By outsourcing mailing, you may lose sight of these processes. This could be a problem for businesses in specific industries like medical and law, in which it's better to "limit the number of hands touching a mail piece," says Peter Binder, Global Product Marketing and Channel Enablement Manager for Pitney Bowes.

Whether you outsource or manage mailing services in-house, solutions like Mailstream on Demand help businesses manage these processes.

4. You're Preparing for Regulatory Changes

Sometimes, the reason to upgrade to new mailing technology has nothing to do with internal factors, and is more because of an outside event, the biggest of which is whenever the Postal Services adjusts its products or rates. The USPS implements these changes more often than in the past, most recently in May 2015, and every time it happens, Ryan says businesses have to take a step back and ask themselves, "Is my technology capable of doing what the Postal Service recommends, or should I change my solution to get more savings?"

As an example, shippers just recently had to reevaluate their technology following the Postal Service's implementation of the Intelligent Mail package barcode (IMpb) initiative, which, as of January 2015, requires shippers to print a specific label with a customized barcode that enables end-to-end tracking capabilities and give them access to lower, commercial rates. Per the IMpb requirements, mailers that send packages need to adopt new methods to prepare shipping labels and qualify for discounts.

5. You've Made Technology Changes Elsewhere in Your Business

As telecommunications companies worldwide eliminate old telephone lines, businesses are finding that all of their digital technology, including their mailing systems, now have to be connected via LAN or Wi-Fi, instead of through dial-up. Of course, many businesses do still rely on a dial-up Internet connection, despite the slow connection speed and the extra $50 per month to run an additional phone line, Binder says.  

Whether businesses are pushed into a high-speed connection or they choose one on their own, they'll immediately see the benefits in their mailing operations. Today's mailing technology requires frequent updating, and it's near-impossible for businesses to run reports and download data quickly with a dial-up connection. With a high-speed connection, businesses won't have to worry about slow speeds, dropped connections, missed postage updates or additional charges from their phone company.

Whatever event it is that causes your business to consider a new mailing technology, there's a solution out there for you. To learn more, please see our full line of postage meters and digital mailing systems.

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