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Sean Connor 4/2/18 1:05 PM

USPS Informed Visibility Explained


The USPS recently launched two services with similar names at almost the same time. I explained Informed Delivery in a previous post, and today will explore Informed Visibility.

Informed Visibility (IV)

The US Postal Service launched IV in early 2018 to better track mail through their system. The goal of this program is to fill in the gaps in the status (or visibility) of mail, and to provide better real-time reporting data within the mailstream for both the USPS and mailers.

Previously the USPS gathered and provided tracking data using the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) scans on individual mailpieces by postal equipment. This has not changed, nor has the IMb itself. Up to this point, mailers could only track individual letters, flats, bundles, handling units and containers as they are scanned. This process left gaps in the status as mailpieces moved through the postal system.

The biggest difference with Informed Visibility is that the USPS now uses both Actual scans, as well as Assumed and Logical handling events to determine where containers and individual pieces are in the mailstream to create additional tracking events and reporting.

Assumed Events are events created to track nested mail pieces based on container, handling unit and bundle handling events. Previously the USPS scanned individual IMbs for each mailpiece to monitor and report status throughout their system. This will still happen, but under Informed Visibility, the USPS will scan container barcodes (tray sacks, pallets) and the individual piece scan will be inferred based on eDoc information provided by the mailer. When the container is scanned it is inferred that all pieces associated with that container are in it, and the status of all pieces is provided. This helps fill in visibility gaps within the mailstream, providing powerful end-to-end tracking capabilities.

Logical Delivery Events provide insight into where mail is without the need for a physical scan. Trigger criteria for these events vary based on delivery scenario. An example of a logical event: the USPS knows what a carrier has in their possession based on an actual or assumed mailpiece scans. A logical event is created when that carrier moves into a geographic area to deliver the mail. The trigger for the logical event is the mail carrier's hand-held device entering the geofence for the mailpiece's associated ZIP+4 on the Predicted Delivery Date. The logical event is the delivery of the mailpiece. This provides insight into when your mail is delivered without the need for a physical scan of the individual mailpiece.

Data Improvements (and Limitations):

IV provides multiple data file formats and delivery methods in a more secure method than IMB tracing.

Users can set up and manage data, formats, and feeds, and IV, unlike IMb Tracing, has an online user interface. Users can also set up the frequency of data feeds, as often as every 15 minutes.

Bear in mind that the USPS delivers very robust data feeds, but provides only raw data. For most mailers, the amount, complexity and frequency of the data makes it necessary to utilize a third-party expert to process the data into a usable format and provide relevant reports. There are several companies that specialize in mail tracking and reporting, and have switched over to IV tracking capability along with the USPS.

IV Benefits to Mailers and Mail Service Providers:

IV-MTR provides near real-time tracking data, which allows businesses to do the following:

For outgoing mail:

  • Obtain near real-time notification when mail will be delivered.

  • Identify mail delivery trends and predicted delivery dates.

  • Increase the value of mail by enabling better planning of mailing campaigns and resources, and coordination with other marketing channels.

  • Enable fulfillment, staffing, and inventory planning based on mail delivery.

  • Because of Assumed and Logical Scan Events earlier, the visibility of Flat-size mail will be greatly improved.

  • If there are processing/delivery issues within the USPS, IV provides better insight into the location of mail, bottlenecks in the system, and hopefully will help the USPS and mailers to resolve these issues.

For incoming reply mail:

  • Obtain near real-time notification when return mail enters the mailstream to predict delivery.

  • Know when return items will be delivered to better allocate resources and manage supply chain.

  • Evaluate the success of direct mail advertising campaigns in near real-time.

  • Manage cash flow and accounts receivable more effectively with tracking of donations and payments.

Learn more:

If you are interested in learning more about how you can utilize USPS Informed Delivery, contact us!


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