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Key takeaways:

  • 6×9 postcards now fall under the 4.25″ x 6″ First-Class rate (.306-.335¢)
  • In 2021 postcards have become very popular with US direct mailers
  • Don’t discount other mail formats such as letter packs, which can outperform a postcard in certain verticals
  • As always, test, test, test

A BIG WIN FOR FIRST CLASS POSTAGE!

Starting on August 29, 2021, postcards measuring up to 6″ x 9″ will mail at the lower cost First-Class Postcard rate instead of the First-Class Letter rate as previously done. Prior to this change, the maximum postcard size for a First-Class Postcard rate was 4.25″ x 6″.

Postcards are in!

According to the mail tracking service Competiscan, over 1 billion postcards mailed in Q2 of 2021. That was a 33% increase versus Q1 and a 66% jump compared with Q2 2020.

For many mailers, now is the time to reformat postcards to specs that can improve in-home delivery by ten days or more compared to standard mail class timing. Full package (envelope and letter) mailers may also feel compelled to test postcards if they have not done so in awhile.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind 

This is really good news from a postal service that has taken its share of criticism over the last couple of years. In short, it provides a great opportunity and there really is no downside to this change for mailers. Here are some insights we are bringing to our clients as we strategize on next steps: 

  • It’s a time saver, not a cost saver, unless — The difference between standard mail rates and First-Class postage rates is about .306-.335¢. So, if you are already mailing at the standard rate you don’t stand to gain much in cost by resizing your mailing to fit the new specs. Unless… if you’ve been mailing full packages and can test successfully into a postcard. Then you can benefit from production cost savings in addition to faster delivery.
  • Test before you leap — Depending on the category, #10 packages can dramatically outperform other formats, especially postcards. This change is a good incentive to test postcards, but not to risk mail success on an unproven format without evidence. We even recommend testing, in this case, for clients currently mailing self-mailers and oversized postcards.
  • Lots of response all at once — This can be great if you’re ready for it, but there can be a lot of lost leads if you’re not. Prepare call centers for a different response curve. A standard class USPS mailing response time frame is distributed over a period of 7-14 days after the mail hits the postal stream. First class postcard response can start the day after the mail drop. It’s also far more concentrated with heavy traffic over just a few days.
  • Returned mail — Many mailers will be surprised to suddenly receive undeliverable mail at their office. Standard mailings do not include returning undeliverables to the sender. That is a free service for first class mail that can lead to headaches when cartons of return mail start showing up. And no matter how great you think your mail file is, you will receive returns. Check with your DM agency to set expectations and how to best deal with this issue.
  • Plan now — In an earlier blog, we reported on manufacturing issues facing our industry. A key one is a shortage of paper supply. Heavier weight postcard stock is not as impacted as lighter weight letter stocks, but they are still in short supply. For ongoing mailers, we are placing orders months out to assure availability.

All in all, lots to be happy about with this change. Mail volume was already increasing as the economy has heated up and now the USPS is encouraging a format that was already growing in popularity. 

Is a postcard the right format for your mail effort? If you are not mailing them now, what is the best way to test into the format? What’s the right messaging to drive response given a postcard’s limited real estate? As always, there is lots to consider before you make a change in direct mail plans. Shoot us any questions you may have and let us know if we can help with your direct mail effort.

Have questions about adding direct mail to your marketing mix? Drop us a line.

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Jeff Tarran

As VP of Account Services, Jeff works with our clients to analyze business problems and develop direct marketing strategies that achieve their goals. A 20-year veteran and strategic thought leader in direct marketing, Jeff has headed two independent direct response agencies in the Bay Area after starting his career at Foote Cone and Belding. He earned a Dual BS in management and communications at Syracuse University and his MBA in marketing at Columbia University in New York.

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