What do those barcodes on my mail mean?

As you look through your mail, most likely you’ll see a few different barcodes. Each barcode serves a purpose. For example, some are there to help ensure the mailing is processed properly. Some tell the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) where to deliver each envelope. And some are there to help customers find more information quickly and easily. Here’s a rundown of the three most common types of barcodes you’ll see on your mail.


Intelligent mail barcode picture
Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB)

The IMB is a 65-bar postal code used to sort and track letters and flat mail pieces in the U.S. The information packed into this barcode includes delivery address, ZIP code or ZIP+4 code, type of mail being sent, and carrier route information. The USPS has machines that read the barcode and direct each piece to the next step on its journey. Basically, IMBs help the USPS process mail faster and more efficiently. Even better, including IMBs on mail pieces can also help organizations save money on postage costs.

      •   up to 15.4¢ per piece for 1 oz. letters
      •   up to 35.4¢ per piece for 2 oz. letters
      •  up to 55.4¢ per piece for 3 oz. letters


2D barcode
2D Data Matrix Barcodes

Sometimes you’ll see these barcodes in a corner of an envelope and again on the pages inside. The print industry and mail houses — such as Extend Your Reach — have been using 2D barcoding for years. The code usually includes information such as a mailing identification code, the record in that mailing, and how many pages are included for that record. When an inserting machine scans the 2D barcode, it makes sure the personalized components (inside pages) are matched and inserted into the proper envelope. It can also be used to signal an error. For example, let’s say an inserting machine is processing a mailing and reads envelope barcodes for records 120, 121, and 122, but when it scans the next barcode it reads 124. The machine will stop and alert the operator that there is a sequence error, avoiding inserting pages for record 123 into the envelope for record 124. Pretty handy!


QR code
QR Codes

QR codes are often found on printed advertisements or postcards. The code usually includes a URL and is used to help customers find more information about a specific product or service quickly. Because most modern mobile phone cameras are equipped to read QR codes, they are being used more and more. Customers expect mail to be interactive. They want quick to the information they’re looking for. Including a QR code is a great way to integrate online information with offline print mail.




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