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USPS Shares New UAA Data

The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) shared updated data from a 2010 Undelivered As Addressed (UAA) study at the recent Mailer’s Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) meeting. Prior to this 2010 study, the most recent data available was from a study conducted in 2004. Both of these studies were conducted by Christensen & Associates.

UAA Volume Declines

Total UAA volume dropped from 9.3 billion pieces (4.71% of total mail volume) in FY 1998 to 6.9 billion pieces (4.11% of total mail volume) in FY 2010. (This reduction, while significant, falls far short of previous Post Master General Jack Potter’s goal of reducing UAA mail by 50% by 2010.) Historically, Undelivered mail runs in the range of 4% to 5% of total mail volume, and the percentages of total volume vary by class of mail. Periodicals mail, for example, has a UAA percentage of about 1.5%, while Standard Mail usually runs about 6.75%. Interestingly, the volumes of Undelivered mail that the USPS forwards or treats as waste both experienced declines, but the volume of Undelivered mail that the USPS returns to sender actually increased.

How is UAA mail treated?

The treatment of UAA mail by the USPS varies by class of mail and the service requested by the mailer. There are three different treatments by the USPS for UAA mail: it is forwarded to the new address, it is disposed of as waste, or it is returned to the sender. According to the 2010 study:

Cost of UAA Mail

The cost to the USPS of handling Undelivered mail is substantial. In fact, Charles Hunt, who is the USPS program manager for licensing and move update support, told MTAC attendees that all postage rates could be dropped by one cent each if the UAA problem were taken out of the economic equation. The good news is that the study shows a decline in the total cost of handling UAA mail, along with the decline in volume. However, the UAA cost per piece did stay the same or increase slightly during this time period. The chart below shows a comparison of Undelivered volumes and costs across 1998, 2004 and 2010 study data.

It is important to note the most significant volume decline, between 2008 and 2010, can be directly attributed to the implementation of the Move Update requirements for Standard Mail. The USPS is still researching the puzzling increase in the volume of mail returned to sender, as this is the most costly UAA mail for them to process, at an average cost of 51.3 cents per piece.

UAA Future Challenges

The USPS is working collaboratively with the mailing industry on a variety of initiatives designed to further reduce the volume of UAA mail. Some of these initiatives include such things as mailing list certification, more secure and documented UAA mail destruction processes, real-time UAA tracking using Intelligent Mail® barcodes, and reducing the amount of “return to sender” UAA mail.

We’re In This Together

The most important takeaway from all this data is for mailers to be very cognizant of the huge costs of UAA mail, and that we all need to be very vigilant about mailing address hygiene and frequent updating of mailing addresses. That is the only way that we can keep reducing the volume of UAA mail, which in turn keeps USPS costs down and helps minimize postage increases. There are a wide variety of resources available for address cleansing and updating; please make sure you are doing your part. It will not only reduce waste, but your chances of reaching your target market with your valuable messages are much improved by using clean, updated addresses.

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