What is an Intelligent Mail Barcode and Why Should They Be Used?

There’s more that goes into sending direct mail than you might think. That’s especially if you’re new to conducting direct mail campaigns. One little-known aspect of direct mail campaigns that can throw marketers for a loop is the barcodes that you often find on an envelope or a postcard. Below, we’ll provide you with all of the insight necessary for understanding the purpose of a mail barcode.

Defining an Intelligent Mail Barcode

The phrase, “intelligent mail” refers to the USPS’ domestic mail delivery services. The 65 bar barcode associated with these mailers is typically used to organize and track letters and postcards. The tracking capabilities provided go a long way in helping direct mail marketers fine tune their campaigns. Leveraging these barcodes also allows those sending direct mail to participate in a variety of programs, while providing additional access to your mailer’s location within the mail stream.

Including intelligent mail barcodes in your campaigns is easier than you think, too. The USPS provides marketers with a step-by-step guide for helping you include an intelligent mail barcode in your next mailing campaign. After your barcode has been created, you can then convert your barcodes into a numeric equivalent using this tool. For automation prices, these barcodes are a requirement for sending first class mail postcards, insured mail and certified mail. Considering how illuminating these tracking insights offered can be, taking the time to include these barcodes is well worth it.

What Components Are Used to Create an Intelligent Mail Barcode?

There are several components that go into intelligent mail barcodes. Understanding what they are and where they go are key to getting the insights you need. These components include:


  • Barcode Identifiers: The first component of your intelligent mail barcode is a two-digit barcode identifier. This barcode identifier is assigned by the USPS. Its purpose is to encode the presort identification The second number of this digit needs to be within the range of 0 and 4. 


  • Service Type Identifiers: This section of your barcode contains three digits, representative of the mailing class it’s a part of, along with any other service requested by the mailer. This identifier also helps to communicate how to appropriately handle mail marked as “undeliverable as addressed” to postal workers. 


  • Mailer ID: A mailer identifier is also assigned by the USPS. This identifier can contain 6 digits or 9. It’s not unusual for this identifier to be referred to as a “customer ID.” Generally mailers sending less mail are generally assigned a 9-digit mailer ID, while those sending larger amounts receive a 6 digit ID. Each 6 digit mailer begins within the range of 0-8, while 9 digit mailers begin with the number 9.


  • Sequence Number: The sequence number also contains 6 or 9 digits. Generally if your mailer ID contained 9 digits, your sequence number should contain 6 digits. Ultimately the two numbers should add up to a total of 15.


  • Delivery Point Zip Code: Unlike the other components of a mail barcode, the delivery point zip code could feature a variety of digits. Delivery point zip codes can have five, nine, eleven or no digits at all. Most mailers tend to stick with the five digit zip code here.

intelligent mail barcode facts

What Are the Benefits of Leveraging an Intelligent Mail Barcode?

The benefits of real-time mail tracking are immense. If you’re unfamiliar with the purpose of intelligent mail barcodes, you may be leaving valuable money or insights on the table. Some of the biggest benefits that come with including intelligent mail barcodes include:

  • Real-Time Mail Tracking: Knowing where your mail pieces are within the mail stream allows you to fine-tune your future campaigns against the delivery and response times of previous mailers. Without this insight, you may wind up inundating your audience with too much communication over a short period of time.


  • Rerouting: We’re all prone to mistakes, meaning that you may have addresses on your mailing list that are incorrect. Since the intelligent mail barcode can be used to reroute mailers that have been sent to the incorrect address, including one is a great way to ensure your message still gets delivered despite an incorrect address.


  • Increased Savings: Considering the role an intelligent mail barcode can have when it comes to making it easier to sort and route mail, it can dramatically reduce delivery times, while eliminating the need for multiple permits. And with free and pro Direct Mail Manager membership options, you can get your postcards or letters into the mail stream within 24 hours.

Explaining the Difference Between Intelligent Mail Barcodes and QR Codes

Considering how common QR codes are seen nowadays, it’s fair to wonder whether or not they’re different from intelligent mail barcodes. In simple terms, yes, QR codes are quite different from intelligent mail barcodes. That’s because intelligent mail barcodes provide you with insight regarding the real time location of your mailers. But QR codes allow you to gauge how successful your campaign was in terms of how well it resonates with your audience.


Let’s say you receive a postcard containing a QR code from a local dentist. Later during the week after suffering from a toothache, you scan the code on the postcard and make an appointment on the landing page it takes you to. Once that postcard marketing campaign concludes, the marketer who sent those postcards will receive a report containing how many scans that code received. This allows the dental office to make tweaks and adjustments on future mailing campaigns that will ideally lead to more appointments.

Get More of Your Questions Answered and Begin Mailing Today With Direct Mail Manager!

If you’ve got questions regarding intelligent mail barcodes, and their role in your next campaign we can help. Our staff of knowledgeable, proven direct mail experts are eager to answer any questions you might have over a brief complimentary demo. If you don’t have any questions and you’re ready to start mailing, you can sign up for an account and upload your first list today to begin mailing. Your audience can’t wait to hear from you!