Ushering postal mail into the 21st century

As president and founder of Click2Mail, an affiliate partner of the United States Postal Service, Lee Garvey has found an ingenious way to modernize snail mail. Through automated tools that eliminate the hassles of conventional mailing and an efficient, innovative, and cost-effective model, the company—whose clients include from Fortune 500 companies and government agencies—is giving electronic alternatives some healthy competition. He shares with Profile why there’s nothing old-fashioned about his Click2Mail system.

The use of postal mail is changing but it’s certainly not going away. There are still countless emotional, strategic, and legal reasons to deliver tangible, tactile letters and cards into the hands of readers. Moreover, consumers today still express a preference for receiving business correspondence via the mail. In 2010, the US Postal Service (USPS) processed 171 billion mail pieces, and while this total is down from all-time highs, that’s still an average of 563 million pieces daily. Clearly, the need for innovative mailing-service companies will be around for decades to come. At Click2Mail, we’ve designed and built a new generation of technology-based tools and services for creating, managing, and sending that 21st century mail.

Click2Mail is an example of how national postal operators and their customers can benefit from innovation and new technologies. I believe one key to restoring the USPS to good fiscal health is to give consumers and businesses easy, economical, online access to the postal service’s vast communications reach and promotional power—we do that. It’s also clear to me that to compete with electronic alternatives, postal mail’s cost-benefit ratio must continue to improve. Our system does this too; it reduces the costs of mail for both end users and the postal service and improves the efficiency of postal mail by getting it delivered more quickly and reliably.

Our core innovations are total process automation and Click2Mail’s “geo-routed” printing technology. We’ve eliminated the hassles of a conventional mailing process—the printing, stuffing, metering, and trips to the post office—and replaced it with a set of simple, automated tools for outsourcing mail with a high level of quality assurance. And instead of printing all mail pieces in a central location and transporting them nationwide, our system automatically delivers a digital print file for each individual mail piece to the Click2Mail printing location closest to its destination zip code. This geo-routing, combined with the technology we use to massage addresses to conform to USPS databases, reduces USPS handling costs, improves delivery time, and lowers the cost to our clients. [Intelligent mail barcodes allow our clients to track each mail piece and know when it’s delivered.] It’s the best of both worlds.

We’re always looking for ways of using technology to make the mailing process easier and more cost-efficient. Click2Mail aims to be on the leading edge of client-driven innovation. For example, we pioneered small-volume Intelligent Mail barcode delivery tracking, which allows all of our clients to track each mail piece through the mailstream at no additional cost. Our latest innovation is MailJack: a software utility that allows PC users to print documents directly to the postal stream in the same way they would print it to their office ink-jet or laser printer. Once the document is composed, the user selects the “print” command in their software program and, instead of choosing a printer from the list, they choose “MailJack,” which transmits the document directly to the Click2Mail system. Other innovative products and services we have developed include tools for sending printed mail pieces via e-mail (Email-to-Mail) and a comprehensive set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable the automation and outsourcing of almost any computerized mail-generation process.

The beauty of our technology is that users large and small, no matter where they’re located, can send almost any volume of mail quickly and economically right from where they’re sitting. With the likely prospect of future closings of USPS post offices, online access to services such as certified mail, reply mail, and priority mail could turn out to be critically important to many individuals and organizations in the United States, [and] we’ll be there to support them. But, that’s not all, the whole world is online and we’ve recently partnered with similar services in Italy and France to allow our users to mail directly into European markets and vice versa. Europe is just the beginning, though—imagine the marketing reach Americans companies would have if they could use Click2Mail to send direct mail directly into China or Korea and vice versa?