Mailmark eManifest Build or Buy?

By Mark Dobson

Keeping your mailing house or full service print business at the forefront of technology is something you pride yourself on, but it isn’t always easy. Keeping abreast of new machines, software, expertise and changes in postal services are tough to keep up with. Enter Mailmark, the biggest change from Royal Mail since the advent of the postcode. According to the latest adoption update by Royal Mail 21% of all Bulk Mail is now sent with the Mailmark attribute. Already the most cost effective way to send mail, Mailmark is set to have a further price differential introduced in January 2016 which is likely to make it 5% cheaper to mail with Mailmark than any other method. It is pretty clear now Mailmark is here to stay and Royal Mail are committed to making sure you become Mailmark ready

How do I get my business Mailmark Ready?

Unlike other products from postal providers, the change to Mailmark involves more than just sortation and tagging. Mailmark requires mail producers to apply a 2-d or 4-state barcode to mailings. Most sortation software such as Cygnus or SwiftSort from The Software Bureau will create the text strings required by composition software to generate the codes. You will also need to check your composition software can generate the barcodes and your printing equipment can print the codes to the resolution required for Royal Mail to scan them. More information on barcodes is available in the guide 4 steps to Becoming Mailmark Ready.

Reporting and the eManifest

Royal Mail have invested over £70 million in Mailmark to date and are continuing to invest in the reporting function offered to mail users. Mail users are offered an online interface where they can view accurate graphical reports about their mail campaign. They can see at which stage in the mailing process each batch of mail is and an expected delivery date which is far more accurate than has ever been possible before. This type of reporting helps organisations plan follow up activity such as preparing branch managers for increased footfall or staffing call centres to handle enquiries. Royal Mail are betting marketers will increase the use of physical mail if they can compete with the reporting capabilities of the digital alternatives.

Introducing the eManifest

To achieve the reporting functionality of Mailmark not only does a barcode need adding to each mail piece, but an eManifest file needs to be uploaded to Royal Mail’s servers. The eManifest is a new concept specifically for Mailmark and is effectively an XML data file containing the details of every piece of mail sent. This file needs to be uploaded to Royal Mail up to 48 hours prior to mail being sent. Every piece of Mailmark enabled mail must have a corresponding record in the eManifest. Where most companies involved in the supply of mail will have the capability to sort and embed barcodes in mailings, very few will have the capability to create and send an eManifest file without writing or buying software.

Build or Buy

If you want to become a Mailmark enabled mail producer you will need to make the decision of building or buying eManifest software. Royal Mail provide specifications for building the eManifest software yourself. They suggest in the specification it is likely to take up to 3 months to implement with a development team who will require barcode generation and XML web services knowledge. If you choose to build, you will also be responsible for ongoing maintenance and updates to the software. This method is most suited to organisations who have access to the appropriate development resource or have a highly bespoke workflow requirement.

The alternative is to purchase an off the shelf eManifest management application from a software vendor such as The Software Bureau. Choosing to buy eManifest software takes the technical burden of development, compliance and ongoing maintenance away and enables mail producers to focus on the operational fit within the organisation. Another benefit is the speed of deployment. Royal Mail suggest to allow 1 week to 1 month for implementation of an off the shelf eManifest software.

The Software Bureau has helped over 30 mail producers understand Mailmark and implement GeMMA - thier off the shelf eManifest software. They offer a free consultation to explore the specific implications of Mailmark specifically for your business, The Software Bureau has helped numerous clients become fully Mailmark ready in less than a week.

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Mailmark Guide

4 Steps to Becoming Mailmark Ready from The Software Bureau today. This complimentary guide provides you everything you need to know about Mailmark including

  • The expected impact of Mailmark on your customers
  • Barcode formats available and which ones to use
  • What is an eManifest and how to manage them
  • How to get Royal Mail funding for your Mailmark investment
  • Promoting Mailmark to your customers

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