Mail Tracking: The Secret Sauce to Save Fulfillment Dollars
February 24, 2022   Dave Lewis

Fulfillment providers are shifting their packaging to flats where possible and saving 30% + on shipping. SnailWorks Informed Visibility tracking is making it possible.

Have you ever bought anything online?  I’m going to go out on a limb here and, since you have a computer and a pulse, guess that you have.  When you placed that online order, you immediately got a confirmation email, and in short order another email that told you your order had shipped.  In one or both of those emails there was a link: “Click here to track your order.”  And you did click there because you wanted to know when your stuff would arrive.

That is tracking.  Of course, we can give you lots of wonderful reasons to track your direct mail – but when it comes to fulfillment you really don’t have a choice.  Your customers expect it.  If there is not a tracking link provided, they assume something has gone wrong.

Most of the things we buy online are shipped as packages.  Most items need a package to contain them – you can’t fit a toaster in an envelope.  But you can fit screen protectors, coloring books, guitar picks, and so much more.  They may be shipped by FedEx, UPS, USPS, or their own carrier – think Amazon.  All these shipping methods have two things in common:

  • They are tracked along the way, typically by scanning a barcode on the package.
  • They are expensive.

Packages sent through USPS generally have an IMpb printed on them – an Intelligent Mail package barcode.  This barcode is scanned by the carrier as it is accepted, delivered, and at intermediate stops along the way.  The consumer can access this tracking information through a supplied link, or through

But do all fulfilled items need a box?  Many items ordered online will fit into a flat or letter sized envelope or sleeve.  The shipping/postage cost for these shapes are dramatically lower, but many eCommerce shippers send all items as parcels so they can get tracking.  More and more eCommerce businesses are looking for ways to cut costs, but tracking remains the problem.  With Informed Visibility and SnailWorks you may be able to send those items as flats or letters, saving substantial postage.

If your package fits within the flats size category – 12” x 15” x ¾” thick – and weighs less than a pound, you may want to consider changing how you mail.  The price differences can be dramatic.  A six-ounce First-Class package that ships for $3.88 as a package can mail as a flat for $2.00.  Same item, same class of mail.  If it can qualify as a letter the savings is even greater.  These are substantial savings that contribute to bottom line profitability.  Instead of an IMpb, flats and letters will have an IMb.  Tracking data is generated by the Informed Visibility system.  The Postal Service doesn’t provide a customer look-up page for Informed Visibility – it just provides raw data.  But SnailWorks does.

SnailWorks can provide trackable IMbs and track each piece as it travels.  We can also provide a link where consumers can check the progress of their delivery.  When the item is mailed, SnailWorks will provide a unique URL that the consumer can click to see their tracking.  Much like a USPS or any other carrier’s tracking, they will be taken to a page that looks like this:


The order number comes from the merchant or shipper.  The estimated in-home date is generated by SnailWorks using our delivery analytics database and the ship date.  Other elements of the page can vary with the shipper as required.  They may choose to show the delivery address or not, and different elements or descriptions of USPS processing steps.

There are many considerations in embarking on a program like this:

  • Is the packaging compatible with the USPS definition of a flat?
    • Are the dimensions acceptable?
    • Is the flexibility within standards
  • How is the mail prepared?  Is it part of a Full-Service mailing?
  • What are your communication touch points with the consumer?  Is there a tracking link provided by email?  Dashboard lookup?
  • Who is accountable for creating shipping labels with the right barcode?

All these considerations are easily addressed but require planning and expertise in both packaging and postal.  The saving can be well worth the effort.

If you are shipping items that may fit in flat packaging (sorry, toaster shipper) contact us to learn more.