Seed Tracking vs. PLANET Code Tracking
Comparisons are often drawn between seed tracking, and PLANET Code tracking. Both techniques accomplish some of the same objectives, but there are important differences as well. Your business goal is what determines the service that will work best for you.
Seed tracking uses special seeds added to a mailing and sent to ?decoy? addresses in cities around the country. The seeds are mailed with the rest of the mailing, and when they are delivered, agents at the decoy addresses will note the date the piece arrived, the mailer, and the condition of the piece.
PLANET Code tracking involves printing an additional barcode, the PLANET code, on the actual mail pieces. In some cases the PLANET codes are printed on seeds rather than the actual mail. Typically the PLANET code is applied to either every piece in a mailing or a sampling ? perhaps every tenth piece, or two pieces per tray. As the mail travels through postal sorting machines, the PLANET code identifies the mailer and the mailing, and the location of the piece is sent electronically to the PLANET code subscriber, generally within an hour of the scan taking place. The data sent with each scan identifies where the mail piece is, and the process it is going through when tracked, as well as the Zip+4 and delivery point code that can be used to generally identify unique addresses. Using this data, a processor can very accurately estimate the delivery date. The MailTracker system uses PLANET code data to predict in-home delivery based on tested postal guidelines, and posts the in-home date in a user friendly format. The data is updated four times a day.
Pros and Cons of Seed Tracking
In-home date is actual, not calculated. The agent has received the piece.
The condition and accuracy of the mail piece can be evaluated.
List usage can be monitored, and unauthorized use can be identified.
The sample is very small. A tiny percentage of most mailings can be monitored
Receiving, identifying and updating is a manual process, prone to human error.
There is no tracking history of the piece. It is difficult to determine why a piece of mail is late.
There is no mechanism for tracking an individual?s piece of mail. If a customer calls looking for their mail, there is no mechanism for finding it. It is only a sampling service.
The results are often not known until after the mailing is complete, too late to do anything about it.
Pros and Cons of PLANET Code Tracking
Sample size is unlimited. Every piece can be tracked where appropriate, and whatever sampling scheme is chosen, it will better match the actual mail.
The process is automated. No human intervention is required, so errors are less prevalent.
Results are near real time. Data from the previous night?s scans (when most scans occur) are available in the morning. Users can act while the mail is still in the stream.
There is a scan history for every piece tracked. A user can often identify the reason mail is delayed.
Last scans are an excellent predictor of in-home date. For letter size mail the accuracy rate is better than 98%.
Individual piece tracking is possible, allowing the tracking of financial documents and other critical material at a very modest cost.
Not every piece will be tracked. #10 envelopes may get scan rates of 98%, but other pieces may get lower rates. Flat size pieces typically get scan rates of 60% - 70%. Letter size self mailers will get scan rates in the 80% - 95% range. The much larger sample is generally compensation for imperfect scan rates.
There is no proof of delivery. The last scan seen is generally when the mail is sequenced for the letter carrier, so delivery is almost certain, but there is no signature or other proof.
PLANET code tracking cannot provide information on the accuracy or condition of the mail piece, and cannot provide list protection.
Pros and Cons of Both
Knowing delivery status always adds value to the mail. Advertisers can react to deliveries and plan their efforts better to time the delivery of their mail. Other media can be coordinated with mail. Customers can be better served when you can track and identify their mail.
Both systems are imperfect. Not every piece will be tracked. Not every agent will correctly identify every piece. Systems may go down for a few hours. Companies dedicated to both methods work tirelessly to keep data as accurate and current as possible. The advantages far outweigh the problems.
What to use
If the condition of the mail piece or list protection is most important to you, or if you cannot tolerate an additional barcode on your mail, consider mail monitoring.
If knowing the delivery date of your mail in a timely manner and with a detailed sample is most important to you, or the ability to track individual pieces of mail, consider PLANET code tracking. The ability to track the actual mail as opposed to a small sample is critical.