Why is my mail marked return to sender or undeliverable as addressed?

posted in: Direct mail, Direct marketing | 0

What should I expect for return mail?

Return mail is normal and generally not a cause for concern. A 3-5% return rate is typical for almost all bulk mailing lists with 8% or more not uncommon. Returns over 10% may be problematic and should be investigated further. The US Postal Services returns mail sent with First Class postage, but does not return mail sent with Standard Class postage.

Why do I get return mail?

Neither mailing lists or the US Postal Services are perfect. According to the US Postal Service, the top two reasons for undeliverable mail are 1) the addressee has moved without up-to-date forwarding information on file with the post office and 2) the address is missing secondary information such as unit number, apartment number, street directional indicator or similar information needed for delivery.

What are the best practices to minimize returned mail?

Every bulk mailing should be processed through the latest USPS delivery software programs to update change of addresses, standardize mailing formats and autocorrect missing secondary information among other benefits to ensure the best delivery rates available. This is our standard procedure for every mailing we do. To learn more, see the links below.

Also, the USPS has specific address requirements that are often different than, say, Google maps. For example, Google may have no problem locating John’s Bike Shop in the Main Street Mall, but the postal delivery worker may return mail if the bike shop’s official USPS address is John’s Bike Shop 123 Main Street Mall Unit #304. Likewise, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington D.C. is the well-known address for The White House, however, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW is the correct address while 1600 Pennsylvania Ave SE is an apartment complex a few miles away. The USPS postal software automates correcting these addresses and/or flags them as problematic allowing the mailer options to suppress. The following links are also excellent tools to confirm the USPS’s individual address formats.

Address Lookup: http://www.melissadata.com/lookups/addresscheck.asp
Address Verify: http://www.melissadata.com/lookups/addressverify.asp

Why do I get return mail from lists rented from trade shows, events and other 3rd party lists?

Common sense would suggest that trade show and event registration addresses would be the freshest and most accurate lists available. The reality is other factors impact such lists. First, many people do not know their official USPS address format and some list users may mail rented lists ‘as is’ without first processing lists with the USPS postal delivery software (our standard procedure). Also, event registration has migrated to almost exclusively online tools and more and more frequently participants simply check a box to re-register without updating their postal mailing address. We actively work with several event organizations and encourage others to perform regular maintenance activities to improve the quality of their mailing lists for both in-house use and event attendee list rentals. 


Some amount of return mail is normal for practically all mailing lists, however this post explains there are several best practices to help ensure you are getting the best direct mail delivery rates available.

To learn more, please visit
USPS leading causes for undeliverable direct mail
USPS undeliverable as addressed statistics





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