Hi-mail: A Hybrid Mail Solution
If you’ve never heard of Hybrid Mail then you’re not alone. Although not a new idea, Hybrid Mail software is still very much in it’s infancy in terms of public knowledge and understanding but is fast becoming the “Go-To” Hybrid Mail solution for modern offices, local government and corporations wishing to save time & money on their traditional printing & mailings costs.
Hybrid Mail: The basic concept
The idea is extremely simple. You write your letter but instead of printing it yourself you send it electronically to a production facility who will print & mail it for you. Hybrid Mail’s whole function is to eliminate the time consuming & expensive parts of the process of sending a letter by using a company who can do it faster & cheaper than you can.
As a general rule of thumb, hybrid mail production facilities will batch together all of the letters they produce each day and print and mail them in 1 run which means that for the customer, you get the benefits of an industrial production facility on a single letter. On average this means you can have a letter printed, enclosed in an envelope and mailed out for between 35p – 40p which is less than the cost of a 2nd class stamp. It’s easy to see why it’s becoming so popular.
The idea has actually been in the public eye for quite a few years with retail card services like Moonpig who work in a similar way but until recent years a business application has yet to really take off. However with a range of new companies now joining the Hybrid Mail solution market, and with more business being able to handle more complex document composition themselves, the idea is starting to gain momentum and Hybrid Mail is on the way up in a big way.
One problem most organisations have is trying to understand how hybrid mail might benefit them. Although the concept is quite simple and the cost and time savings seem appealing, a lot of organisations can’t put an exact figure on what they spend on internal print & postage, or even how many documents they send out each year, and therefore don’t know if the savings would be worth while.
The truth is however that any organisation that sends out any documents, regardless of volume, will benefit from Hybrid Mail. Even organisations who already outsource their bulk mail should still be looking for a hybrid mail solution to handle the smaller volumes, ad-hoc and individual letters they send out each day.
Statistically all organisations, regardless of size or industry, post 4 – 10 documents per employee per day. Using a hybrid mail solution not only makes this process cheaper (by up to 70% compared with some print & mailing costs) but it saves a huge amount of time for employees, allowing them to focus on their core activities and less on administration.
Research from Xerox has also shown that the true costs of printing and mailing a single page letter onto a colour letterhead can be as high as £1.20 per letter. The equivalent cost of the same letter sent via a Hybrid Mail solution can be as low as 35p and they can even compete on price and delivery for larger mailshots.
All of this coupled with the fact that many organisations would no longer need expensive franking machines, additional printers or large stock piles of envelopes and headed paper are making Hybrid Mail an even more enticing option.
Additional benefits & value of hybrid mail solution
A Hybrid Mail solution can also offer additional features to help save even more time, money & resources. Most organisations will typically mail out multiple types of letters (subscription notifications, customer service letters, Invoices, benefit notifications) which all require different printing & mailing profiles (Black & White or colour, 1st or 2nd class etc). Some hybrid mail solution suppliers can offer document automation for these letter types to automatically apply the profiles to the types of letters you wish to send which saves time and reduces the risk of them being sent incorrectly.
Other benefits of using a hybrid mail solution may include address correction, document template storage, user & department spending caps, custom signatures, follow-on forms & attachments and document archiving along with many other features.
Features like document template storage also help keep corporate branding in line by only allowing users to send documents approved and stored within the Hybrid Mail system.
And let’s not forget the environmental benefits either. As most Hybrid Mail services are produced in large batches by existing document outsource companies they are considerably more energy efficient than traditional desktop printers and bulk mailings are much cheaper to transport & deliver across the country, all of which helps reducing your organisations carbon footprint.
Quality & Security
Two important things to consider when looking for a hybrid mail solution are the security of the data you will be sending them and the quality of the documents they will be producing on your behalf. The best suppliers will be using the same HTTPS secure internet services that banks & reputable online retailers use to securely encrypt and transfer any data. Also worth considering are any accreditations that the Hybrid Mail supplier may have such as the ISO 27001 accreditation for security.
With regards to quality and reliability, it’s really a case of looking at the company providing the service and seeing what they can offer in terms of experience, existing customer base (they may already provide services to other organisations in your industry) and where they fit within the industry. Most hybrid mail suppliers will offer you a status report of your documents and some even offer live tracking of the documents during production so you can see exactly where your documents are and when they have mailed.
Considerations when looking for a hybrid mail solution
Hybrid Mail is not a complicated process and the benefits to most organisations are huge but there are some key things to consider before choosing a supplier. Unlike most print & mail services, costs are not dependent on volumes. As your documents are produced in a batch with everyone else’s it makes no difference if you send 1 or 1000 letters each day; the cost for a single letter will be the same.
Other things you need to find out before choosing a supplier are the exact features of the Hybrid Mail service. Can you have variable text? Can you have images? Do they produce colour documents? What postage options are there? What are the set up costs and ongoing maintenance charges? Is training or technical support provided?
Obviously there are also technical restrictions to consider and these will vary from supplier to supplier. Typically there are 3 main ways to send a document to a Hybrid Mail service but some suppliers offer additional options:
A Virtual Printer – This installs on your PC or Laptop and works just like a normal printer but sends the document to the Hybrid Mail system instead of a desktop printer.
A Web Portal – Most suppliers will offer you a web-portal to log into and upload letters.
API (Application Program Interface) – This is only offered by some suppliers and can be integrated into your existing business applications for an additional cost.
Some suppliers also offer a Network Folder solution – Simply drop your letters into a network-enabled folder and they can be collected and mailed by the hybrid mail software.
The most common of these options are the Virtual Printer & Web Portal options which are very simple, familiar feeling and usually trouble free compared with the API option which can be expensive and sometimes problematic.
There are also one or two restrictions with Hybrid Mail as an overall production method which are useful to note. Bespoke outer envelopes and Business reply envelopes are usually not supported and some suppliers will also struggle when asked for additional inserts or with overseas mailings. There are also daily cut-off times when letters are collected and printed for mailing and days of the week when production will not be available which are worth taking into account.
The thing to remember though is this: No matter what size organisation you are, or how many documents you send out per day, you will benefit from a hybrid mail solution.
In 2004 over 2 billion items of mail were sent via Hybrid Mail systems worldwide and the figure has been growing rapidly every year. 14 years later and it looks as though Hybrid Mail is firmly here to stay and will become the service businesses will turn to in the near future.