Celebrating 40 years of the Postcode

Blog post   •   May 07, 2014 16:55 BST

To help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the postcode, we’re looking at the history of the system and the continued importance of data accuracy in today’s mailing environment.

Whether we’re writing it on a letter or putting it into our sat navs, there are few things we take more for granted more than the postcode. But while much has changed over the generation that’s passed since its inception, the importance of providing accurate data – from postcode to mailing mark – remains just as essential as ever.

With tens of thousands of businesses using the Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF) to perform everything from fraud prevention to identity confirmation, maintaining accurate data has never felt more important. As was the case following the postcode’s initial rollout in Norwich back in 1974, a failure to provide accurate data to your mail items could be costly.

The birth of the postcode

First trialled in 1959 as a mechanism to overcome labour-intensive letter sorting, the postcode system began in earnest six years later with the process of reducing the address to machine-readable code.  In 1974, the era of the postcode finally began following the recoding of Norwich.

At the time, the process was considered revolutionary. “It speeded up the sortation of mail twenty fold,” said Ian Beesley, Chairman of the PAF Postcode Advisory Board when talking to BBC News.

“Who would have thought 40 years ago, when it (postcodes) was viewed as an alien imposition that was turning us into cyber men, would now be such a part of a modern life?”

The postcode today

As well as continuing to play a crucial role in the prompt and accurate delivery of British mail, the postcode has developed into a far wider indicator of everyday life.

To help celebrate the postcode’s anniversary, Royal Mail commissioned the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) to conduct a study of UK life through the eye of the postcode and the results were more surprising than you might think.

Despite concerns over pollution, CEBR’s findings revealed London to have the five healthiest areas by postcode sector in England – the healthiest being SW1X.

For those looking for job security, Somerton (BA2-BA11) and Frome (TA10-12) offered the lowest unemployment rates in the UK, while Northumberland (TD12) and West Cumbria (LA17) were home to the lowest crime rates in Britain. Far from just a mailing mechanism, the postcode tells us more than just where to deliver our parcels!

Keeping postcodes accurate

Although the postcode may be celebrating its 40th birthday, the same problems that businesses faced in the seventies remain just as prominent today. No matter what your product offering or mailing budget, an inability to correctly address your mail items and parcels can have a detrimental effect on your bottom line.

Here are some of our top tips to optimise your address hygiene and reduce the amount of returned letters, lost mail and delayed delivery your businesses is incurring.

Improve the quality of your data at the source Getting postcodes right at the point of entry is vital to save costly errors later on down the line. Point-of-entry validation software makes collecting accurate contact data an efficient and error-free process – helping you to improve customer service and ensure your mail items reach their destination.

Consider utilising advanced mailing software For SME’s delivering mail in bulk, optimising the quality of your mail preparation is essential to increasing deliverability. With Bulk Mailer preparation software, businesses can standardise address formats to Royal Mail guidelines, correct the spelling of streets and qualify for additional franking discounts.

Enjoy the UK’s most comprehensive address data source Royal Mail’s PAF is the most up-to-date and complete address database in the UK – and your business can tap into this outstanding resource. A priceless tool for maintain mailing lists, Neopost’s advanced mailing software allows business to match their data with the PAF’s 28 million addresses.

Although the postcode may be 40, it still continues to play a big part in the way our businesses operate. It might not seem like an occasion worth celebrating – but if the postcode’s birthday inspires you to improve your data quality, it could help you to create a far more profitable and efficient organisation.