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September 12, 2023

What Is a Zip Code?

The United States Postal Service (USPS) introduced ZIP codes in 1963, and despite the fact that email has replaced snail mail, these five digit numbers continue to play a vital role in our daily lives. The five digits in a zip code identify a national area, followed by the region or city, then the associated post office and delivery sector.

The first digit of a zip code identifies a general geographic area, ranging from 0 for the Northeast to 9 for the West. The next two digits indicate the specific region, such as a large city or multiple cities. The last two digits identify the associate post office in that region, which then sort and deliver the mail to its correct destination.

Businesses use zip codes to ensure that they send their mail to the right place, so they can quickly respond to customers. They also help businesses gather information about demographics in specific areas that could make them more likely to buy their products or services, and they can help with identifying fraud when sending invoices or shipments.

However, while they are useful for expediting mail processing, ZIP Code boundaries are not designed to accurately reflect communities or neighborhoods. For this reason, it is important for business leaders to understand how ZIP Codes are used when evaluating data and mapping resources. This is especially true in the case of store locators, which rely on ZIP Codes to determine a user’s location.