Etsy, the online marketplace for creative entrepreneurs, claims 1.7 million active sellers and 27.1 million active buyers. eBay, the platform for sellers to grow their businesses, claims 1 billion live listings and 165 million active buyers in 190 markets. These are just two of the outlets for independent, or small-volume, sellers.
It all adds up to a lot of sending, postage costs and – to the uninitiated – potential headaches. Both Etsy and eBay provide shipping tips for their sellers. And in light of the 2017 USPS® Rate Change, Pitney Bowes – the recognized expert in all things pertaining to sending – would like to offer its 3 cents. We asked Tom Ryan, Pitney Bowes Manager for Product Marketing, to share insights on cutting costs when shipping with the USPS.
Two key themes emerged: Packaging matters. And online software can make a significant difference in the ease and savings of sending.
How you can optimize your packaging “USPS and other carriers not only charge based on weight and distance,” says Ryan, “but also box size, known as Dimensional Rating (DIM).” Dimensions include height, width and length of the package, no matter what the contents are. Ryan notes that a bit of pre-planning can help and advises you to ask yourself:
- How many different types of boxes do you use and can you reduce that number?
- Can you consolidate the box sizes, minimizing the need to measure each box?
- Are you shipping boxes with empty space and extra filler material?
- Can you use Flat Rate boxes provided by USPS and other carriers?
Within the sizing guidelines falls an option called folding boxes. These multi-depth brown corrugated shipping boxes are designed to be cut to the size you need, allowing you to minimize the size of the package. In its efforts to help its customers keep costs down, Pitney Bowes can supply these boxes, which are designed to withstand high stacking and bursting weights.
Another option is USPS Flat Rate Boxes, which offer a fixed postage rate, despite the weight, when under 70 pounds. “As long as the contents fit,” says Ryan, “items ship at a flat rate no matter what Zone (Postal Code) they are being sent to. Although this option is ideal for certain shipping needs, it is not always the most cost-effective, so make sure you identify where the savings benefits end.” USPS also offers regional rate pricing with Flat Rate Boxes. This option can provide savings over standard Flat Rate Boxes and is available for Priority Mail® parcels and Merchandise Return Service (MRS) where parcels are returned at Priority Mail prices.
Choose the right service for small packages Ryan recommends using the First Class Package Service as an alternative to shipping smaller packages under 15.999 ounces through the USPS. “This is non-personal correspondence that qualifies for Commercial Base Pricing (CBP) rates using a full shipping label and is considered a more typical option for commercial shipping of goods,” Ryan explains. Don’t confuse this with First Class Mail Retail Parcel rates, which do not qualify for the CBP rate discounts.
Ship smart with Intelligent Mail® As part of the Intelligent Mail package barcode (IMpb) service, the USPS has introduced a second tier of pricing for its most common shipping services. The IMpb is a barcode format that includes information about your specific shipment, enabling the USPS to track packages from pick-up to delivery, including up to 11 interim scans. The USPS uses this data to expedite package delivery and reduce costs.
“The service helps you to qualify for CBP,” Ryan explains, “which could mean significant savings on postage. It also provides free insurance ($50 on Priority Mail or $100 on Priority Mail Express), all without going to the Post Office™. And you can access reliable, end-to-end tracking information for you and your customers.” Intelligent Mail offers the best commercial prices with the largest discounts available and includes features such as piece-level tracking information at no additional charge for most products and access to new products, services, and enhanced features.
Take a look at new opportunities for small-volume shipping Online shipping and sending software isn’t just for the big guys anymore. And it can make a significant difference in reducing both cost and complexity, as well as enhancing your professional image. The online software not only helps produce USPS-compliant shipping labels, it also provides benefits in the following areas:
Real-time tracking: “When you add a pre-printed tracking label or produce a shipping label from qualifying software,” Ryan explains, “each package can be tracked from sending to delivery. USPS now tracks interim delivery and provides estimated delivery schedules. Also, online software can give you the complete tracking history and cost information in a single place.”
More professional image: Online software enables you to print a full address label that includes your recipient address, sender address (customized to your preference), and a tracking barcode. “This all conveys the message to the recipient that you are a professional,” says Ryan, “and that you ship efficiently, you consciously track your packages and that ultimately, you care about the recipient.” All of which can create good ratings.
Return labels produced: With online software, you can produce a return label that can be emailed to your recipient to expedite a return. “And this,” emphasizes Ryan, “again helps you to get good ratings and retain your customers.”
Learn more about Pitney Bowes online sending software for small-volume senders.
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