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Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Codes for International Shipping

June 22nd, 2016 Comments off

HTS BlogYou may have spotted a box called “HS Tariff” in the Stamps.com International Shipping Label’s Customs Information section. What is it and what is it used for?

The Harmonized System, or HS, Tariff code is used to classify physical goods and traded products for export to another country. In the Stamps.com software, you have the option of entering a six-digit HS Tariff, a value developed and maintained by the World Customs Organization (WCO).

Why would you need this code? The codes are used by countries’ customs services to assess product quotas and correctly levy tariffs. This is not necessarily a bad thing: your commodity may qualify for a preferential tariff under a Free Trade Agreement.

Getting Your HS Tariff Code
So where would you get an HS Tariff code? To locate a specific code, please visit: http://hts.usitc.gov/

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule allows you to classify a specific product or product type with a numbered code. It will also provide information on the Tariff Rate of Duty.

Are you an exporter of table-tennis equipment? In the Tariff Schedule search engine, type in “table-tennis.” Reviewing the results, you’ll see HS Tariff code 9506, which is for “articles and equipment for general physical exercise, gymnastics, athletics, other sports (including table-tennis).” What if you’re an exporter of extracts, essences and concentrates of coffee, tea, or roasted chicory? Then your HS Tariff code is “2101.”

The goal is to pick the most specific tariff code for your item. For example, knives with silver handles would have the Tariff Code of 7114.11.10. Tricycles, scooters, and pedal cars would be 9503.00.00.  Perfumed bath salts would be 3307.30.

Using HS Tariff Codes in Stamps.com
To use an HS Tariff code, please select “Commercial Sample” as the Content Type in the Customs Form. You’ll notice some codes are longer than six characters, the maximum limit for the HS Tariff code in the Stamps.com software. Don’t worry: because the HS Tariff classification protocol is used by almost the entire international community, participating countries can add more digits to classify items with more specific detail. However, the first six digits are the same across all participating countries. Because of this, only the first six are used on Stamps.com Customs Forms.

The Customs Form will also ask for a “Country of Origin.” This refers to the origin of the product, not the origin of the mailpiece as a whole. This is required for the sake of security and to prevent any illicit or fraudulent activity, or anything that violates existing export laws.

Once you enter the Itemized Package Content Details, Value, Weight, Country of Origin, and add each line item by clicking on the “Add Item” button, you will be asked to acknowledge the USPS Privacy Act Statement and Restrictions and Prohibitions. Review that, and click OK.

Your form is now ready to print. The HS Tariff Number will appear in a box on the left of your International Shipping Label/Customs Form.

How To Offer Customer Service Through Your Order Fulfillment

June 15th, 2016 Comments off

sdc_ShippingStrategyCustomerServiceTo run a successful business, you need to have great customer service. While brick-and-mortar stores capitalize on the face-to-face communication we often associate with customer service, online businesses can still master the art of communicating with their customers – namely, through their shipping process. Here are five ways to master customer service by improving your shipping strategy.

1. Be clear about shipping expectations
Negative feedback is overwhelmingly related to issues associated with shipping. To hedge your bets and negate this, provide very realistic expectations for when an item should arrive. Be transparent, and explain the difference between shipping (when an item leaves your possession or warehouse to begin its journey to the customer) and delivery (when the package arrives on the buyer’s doorstep). During high-volume times like the holidays, provide a shipping time table that lets buyers see how soon they need to order packages to expect them by Christmas. Always try to get items to the Post Office the day the order was placed or within 24 hours, if possible. If and when packages show up early, buyers will be pleasantly surprised and more likely to leave positive feedback.

2. Include a custom packing slip
Marketplaces like Amazon have strict rules on how you can contact and interact with a buyer. The packing slip is a safe way to connect, and can help personalize the buying experience. Write a brief note within the packing slips thanking buyers for their patronage, letting them know that they are welcome to contact you, if necessary, and leaving the best method of contacting you. This will reassure buyers that you care, and that you’re just a phone call or email away should they need to reach out. The best packing slips I’ve seen also include a handwritten thanks with the signature of the employee that packaged my item. A reported 68% of customers will stop supporting a business if they feel that the company is indifferent towards them. Bring some humanity to the shipping experience and let buyers know you care.

3. Offer a discount for their next purchase
Discounts and coupons encourage repeat salesand demonstrate that you appreciate a customer’s business. As always, you must abide by each marketplace’s rules when offering discounts or coupons. It is legal to extend a discounted offer, but you cannot do so in exchange for positive feedback. A coupon for their next purchase may encourage feedback organically, but you can’t use it an as incentive.

4. Brand your packaging
The more you can make your buyers’ shopping experience stand out, the better. A 10-year study found that brands that can evoke an emotional connection with buyers can effectively charge up to 200% more than competitors. Branding your packaging will contribute to this. If you sell on your own website, you have free rein to package as creatively as you like. That said, you can still offer a unique experience on stricter marketplaces. After you have the appropriate packing materials, like bubble mailers or sturdy boxes, what can you add to set yourself apart from competitors and create a fun experience for customers? What unique addition would make sense with your brand persona? I recently ordered balloons from a small, party supplies seller on Etsy. When the package arrived, I opened the bubble mailer and confetti came out. It was fun, surprising, and totally consistent with the brand. Creating a genuinely fun shipping experience for me set this seller apart from her competitors, and demonstrated to me that she thinks about her customers from start to finish. I loved it, and I will definitely purchase from her again.

5. Make all returns free
We know not every seller is able to make free shipping work with their budget. Free, unconditional returns is a great alternative to offering unlimited free shipping, and benefits the customer and retailer alike. Here’s why:  a reported 49% of consumers believe shipping costs to be the most exasperating aspect of returning an item. Another 88% of consumers would rate free return shipping as either “important” or “very important” when making purchase decisions, and 82% of another test group affirm that they would complete an online purchase if the seller offers free return shipping. Making returns easy and free for the buyer is a great way to nail customer service and promote buyer trust. And if a buyer does make a return, they are more than likely going to shop from you again in the future, if your return shipping is free.

Offering exceptional customer service through your shipping process doesn’t just impress customers – it encourages future purchases, stewards repeat buyers and helps you win out over competitors. Get creative with branding, be generous with returns and communicate with buyers that you’re a reliable and considerate retailer. If you can nail this, you will reap the benefits. Happy selling!

ecomdash_logo_smallEcomdash is an award-winning multichannel inventory software for e-commerce retailers. It offers an end-to-end e-commerce solution to complete workflow, including inventory and sales order management, product listing, dropshipping and fulfillment management, reporting and more.

How To Send Packages To Cuba With Stamps.com

June 1st, 2016 Comments off

Blog_Shipping_Packages_To_CubaSometimes historical forces will affect what and where you’ll be able to mail.  In 1963, mail service was cancelled between the U.S. and Cuba, and mail was sent indirectly through countries such as Mexico and Canada.

However, direct mail service has been restored officially by the USPS as of March 16, 2016, thanks to the recent restoration of diplomatic relations between these former Cold War foes.  This lifting of the ban means that you can now send to Cuba First-Class Mail International® items, First-Class Package International Service® items, and Priority Mail International® Flat Rate Envelopes and Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes.

Printing postage with Stamps.com
You can print postage for these approved mail classes and types to Cuba easily using the Stamps.com program. If you need to send a First-Class Mail International letter or postcard, you can use our NetStamps feature and print postage using an Original NetStamps sheet.

To print International Mail with NetStamps, please follow the steps below:

1. Log in to your software and click on “Stamps.”
2. Under “Postage Details,” select “I want to specify the value for each stamp” by clicking on the white circle.
3. If you are unsure about the postage rate for your mailpiece, click on the icon bearing the image of a globe and the word “Int’l.” to access USPS’ International Mail Calculator.  Select the country, territory, or dependency to which you would like to send mail.  Select the Mailpiece Type and enter the weight of your mailpiece and click “Check Rates.”  You will be given a list of available mail classes and rates for the country you have selected.

For First-Class Mail International Large Envelopes/Flats, First-Class Package International Service, Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelopes and Priority Mail International Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes, you can click on the International tab in the Main Navigation Bar in your software.

Remember that package contents must be declared for U.S. Customs.  Stamps.com has made this process easy by combining shipping labels and U.S. Customs Declaration Forms into a single-sheet label.  You can use our Plain Paper option or a self-adhesive label like our SDC-1200.

Mailing restrictions
If you’re a business, don’t miss out on the opportunity to be part of the new commercial partnerships that will result from the Cuban Thaw.  An easing of trade and travel rules means potential new markets.   We recommend staying abreast of postal regulations on shipments to Cuba, which are maintained by the USPS here: http://pe.usps.gov/text/imm/ce_017.htm.

How to Offer Free Shipping on a Small Budget

May 25th, 2016 Comments off

267203_Blog-Free-Shipping-on-a-Small-Business-BudgetJust as e-commerce evolves, so do its shoppers. Online shoppers span across generations, interests and buying habits. Though we all tend to browse for products a little differently, there’s something just about all online buyers look for when shopping – free shipping. In fact, they almost demand it. One comScore report found the following data regarding free shipping for e-commerce orders:

– 81% of consumers would rate free shipping as a top priority
– 93% of shoppers would take some type of action (add more items to their cart, search online for promo codes, etc.) to qualify for free shipping
– 58% would add items to their cart to qualify for free shipping
– 83% are willing to wait two extra days for delivery, if the item would ship for free

separate report by comScore found that Free Shipping Day 2012 helped increase sales the final week before Christmas by 16% compared to the previous year. That was a boost kicked off from a single day promotion. Imagine what your profit margins would look like if you offered free shipping all the time.

Great stats aside, a small business doesn’t have the budget that an enterprise might, and therefore may not be able to offer free shipping year round. Free shipping is too great an opportunity to pass up, and even small businesses can partake in it. Here are five ways a small e-commerce business can offer free shipping without breaking the bank.

Offer free shipping during holidays
Allowing free shipping during the holidays is a great alternative to offering it all the time, and won’t cost you beyond what you’re able to spend. Orders will be higher during this season, which will help eat the cost of shipping goods for free. Another option is to offer free shipping during a specific holiday. One-day sales and free shipping incentives are popular on Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve/Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Set a minimum cart value
Target does it. There’s no reason you can’t, too. Determine the minimum order value a buyer must purchase in order to qualify for free shipping, and offer it under those conditions. A case study found that when one company added a minimum shopping cart threshold to earn free shipping, orders increased by 90%. Moreover, the average order value also increased by 7.32%. Pull together some numbers to help determine a minimum order value that would work for your business. You need to know:

– Total Orders Received
– Average Order Value
– Average Profit Margin
– Shipping Fees per Order
– Shipping Costs per Order

Once you have these variables, plug them into this calculator, which will tell you your shopping profit. You can then find your minimum shopping cart threshold for free shipping with the following equation:

[(Minimum Cart Value – Average Order Value) x Gross Profit Margin] – Shipping Cost = Minimum Order Value

Plug and play with different estimated Minimum Cart Values to find an order value that works for you.

Offer it to email subscribers
Extending free shipping to customers on your distribution list is essentially creating long-term profits. Subscribers will be the first to be notified of new products, sales, offers and marketing efforts. These customers are already your biggest source of revenue. E-commerce businesses that have 40% of their customers making repeat purchases generate nearly 50% more revenue than other sellers with only 10% of their customers returning. By offering free shipping to your most loyal buyers, you’re encouraging them to make new purchases and shop from you long-term.

Free shipping for returns
More and more online businesses are implementing free returns as part of their return policy. Zappos offers free, unconditional returns for all products (in addition to free shipping). Offering free returns works for small businesses for two reasons: 1) you will pay for return postage only sparingly, and 2) free returns create buyer trust and encourage shoppers to follow through with a purchase…which they likely won’t return, anyways. Researchers found that businesses that offered free shipping on returns saw sales increase by up to 357%. Even if you have to bite the bullet and pay for a few returns, you’ll more than make up that cost with better profits.

Make it available for certain products
If you don’t have room in your budget to offer free shipping on all your products, try making it available for just a few. Have any product you need to move in order to make room for new inventory? Offer to ship it for free. In industry speak, this is called order-level shipping. Offer free shipping on best sellers, sale items, or products that will be popular during a given event. If you’re an online florist, you could offer free shipping on red roses in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Or, if you ordered some new stock and want to test its popularity, advertise it with a free-shipping guarantee. You’ll incentivize people to buy it. If it does well, you’ll feel safe ordering a large quantity from your supplier.

Free shipping positively impacts profit margins and customer relations. It is increasingly becoming the norm across e-commerce industries, and shoppers are growing to expect it. Offer free shipping in a modified way that makes sense for your business, and you can reap the benefits too.

ecomdash_logo_smallEcomdash is an award-winning multichannel inventory software for e-commerce retailers. It offers an end-to-end e-commerce solution to complete workflow, including inventory and sales order management, product listing, dropshipping and fulfillment management, reporting and more.

 

Understanding Package Weight Limits for International Shipping

May 18th, 2016 Comments off

UnderstandingInternationalWeightLimits

You have a Priority Mail International® Small Flat Rate Priced Box ready to be shipped to the country of Antigua and Barbuda. It weighs 5 pounds, but you’re not seeing an option for Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes in the Stamps.com drop-down mailpiece menu. What’s going on? The answer: the maximum weight for a Priority Mail International Small Flat Rate Priced Box is 4 pounds, so your mailpiece weighs too much for this flat rate box.

When preparing international shipments, it’s important to remember that there are weight limits depending on which mail class and packaging you’re using.

For example, the maximum weight for a Priority Mail Express International® Flat Rate Envelope or Small Flat Rate Priced Box is 4 pounds, and 20 pounds for Medium and Large Flat Rate Priced Boxes.

First-Class Mail International® Letters are capped at 3.5 ounces while First-Class Mail International Large Envelopes/Flats, these cannot exceed 4 pounds.

Variations by Country: Availability of Services 
An important aspect to shipping internationally is knowing that services vary by country.

For example, if you’re using Priority Mail International to mail something to Bolivia, Cuba, the Falkland Islands or Ascension Island, you would only be able to use Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelopes and Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes.

Want to ship using Priority Mail Express International Service? Do your homework, as this service is not available for more than 20 countries and dependencies, including Afghanistan, Iran, Greenland, Tuvalu, East Timor (Timor-Leste), and Suriname.

Variations by Country: Weight Limits for Non-Flat-Rate Mailpieces
The absolute maximum weight of all international packages is 70 pounds, but not all countries will accept this maximum weight. For example, 33 pounds is the maximum weight for a package going Priority Mail Express International to Taiwan, but it is 69 pounds for Nepal. Knowing that varying thresholds exist is an important step towards becoming a successful global shipper, and will help you determine what kinds of products you can ship to certain overseas markets.

These thresholds can also vary by mail class for the same country. For example, Bulgaria’s weight limit for Priority Mail Express International packages is 66 pounds, but 70 pounds for Priority Mail International packages.

Looking for a complete chart? You can find one here: http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/immpg.htm or look at individual country listings at: http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/ab_001.htm.

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