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Christmas in July? 5 Reasons Why it Pays to Plan Ahead for the Holiday Selling Season

July 21st, 2016 Comments off

Christmas in July Blog PostThe weather outside may not be frightful…but successful ecommerce is so delightful! And just imagine how delightful it will feel just a few months from now when you fully appreciate your advance preparation for the 2016 holiday season. Remember, many retailers find November and December alone makes up as much as 30 percent of their yearly revenue. It definitely pays to be proactive in planning, even if you’re presently thinking more about sandcastles than Santa.

Here are 5 reasons why it pays to get into the holiday selling spirit well in advance.

1. Your customers are already thinking ahead. Google Trends indicates searches for “Christmas Gift Ideas” begin in August and only go up from there. With a plethora of holidays stacking up once October hits – including Yom Kippur, Halloween and Thanksgiving – almost everyone gets busier and more frazzled as the year draws to a close.

2. Non-calendar holidays are key. You know about Black Friday (Nov. 25) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 28), but these aren’t the only retail-friendly dates to mark on your calendar. They may not appear on everyone’s to-do list, but as an ecommerce seller, you absolutely need to be prepared for Green Monday (Dec. 12), a shopping holiday similar to Cyber Monday that tends to fall on the second Monday of December, and Free Shipping Day (Dec. 16), a one-day event when merchants are encouraged to offer this perk with guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery. Create a holiday calendar so you know exactly which ecommerce promotions you’ll be participating in so you can be sure to plan accordingly as well as alert your customers.

3. Expanded holiday payment options and generous return policies appeal to shoppers. Many retailers extend additional payment options, discounts and loosened return windows during the busy holiday season. By taking the time to consider these factors now, you can make informed decisions once the busiest shopping season begins.

4. Intuitive mobile platforms attract shoppers on the go. Studies have shown that mobile shoppers make quicker purchasing decisions than desktop users. If you haven’t already done so, optimize your mobile site now to make it more responsive to mobile browsing.

5. Connecting with customers can benefit your bottom line. Whether it’s a curated Pinterest board of your holiday gift ideas, enthusiastic Tweets about products or personal emails to customers, your social media and personalized marketing can have a big impact on customers, especially during the stressful shopping season. Start your campaigns now by reaching out via abandoned-cart and after-sales emails or posting “Only 130 shopping days left!” teasers on social media. The more you connect with customers, the more you can be sure to offer them the products they want.

The bottom line
It’s often said that the days are long, but the years are short — so don’t let the holiday shopping season sneak up on you. Take steps now to consider your options and plan ahead for the busiest shopping season of the year. That way, when fall rolls around, you’ll be prepared to celebrate a successful season.

USPS Changes Customs Form Acceptance

July 14th, 2016 Comments off

Blog_USPS Changes Customs Form AcceptanceUnless you’re dropping a shipment off at the Post Office retail counter, customs declaration forms (AKA customs forms) for packages being sent internationally through USPS must now be completed and submitted online. In other words, no more filling out these forms by hand without making a trip to the Post Office.

According to a recent letter to its customers, USPS has discontinued preprinted, hardcopy customs declaration forms PS Form 2976 (one-page form), PS Form 2976-A (multi-page form) and PS Form 2976-B (Priority Mail Express International form). After June 3, 2016, the Postal Service will return improperly presented items to the sender for proper entry and acceptance.

What does this mean for Stamps.com customers?
Since Stamps.com software auto-completes integrated customs forms and electronically submits customs data to USPS, this means our customers aren’t impacted by this change. Customers can continue to use our software to print their customs forms and include the appropriate forms with international shipments.

Anyone not using a PC Postage provider like Stamps.com or USPS Click-N-Ship has a couple different options during the transition, according to USPS:

– Visit the Post Office—as previously mentioned, customers can visit their local Post Office retail counter to complete the replacement PS Form 2976-R hardcopy form. The customer must give the completed form to a retail associate to complete the transaction.

– Go online—Create an electronic customs form by visiting https://www.usps.com/customsforms and entering the appropriate information. You can then print the form and apply it to your package with your postage. You can then use your current method to induct your packages into the mailstream.

The plastic pouches used to enclose and attach the customs form to the package are still available online – order these envelopes and other USPS supplies for free at the Stamps.com Store!

Free: 2016 USPS Priority Mail Rate Comparison Guide

July 7th, 2016 Comments off

268721_Blog-and-Facebook-2016-USPS-Priority-Mail-Rate-Comparison-GuideStamps.com’s Free USPS Priority Mail Rate Comparison Guide has been updated to include 2016 rates! This guide features an easy-to-use grid that allows shippers to determine rates for Priority Mail packages by zone.

Shippers no longer need to guess which Priority Mail product is the most cost effective for their packages.  Using the grid in this guide, you can view rates from lowest to highest for each package weight and zone combination.

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Note:  Regional Rate Box C has been removed since this product is no longer available.

Priority Mail Shipping Tips:

– Priority Mail Flat Rate Padded Envelopes are a great option to lower shipping costs. The Padded Envelope is flexible enough to include a small box inside to protect your items, but you are charged for only the low shipping cost of an envelope!

– For products like shoes and clothing, Priority Mail Regional Rate Box A is the lowest cost option for packages traveling across the U.S. and weighing between 3 lbs. and 15 lbs.

download-PDF

Download the FREE Priority Mail Rate Comparison Guide (PDF file) now!

Plan Now For Possible Canada Post Disruption

June 29th, 2016 Comments off

canadapost_distrupt_600Do you mail or ship to Canada? Canada Post recently sent a notice to customers regarding a possible service disruption on or around July 2, 2016, as a result of a labor dispute between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

What does this mean for anyone mailing and shipping to and from Canada?

“In the event of a full labour disruption, Canada Post will not operate,” Canada Post is warning customers. “Mail and parcels will not be delivered, and no new items will be accepted. Any mail and parcels within the postal system during a work disruption will be secured and delivered as quickly as possible once operations resume.”

What can you do?

– If you have recently sent mail or packages to Canada or have any pending shipments, Stamps.com recommends monitoring the situation closely

– If your ecommerce business ships to Canada, update your policy page to notify customers about potential delays and to make clear that you won’t be able to ensure Canada-bound deliveries

– Visit the Canada Post Negotiations Updates page for more information and to sign up for email updates

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.

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