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Stamps.com Blog

Get the latest information on the mailing and shipping industry.

USPS Announces Changes to Certain Rates and Services

August 24th, 2016 Comments off

279384_Postage-Rate-change_blogIf you haven’t already done so, mark your calendar for August 28, 2016, which is when the United States Postal Service® is implementing a handful of changes.  If you have questions, we have answers.

First-Class Mail Parcel Retail Rates Are Rising

What’s changing?

The Retail (Post Office) rate for First-Class Mail® Parcel packages weighing 1-3 ounces is increasing from $2.45 to $2.62.

Note:  Commercial Base rates are not changing and will continue to start at $2.60 for First-Class Mail® Parcel packages.

What’s the new rate going to be for Stamps.com customers?

With this price change, Stamps.com customers will pay the Commercial Base rate of $2.60 for packages weighing 1-3 ounces.  This online price is 2 cents cheaper than the retail rate of $2.62.

USPS changed First-Class Package Service rates back in January, creating a unique situation at the time where the Retail rate for First-Class Package Service ($2.45) was actually lower than the Commercial Base (discounted online) pricing ($2.60) for packages weighing 1-3 ounces.  Stamps.com automatically gave customers the lower Retail rate ($2.45) when this happened.

What do I need to do to get the updated rates?

There’s no action needed for Stamps.com customers.  We will automatically update all USPS rates inside the software and the Stamps.com Online web-based version.  You will see the new rates automatically.

Other changes starting August 28:

Priority Mail Express International service to Cuba will be available for Flat Rate Envelopes up to 4 pounds and parcels up to 22 pounds. Currently, Cuba receives First-Class Mail International®, First-Class Package International Service® and Priority Mail International® items from the Postal Service.  Learn how to use Stamps.com to ship to Cuba.

Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelopes and Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes will move to the air parcel stream with access to tracking and insurance. Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelopes and Small Flat Rate Boxes, which will still be limited to a maximum weight of 4 pounds, will now also be required to carry a PS Form 2976-A Customs Form.

Keeping Your Stamps.com Address Book Current

August 11th, 2016 Comments off

Address Book Blog PostBefore you send direct mail pieces to your customers, take a moment to think about your address data. Is all your contact information accurate and up-to-date?

Here are a few tips to help maintain data integrity when it comes to your address book:

1. Check for deliverability.Make sure addresses are deliverable before you manually enter or import them into your address book. Complete an audit of your database every year and include salutation information to understand who your customers are and target them better.

2. Remove duplicate addresses.You don’t want to send the same mail piece to the same address several times. Not only is it a waste of money and resources, but also your customers are less likely to be excited to receive the same communication several times.

3. Use ancillary endorsements on First-Class Mail®. This practice will tremendously help your mailing operations and save your business a lot of money in the long run. This free service (“Address Service Requested” is included on your mail piece) lets you know if the recipient has moved and gives you the opportunity to resend your message to the correct address.

Easily Maintain Your Address Book in Stamps.com 
Stamps.com has a built-in Address Book that enables you to store and manage customer addresses. You can manually add addresses or import them into Stamps.com from an address book like Act, QuickBooks or Outlook. All addresses will pass through the USPS Address Matching System, ensuring that your addresses are deliverable. Stamps.com also gives you the option of sorting through addresses in your address book so you can only choose to print postage for a certain group of customers depending on your business need. Stamps.com also has a useful “Group” feature that allows you to segment your customers based on their behavior. For example, you can send a thank you note or postcard to all customers who purchased your product or products in a certain month.

5 Tips for Shipping Books

August 4th, 2016 Comments off

277753_New-creative-request-blog-images-Stamps-1If you sell new or used books, you’re likely seeing an upswing in sales as the start of school approaches, with back-to-school retail expected to rise 2.6 percent compared to 2015 and ecommerce alone jumping 15.3 percent during the same period, according to eMarketer.

While it’s true back-to-school keeps booksellers busy, books are popular with shoppers year-round. Reviewing your options regarding book shipping can help streamline your business’ process plus help your bottom line. The United States Postal Service’s Media Mail Service – formerly known as Book Rate – is a cost-efficient method of shipping educational materials, and is calculated purely on weight and size.  This makes Media Mail a great option for ecommerce sellers who deal in books and other heavy media items.

The table below illustrates the vast price difference for mailing four books, weighing 15 pounds total, from San Francisco to Atlanta (Zone 8).

USPS Shipping Choice

Price

Media Mail

$9.33

Priority Mail

$44.85
Priority Mail Flat Rate – Large Box

$16.35

Now that you know a bit about Media Mail, here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re shipping books:

– Understand Media Mail Service’s requirements. Media Mail is restricted to books of at least eight pages, including play scripts and manuscripts; CDs/DVDs; sheet music; computer-readable media, 16mm or narrower film; printed test materials and reference charts; and loose-leaf pages and finders of medical information intended for medical professionals and hospitals. Items that do not qualify for Media Mail Service include advertising materials, loose photos and comic books.

– Be honest about what you’re sending. If you choose to use Media Mail, understand that in return for lower cost, you are also permitting postal inspectors to open and look over your mailing to ensure it’s eligible for the special rate.

– Expect slower shipping times. USPS deems Media Mail lower priority for delivery, so if speed is an issue, you may want to explore other options.

– Consider multiple shipping options. While Media Mail Service is designed to account for the weight of books and other educational material, sometimes it’s even cheaper to use Priority Mail’s flat rate packaging, especially if you’re sending several items together, or unusually heavy books.

– Stamps.com makes sending via Media Mail simple. The service’s Cost Codes feature makes it easy to differentiate eligible Media Mail shipments from your other products, and it’s even possible to print out a mailing label that hides the amount spent on shipping.

The Bottom Line
The Media Mail service provides ecommerce sellers with a consistently low-cost method of shipping books and other educational materials that can add up weight-wise under other shipping methods’ pricing. Understand the requirements and the tradeoffs versus faster options, and prove to your customers – and yourself – how book smart you are as an ecommerce seller!

The Correct Use of Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelopes

July 29th, 2016 Comments off

Stamps.com2Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelopes feature one low flat rate, so price is determined by the box or envelope you choose and not by the weight or distance the package is traveling.  Flat Rate Envelopes can help save you a lot of money.

Not sure if your package will pass as a Priority Mail Flat Rate® Envelope?  Here are a few guidelines to help you decide:

1. If it fits, it ships.If you are able to easily close the prefabricated folds of your Flat Rate Envelope, you should be good.  However, if using tape or an insert is the only way to get your Flat Rate Envelope to close, then you will be required to use a different mail class.

2. Use tape to reinforce, not close.You can use tape to reinforce the seams of the Flat Rate Envelope, but the amount of tape being used should not encase the envelope!    

3. Flat refers to price, not shape.With Flat Rate Envelopes, bulges and thickness may not matter. Flat Rate Envelopes are best suited for documents, but if you choose to send another type of item (up to 70 pounds), it should not reconstruct or expand the envelope in any way. As long as the envelope closes within the normal folds, bulges will not matter. There is no maximum thickness for Flat Rate Envelopes.

Still not sure what a reconstructed Flat Rate Envelope looks like?  Take a look at the image below:

Reconstructed-Latest

What happens if you use a reconstructed Flat Rate Envelope?

If you use a reconstructed envelope, know that the USPS may charge you according to weight and zone –in other words, Flat Rate pricing won’t apply. You may also have to repackage the item if it runs the risk of damage during transit.

Note: You can order Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelopes from the Stamps.com Store.

What happens if the USPS rep denies your Flat Rate Envelope?

If your package meets all the guidelines above, but a USPS rep still denies it, you may point them to the DMM regulation around Flat Rate Envelopes which can be found here:  http://pe.usps.com/text/dmm100/flat-rate-reference.htm.

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.

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