USPS now offering Priority Mail Flat Rate Precious Cargo Boxes

September 23rd, 2016 Comments off

Blog_SDC_Precious CargoThe United States Postal Service recently introduced new Priority Mail Flat Rate Precious Cargo BoxesTM to its lineup of shipping materials. Here’s what you need to know.

What are they?

These new Flat Rate boxes, fitted with polyethylene foam dots and inserts, are designed to give customers a more secure way to ship valuable items like smartphones and laptops. Three types of boxes are available:

Precious Cargo Table

It’s worth noting that these new boxes can’t be used for damaged or defective recalled devices unless specifically approved by USPS.

How much do they cost?

Customers using these new boxes will be charged Priority Mail Flat Rate postage, but will also be charged an additional cost for the boxes. The small box costs $6.99, the medium box costs $12.99 and the large box costs $15.99.

Where do I get them?

A pilot test for these boxes began Sept. 1 and will last approximately six months, according to a recent Postal Bulletin article. During the pilot, boxes can only be purchased through the Postal Store.

Shipping Policy Best Practices

September 12th, 2016 Comments off

SDC Blog Ecommerce Shipping PoliciesClearly laying out shipping policies on your ecommerce website helps your customers better manage their expectations and helps your position as the seller should there be a dispute. Here are tips to help ensure all shoppers understand your ecommerce store’s shipping methods, options and timelines.

– Start fresh and be clear. Although it may be tempting to cut and paste another store’s policy or direct language from your preferred shipping carrier, it’s important to customize your policies. Keep in mind, also, that although you’ve taken the time to educate yourself about the ins and outs of shipping, your customers usually haven’t. Stay away from industry jargon and work to use language anyone can understand. At the same time, avoid peppering your policies with stern absolutes or language that may feel threatening to shoppers, such as “you must.”

– Resist temptation to inflate shipping costs. Yes, you can account for handling and packaging costs, but shoppers are wary of prices that seem out of line with the competition’s. Building a strong customer base is just as important as adding a few extra dollars to the coffers.

– Consider shipping promotions. Sending out a free shipping code to customers every so often, offering limited-time free or reduced shipping, or throwing in free shipping for large orders helps shoppers develop loyalty to your store.

– Be realistic about timelines. Once you choose your shipping methods, lay out the timelines and costs. If you would like to offer expedited or less expensive options as well as your standard shipping choice, be sure to include those terms too.

– Make your return policy easy to find. Don’t hide this information, because many shopping decisions are dependent on return options. Put a prominent link to your policy on your home page and consider putting the link on banners and product pages, too.

– Explicitly explain returns. Being upfront now will save you hassles down the line. Make sure you take into account any differences in policy due to personalized or seasonal items, the acceptable timeframe for returns, and whether you will offer a refund, replacement or store credit.

– Account for delays. If your product takes extra time to produce (such as custom orders) or properly prepare for shipping, be sure to state that upfront. This goes for potential holiday delays and international shipping, too.

– Be accountable. Obviously, if you ship the wrong product or the customer receives damaged merchandise, promptly make it right—even if you cut into your profit margin to do so.

– Offer tracking. Automated updates are easy to set up with services like Stamps.com, and offer your customers peace of mind. However, if you sell certain high-cost or high-risk items, be aware of a growing criminal movement that redirects these shipments depending on carrier policies. Of course, you will want to communicate with your customers if their transactions fall in this category and explain your actions.

USPS Updates Standards for Shipping Firearms

September 1st, 2016 Comments off

SDC Firearms Blog PostThe United States Postal Service recently revised their rules regarding “Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail.” While most changes were done in order to correct erroneous references and provide greater clarity to existing language, anyone shipping firearms should know that the following language has been added:

“All regulated firearms must be mailed using a USPS product or Extra Service that provides tracking and signature capture at delivery.”

Also worth noting is a change to the requirements for mailing rifles and shotguns (Section 432.3), which now states that these items must include “Signature Confirmation service or insured mail service (for more than $500) requiring a signature at delivery.” That insured mail service amount is up from $200.

While these changes to the firearm requirements are fairly minor, this update serves as a good opportunity to remind shippers about USPS content restrictions.

Here are some resources we think you’ll find helpful:

– USPS to Limit Shipping of Hoverboards—This blog post explains restrictions for shipping “hoverboards,” also known as motorized balance boards. The USPS implemented restrictions due to safety concerns and the risk of fire caused by the lithium batteries used to power hoverboards.

– While on the subject of batteries, this blog post details USPS standards for mailing lithium batteries.

– USPS International Restrictions by Country—Anyone who wants to ship to customers outside of the U.S. will want to take a look.

– Keep up with all USPS News on the Stamps.com blog.

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

SDC Blog Address BookBefore 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.

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