10 Tips for Holiday Package Shipping

November 17th, 2010 2 comments

holiday_shippingTo help you prepare for the busy holiday season, here are our ten best holiday shipping tips for ecommerce merchants.  Feel free to leave your own tips in the comments section at the end of the article!

Tip #1 – Ship your products as fast as you can

When a customer orders any product, anticipation for delivery can be high and patience for delays can be low.  To keep your customers happy, be sure to send your products out as fast as you can but be mindful of daily cutoff times for carriers.  If a USPS collection box is picked up at 5 PM, it makes no difference if the package is dropped off at 11 AM or 4:59PM; either way, the USPS won’t start moving that package until 5:00 PM.  If you ship with multiple carriers, make sure you know the daily cutoff times for each carrier to help you prioritize which packages to prepare first.

Tip #2 – Pre-pack your orders if possible

To help prepare for the holiday rush, try and get as much done as possible during the calm before the storm.  One of the best things you can do to prepare is pre-packing orders and marking their weight on the outside of the box.  By making sure everything is ready to go out the door as soon as you throw in a packing slip and slap on a shipping label, you will be ready for orders that come in at the last minute.

Tip #3 – Stock up on supplies before it’s too late

The last thing you want to be dealing with during a busy holiday season is having a sale and the inventory, but nothing to package your order in.  One way to avoid this problem is by ordering enough free USPS supplies today to get you through the holiday season.

Tip #4 – Use the right size box

When planning for your holiday shipping, make sure you have your products in mind.  Obviously, it’s impossible to ship an item in a box that is too small, but small products in a big boxes can be a problem as well.  With FedEx and UPS, you may be overcharged based on the package’s dimensions instead of its weight; for USPS, using the wrong Flat Rate box can more than double the amount you spend in shipping.

Tip #5 – Find the cheapest shipping rate

Another cost-pitfall to avoid is using the wrong delivery method to send your package.  Because there are so many factors that can affect your price (weight, size, dimensions, home delivery, distance, delivery speed, and more), it’s important to do your homework to see what the cheapest option is for each of your products.  Make sure you compare rates using tools like Stamps.com or your carrier’s websites to  get this figured out now so you are ready to focus on generating revenue during the peak of the season.

Tip #6 – Check the delivery address

Sending packages quickly and on the cheap is moot if the package doesn’t end up in the hands of the proper recipient.  To help make sure the address is valid, be sure to use some type of an address cleansing tool like Stamps.com or the USPS zip code lookup tool.  If the address doesn’t cleanse, your best bet is to ask the customer to confirm their address.  Once you have a valid address, make sure you present the address clearly on one side of the package, ideally using a printed shipping label.

Tip #7 – Protect your product

If any of your products are fragile or are in any way at risk of being damaged during transit, be sure to take extra care to properly package these products.  For vases, mugs, or glass cups, make sure you stuff the inside of the item with newspaper or box fill and use bubble wrap or packing paper to protect the product.  For items containing batteries, be sure to remove the batteries if possible to prevent them from dying in transit and to prevent any ticking or beeping that may cause a stir at the Post Office.

Tip #8 – Protect yourself on big packages

If the thought of a lost package or a damaged item has you stressed, there are tools you can use to help you sleep at night.  Signature confirmation, which is available from the USPS, FedEx, and UPS can be used to prove not only that your package was dropped off at a particular destination, but that it was actually received by someone.  The USPS even offers Restricted Delivery which requires the addressed recipient to sign for the package.  Another option is insurance which will allow you to recoup your losses in the event of a mishap.

But be advised as each tool has its drawbacks.   Many honest customers don’t like signature confirmation because if they aren’t home to take possession of the package, they have to go to the Post Office; this will likely be the last thing they want to do on December 24th.  As for insurance, while this can protect you from improper delivery or a problematic customer, it comes at a premium.  Many merchants prefer to self-insure if they can afford the loss rather than letting an insurance company eat into their profits.

Tip #9 – Skip the trip to the Post Office

The USPS will come and pick up your packages from you.  Take advantage of this service to avoid long lines.  For last-minute orders that need to get out same-day, you may  be able to extend your cutoff times by taking a Post Office trip to drop off your package, but for the rest of your shipments that aren’t under a tight deadline, pickup is the way to go.

Tip #10 – Free Shipping

With the majority of merchants offering some type of shipping promotion this holiday season, can you afford to make your customers pay for something they feel they can get for free somewhere else?  Aside from keeping up with your competition, free shipping promos may actually help you improve revenue.  On top of that, if you offer free shipping on December 17th, you can be a featured merchant on freeshippingday.com.

Bonus Tip – Encourage Repeat Business

Inserting flyers, coupons, and freebies into your packages are a great way to drive future sales.  During the holidays, this is particularly important because many orders are gifts so the recipient may not be the person who placed the order.  If they love your product, why not let them know where they can buy it for someone else

If you have any other shipping tips that we may have missed, please leave a comment and let us know!

USPS First Class Mail Tips and Tricks

October 15th, 2010 Comments off

First Class Mail is the most economical way to send a package weighing 13 oz. or less (4 lb max for International Mail).  While it is not a guaranteed delivery service, First Class Mail is generally delivered within 1-3 days for mail sent within the continental United States.  Here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of this inexpensive mail class.

Size Matters

While, most mailers are aware that weight affects postage requirements, it is important to note that the USPS charges different prices depending on the size of First Class Mail.

Depending on the length, width, weight, thickness, and aspect ratio (length divided by height), First Class mail is classified as either a Post Card, Letter, Flat Mail/Large Envelope, or a Package.  Because the USPS charges different prices for each of these mail classes, it is important to know which type of mail you are sending.

To help identify your mailpiece’s appropriate mail class, we have developed the following two tools:

Online First Class Mail Classification Tool: This new page contains a complete breakdown of the characteristics for each type of First Class mail.  Includes step-by-step instructions to help determine your mail class.

Shape Based Template: This new product developed by Stamps.com is the easiest way to determine which type of First Class mail you have.  As shown below, simply place your mail piece in the corner of this template and use the color-coded guide to determine your mail class and whether or not it is subject to any non-machinable surcharges.  This tool is available from the Stamps.com Store for only $7.99.

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How to send First Class Mail with Delivery Confirmation

Did you know that packages are the only First Class Mail class that can be sent with Delivery Confirmation?  An easy way to turn a First Class mailpiece into a package is to make sure it is at least ¾” thick at any point.  Once a mailpiece is more than ¾” thick, the USPS considers the mailpiece to be a thick envelope which is subject to package rates.  Although packages require slightly more postage than letters and large envelopes, this is the cheapest way to send a mailpiece with delivery confirmation.  For added security, you can also use signature confirmation on First Class Mail packages; if you are a PayPal shipper, this is important as PayPal requires Signature Confirmation for any item over $250 in value.

 

First Class Mail International – Cheapest Way to Send Internationally

If you are looking to send mail internationally, First Class Mail International is the cheapest shipping method available for items 4 lbs and under.  As an example, a 9-ounce package sent from the US to Italy is only $9.04 with First Class International compared to $12.78 to send the same shipment using a Priority Mail International Small Flate-Rate box.  With Stamps.com, you can print postage for any international mail class, including customs forms.

X-Cart USPS Shipping Label Module Now Available

September 30th, 2010 1 comment

xcart-shopping-cartStamps.com is excited to announce our new integration with X-Cart shopping cart software!  X-Cart is a popular, web-based shopping cart platform designed to simplify launching and maintaining an ecommerce store.  X-Cart is available both as a free trial version and professional, paid solution.  X-Cart Gold has support for up to 20,000 products and is a great starting point for small-medium ecommerce companies looking to grow their sales online.

Here are some of the major features available to X-Cart customers:

  • Enhanced customer security with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) Compliance
  • Email Marketing integration from MailChimp
  • PayPal payment integration
  • Enlarge Image Functionality
  • Web-Based Administration

To make mailing and shipping easier than ever, Stamps.com’s new integration allows merchants to print pre-paid USPS shipping labels for any X-Cart order.  With Stamps.com, you can quickly and easily import orders from X-Cart and batch print shipping labels for any mail class, including First Class Mail International mail with customs forms.  Once you have printed your labels, Stamps.com will even post shipment information back to X-Cart.

Categories: Ecommerce Shipping Tags:

SCORE Gives Stamps.com Customers Access to FREE Expert Business Advice!

September 23rd, 2010 Comments off

SCORE

At Stamps.com we’re always looking for ways to help our customers succeed. That’s why we’re proud to announce our new partnership with SCORE, America’s premier source for FREE, confidential small business advice. SCORE offers both online and in-person advice to help small business owners maximize their potential and improve their business skills.

Let’s face it, sometimes a small business owner simply needs a sounding board to discuss new business opportunities or current challenges. That’s where SCORE’s team of experienced mentors comes in. How does it work? Simply go to http://www.score.org/ and search for a mentor with the expertise you need. Your SCORE mentor will usually get back to you within 48 hours.

With SCORE, you can also take advantage of free online workshops. Topics include everything from making your business more competitive to managing your finances to marketing your business to motivating your employees.

Assisting over 20,000 new businesses a year, SCORE is a valuable asset for businesses of all shapes and sizes. And with over 12,000 expert volunteer mentors, SCORE has the resources you need to help you and your business grow and thrive.

Click here to learn more about SCORE and get your free business advice.

Categories: Small Business Marketing Tags:

Free Webinar: Holiday Shipping Best Practices 9/22 at 11AM PT

September 18th, 2010 Comments off

EDIT: Thanks to everyone who joined our webinar!  If you missed the webinar, click here for a replay.

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Join Stamps.com for a FREE webinar to learn more about how to optimize your holiday shipping program.

What: Free webinar to discuss USPS shipping best practices for the busy holiday season

When: Wednesday, September 22, 2010, at 11:00 am PT / 2:00 pm ET

Where: Register at  https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/189058627

Topics Covered: With the busiest shipping and mailing time of the year just around the corner, small businesses and e-commerce merchants can boost their profitability by implementing the latest time-saving shipping tools and techniques. In this 60-minute webinar, Stamps.com shipping experts will discuss how to:

  • Add a sense of urgency to increase early sales.
  • Provide a hassle-free shopping experience.
  • Package merchandise to minimize damage and returns.
  • Test pricing and free shipping offers.
  • Streamline shipping with batch processing.

Don’t miss this opportunity to optimize your shipping practices and boost overall profitability!

Call us toll-free at 1-888-434-0055, Monday - Friday, 6 AM - 6 PM Pacific Time.