The Lowdown on Parcel Lockers

February 23rd, 2017 Comments off

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You’re tracking a mailpiece and the status shows “Delivered/Parcel Locker.” What does that mean?  This could mean that your recipient is using a cluster box unit (CBU) or an outdoor parcel locker (OPL).

You’ve probably seen CBUs in your neighborhood, either in a free-standing, pedestal-mounted configuration outside of a building, or mounted on the wall of the lobby of an apartment complex. They may have decorative tops, or appear in a standard rectangular configuration. They could be arranged vertically or horizontally, have eight individual mailboxes, or maybe 16.

All of them accomplish the same thing: they provide centralized mail delivery for the USPS. And because they bring down costs and increase efficiency, cluster box units and parcel lockers are increasingly favored by the USPS over traditional door-to-door delivery.

Outdoor parcel lockers also come in different shapes, sizes, and configurations. Shared by tenants of a building, a USPS-approved OPL allows mailers to conveniently receive large packages from the USPS in a secure and locked receptacle. OPLs reduce the inefficiency that comes with multiple delivery attempts when a package doesn’t fit into a standard mailbox.

The Lowdown on Lockers

Keep in mind too that the delivery status of “Delivered/Parcel Locker” may change depending on the type of locker it is: the status could refer to a third-party locker service (e.g. “Delivered/Partner Parcel Locker”) or to an Amazon Parcel Locker, which allows Amazon.com customers to pick up (and also return) a package from a special location (such as a supermarket) after receiving an email alert and a special pickup code.

USPS gopost

Besides Amazon Lockers and third-party electronic package lockers, there is another alternative provided directly by the USPS: gopost self-service kiosk units. These are great for mailers who are out of town or who do not want packages directly shipped to their homes.

The gopost service is convenient: if you live in an apartment building, you can avoid having your large packages sitting outside your door or next to your mailbox for a long period of time. Gopost offers security and peace of mind

Even better, the gopost service can be used to ship packages. For example, you could also buy a gift for a loved one at a shopping center and ship it out via a gopost locker. This is a situation in which Stamps.com can help!

How does it work? If you want to mail a package via a locker, it needs to have prepaid postage with an embedded barcode. Stamps.com, as a PC Postage service, is your complete mailing and shipping solution, and using Stamps.com postage is a USPS-approved method of creating postage for a gopost locker!

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What you need to know about mailing plants

December 16th, 2016 Comments off

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You’re in Arizona and interested in sending a cactus to a friend in New York. Or you’re in Minnesota and want to send a Japanese maple to your mother in Oregon. Can you do this?

You can mail certain plants within the United States. However, keep in mind that when mailing plants, flowers, roots, seeds, and trees, there are rules governing how and if they can travel through the mailstream. It’s important to note that you, as the mailer, have the responsibility to ensure your mailing activity does not violate any law. USPS Publication 14 is a great place to start.

Threatened and Endangered Plants

One reasons regulations are in place is to protect threatened and endangered species. Not sure if what you want to mail is protected? Take a look at this database of endangered plants maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some threatened and endangered plants of California, for example, include the Baja rose (Rosa minutifolia), Santa Inez goldenbanner (Thermopsis macrophylla), and the Yreka phlox (Phlox hirsuta).

Pests and Diseases

Rules are also in place to ensure that plant pests and diseases do not spread and wreak havoc to industries and ecosystems. Therefore, for domestic mail, some plants that may be infested by insects or sickened by plant diseases may be subject to quarantine. Further information can be found at this USPS resource.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) maintains a useful database of information on plant pests and diseases here: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/planthealth

It’s important to stay current to avoid penalties.  Read up on pests. The coconut rhinoceros beetle, for example, detected in Hawaii, can do serious damage to coconut trees, and also feeds on commercial crops such as bananas, sugarcane, papayas, and pineapples. Citrus diseases like Citrus Black Spot and Sweet Orange Scab can also do damage to commercially important crops and production.

Other Domestic Guidelines

Individual states may have restrictions as well, so it’s always good practice to check with local plant health divisions before you mail any plant. For example, citrus plants are prohibited from entering California from other U.S. states. Fresh flowers of jade vine and Mauna Loa from Hawaii cannot be imported into the U.S. mainland and Alaska.

 International Mail

For international mail, plants (along with seeds, plant materials, fruits and vegetables), are subject to the USPS prohibitions and restrictions as well as the quarantine regulations of the destination country. For example, you need a plant health certificate if you’re mailing plants, seeds, or bulbs to France, and the United Kingdom also requires an import permit issued for plant shipments. Individual country listings and restrictions can be reviewed here.

 Preparing your shipment

When packing plants, the USPS requires the use of strong waterproof material, such as waxed Kraft paper, to maintain the moisture in the plant roots, but also to secure your mailpiece against leakage and damage during transit. Thorny plants should be wrapped in puncture-proof paper, and the tops of plant bundles should also be wrapped and covered.

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Making Winter Delivery Easy and Safe for USPS

December 9th, 2016 Comments off

Stamps.com Blog Clearing a path for the USPS this winterSometimes a record-setting snowstorm can cause the closing of schools, banks, state offices, businesses, highways and roads. However, as a Stamps.com user, you can help reduce further disruptions by preparing your home and business for USPS Pickups during wintertime.

Safety and accessibility are key issues for the USPS, so remember to keep your driveways and sidewalks clear of snow, sleet, slush, ice and debris. Check your home’s access points every day. Make sure you clear any piles created by a local snow plow. Spread sand and salt at USPS vehicle stopping points.

The USPS will aim to reach every address this winter season, but keep in mind that if an access area is deemed a hazard, a delivery or pickup may not occur. Whether it is a patch of ice or six feet of snow, winter conditions can cause serious injuries for carriers.

You can also assist USPS carriers by ensuring snow isn’t piled up on, against, and around porch steps, curbside mailboxes, overhangs, and centralized cluster box units. For curbside boxes, a good rule of thumb is to remove enough snow to ensure that the carrier can reach the box from the delivery vehicle.

 

Scheduling a Free USPS Pickup

The winter season is a great opportunity to reach out to loved ones with letters, cards and postcards. If you have a home-based business, it’s also a great opportunity to increase your holiday sales. Don’t let snow get in the way of that! Make sure your home is accessible, safe, and ready for the USPS so that you can have a stress-free mailing season.

As a Stamps.com user, you can schedule a free USPS Pickup of your Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and First Class Mail International packages.

Print your shipping labels using the easy-to-use Packages section of our software. After that, you can click “USPS Pickup” on the left side of your screen, in the blue navigation toolbar. Select the packages that need to be picked up and click on the gray “Schedule Pickup” button.

Before you hit “Submit,” you can enter any special instructions for your carrier and also specify the package location by selecting one of the following options: Front Door, Back Door, Side Door, Knock on Door/Ring Bell, Mail Room, Office, Reception, or Other. Just make sure access to the package locations is snow-free!

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How to Provide Free Shipping This Cyber Monday

November 18th, 2016 Comments off

Stamps.com Blog Free Shipping

We are big fans of free shipping. Who wouldn’t be? Customers rave about it and it makes conversion easier for sellers. What’s not to love about that? So, imagine our surprise when we learned that offering free shipping during the biggest ecommerce holiday of the year does not significantly impact sales.

ecomdash Free ShippingThe numbers don’t lie. Customers appear generally more willing to pay for shipping on Cyber Monday than normal. But this contradicts traditional knowledge about the positive impact of offering free shipping on ecommerce sales. As business owners, you have a decision to make. Should you use this customer data to remove free shipping and increase your revenue on Cyber Monday? Some people would be extremely uncomfortable doing so, while others would just look at it as a smart business decision.

Luckily, there’s a third option. You can still offer free shipping, but make your customers to earn it. This allows you to maximize revenue from customers who don’t mind paying for shipping on Cyber Monday without punishing your returning customers who are used to receiving free shipping. Here are a few of the ways you can get your customers to earn free shipping on Cyber Monday.

Spend X Amount

This is one of the most common ways that online retailers chose to offer free shipping. Rather than giving every order free shipping, they incentive customers to spend more money to earn it. It’s a simple tradeoff that has been statistically proven to increase both sales and revenue.

Kissmetrics found that presenting a minimum threshold for free shipping on an ecommerce site increased conversion by 26 percent. Average order value increased by 5 percent. The most important part of the process is calculating what the minimum order value needs to be. Pro ecommerce sellers use the formula below to make sure they are getting the most bang for their buck on free shipping.

ecomdash MOV

Create an Account

There are tons of great guides for ecommerce email marketing that will increase your retention and strengthen your connection with your customers, but you can’t even begin email marketing if you don’t capture email addresses. Cyber Monday is likely to be your highest selling day of the year, and if you let it pass by without collecting as many emails as possible, you’ve lost a ton of momentum that you won’t be able to easily get back.

Having customers create an account to receive free shipping is a great way to get the most out of the Cyber Monday mob. Depending on the information you request when they create the account, you can also segment your email marketing based on their gender, age, and interests, ensuring that your marketing hours are being spent in the most effective way.

Add an Item

This method is especially effective if you have items in your store that aren’t moving as fast as other items. Allow your customers to bundle a related accessory with their purchase to earn the free shipping. You get a higher order value and clear up more inventory space. The customer in turn feels as if they’re getting more out of their order, and a discount on shipping.

The item you choose to bundle should be something that a customer would need to go with their new purchase. If you’re selling guitars, your add-on item could be guitar strings or picks. If you’re selling makeup, you can bundle compact mirrors. This makes you look like you care about the buyer beyond their initial purchase.

Share Purchase on Social Media

There are tons of benefits to creating and maintaining a community of your customers on social media.

– Gives you an opportunity to humanize your brand
– Centralizes customer reviews that help new buyers convert
– Raises search engine ranking by adding to your link network
– Allows your customers a location to gather and form a culture surrounding your brand
– Provides a simple venue for quick customer feedback

That’s all easier said than done. Building a social media audience is not simple. One way to kick-start it is to incentivize your customers to share your brand on social media by offering them free shipping in exchange for hitting the share button. It supercharges your social presence by demonstrating that customers excited about your products. Not only have your customers showed off your brand to all their followers, but you now have access to your customers’ accounts.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of offering free shipping can’t be ignored. It keeps customers happy and increases conversion rates. But we also can’t ignore the raw data and revenue opportunities provided to us by Cyber Monday. This is one case where you can truly have your cake and eat it too. However you choose to allow customers to earn free shipping during the ecommerce holiday, make sure that it gives you key assets such as emails or an increased social presence. This allows you to capture momentum from the selling season and carry it with you into 2017. Harness your success and build upon it for the future. Now that’s an incentive we all want to earn.

Dion BearyAbout the author: Dion Beary writes about ecommerce for ecomdash, an ecommerce automation software system. He has more pairs of Chuck Taylors than any one person needs.

 

What you need to know about discounted military USPS shipping

November 4th, 2016 Comments off

SDC Blog Military Mail Discount1Here’s something to keep in mind as we approach the busy holiday season—did you know you can receive a $2 discount off the flat rate of a Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box? As a Stamps.com customer you already receive the discounted Commercial Base rate of $16.35 for the Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box (it costs $16.75 at the Post Office) if you use a barcoded shipping label. You can get an even deeper discount when shipping to military (APO/FPO/DPO) addresses! This discount can be activated whether you’re sending mail to a military post, a U.S. Navy vessel, or a U.S. embassy.  

How does it work?
In the Stamps.com software, enter an APO address in the domestic packages section.  If it’s a valid APO/FPO/DPO address, this will automatically activate the Priority Mail Military Large Flat Rate Box discount and you’ll see the price drop to $14.35!

Selecting the right label
Please note: you only have the ability to receive the discount on barcoded shipping labels. This means that you should use printing supplies in the Packages section like the Standard 4 x 6 Plain Paper option, the SDC-1200 label, a Generic 4 x 6 Shipping Label, or the Narrow 2 x 7 ½ Shipping Label.

The APO/FPO/DPO Large Flat Rate Box  
If you’re sending mail at this discounted rate, you can use the specialized Priority Mail APO/FPO Large Flat Rate Box, which features an “America Supports You” logo and APO/FPO addressing block, can be ordered for free from the Stamps.com Online Store.

Additional resources
If you are shipping to military addresses during the holidays, you’ll want to take a look at these USPS shipping cutoffs. Need some tips on how to format an APO/FPO/DPO address? You can also download our FREE USPS Military Mail Guide for more helpful pointers. This guide provides step-by-step details on how to ship a package to a military address.

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