5 Ways Shippers Can Beat the Postage Increase

A penny increase in the price of a First-Class™ stamp is unlikely to break the bank.

But the USPS® postage increase that took effect on January 27, 2013 could have a big impact on any organization that sends parcels, overnights or packages. In addition to new rules, new options and new services, some shipping rates have increased by up to 7% or more.

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Fortunately, the new USPS guidelines also provide you with many opportunities to save, depending on the shipping services you select and how you prepare your parcels. Take the right steps, and you can turn the new rules resulting from the postage increase to your advantage—actually reducing the time, effort and cost of shipping.  Savvy shippers should rely on these five best practices.

1. Never pay retail

Many businesses bring their parcels and packages to the USPS and pay for postage at the window. In addition to all the time and gas spent driving to the Post Office™ (not to mention waiting in line), these companies end up paying retail rates for parcels and overnights.

With the latest postage increase, now is a smart time to print your own postage in the comfort of your store or office. Online postage stamp solutions make it easy to print shipping labels and manage shipments anytime. In addition to saving hours each month, you’ll also qualify for what the USPS calls “Commercial Base Pricing.”

Available on Priority Mail®, Priority Mail Express™ and First-Class Mail® Package Services, Commercial Base Pricing has no volume requirements. Eligibility is based primarily on how you prepare your shipments, with savings up to 19% or more on Priority Mail, and up to 36% on Priority Mail Express. These reduced rates are available for customers who use PC or online postage solutions, such as pbSmartPostageTM, permit imprints, or any of the leading digital mailing systems.

2. Choose the flat rate option

Shipping costs usually depend on weight and distance. So, heavier packages traveling cross country will carry a hefty price.

That all changes with flat rate pricing, where you pay one set-fee for Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express anywhere in the U.S. for packages up to 70 pounds—as long as the goods you’re sending fit into one of the USPS provided packages. There are a range of size options for flat rate envelopes and boxes: for example, when using Priority Mail you can choose from three envelope sizes and three box sizes, the largest of which measures 12" x 12" x 5 ½.”

A 10-pound Priority Mail shipment that once cost $36.50, for example, can be sent for as little as $5.80. And if you add in your Commercial Pricing discount (see tip number one), you can save up to 10% more.

3. Switch to Parcel Select

Once the darling of small business shippers, Parcel Post® is no longer available as the new postage increases take effect—it’s been replaced by the new Standard PostTM service. But with Standard Post, you’ll pay higher rates (on average 21% more); and, because Standard Post is only available over-the-counter at USPS retail locations, you’ll lose out on the efficiencies gained by printing your own postage.

Instead, switch to Parcel Select and save on every shipment. If you subscribe to a PC postage solution, there are no minimum quantity requirements, and you can weigh, address and ship packages from any Internet-connected PC. You’ll save valuable time, and, if you ship enough to qualify for presort discounts, you can save even more money.

4. Scrub your lists

As many as 23% of all addresses contain an error, which is not surprising when you consider that 40 million Americans move and 11% of all ZIP Codes change each and every year.

Bad addresses result in shipping delays, costly returns, and high customer dissatisfaction (even if it was the customer who supplied the bad address in the first place). If you’re not already doing so, with the new postage increases, now is the time to find a low-cost solution to print online stamps and to verify addresses before you ship. With the right software, you can also auto-correct and standardize addresses up front, ensuring you meet all USPS requirements for timely delivery.

5. Print your own barcodes

In one of the more sweeping changes, the USPS is adopting a new standard for its package barcode. The new barcode, referred to as the Intelligent Mail® package barcode or IMb, is now required on outgoing packages and parcels including commercial parcels claiming presort or destination entry points (except Standard Mail® parcels). Measuring about 1” high and 4” wide, this new 34-digit modulated barcode replaces all prior package barcodes, including any Confirmation Services barcodes.

While the USPS can add this barcode for you, most shippers will want to print their own barcodes in advance for a simple reason—when you create the barcode, you’ll benefit from automatic package tracking. This built-in intelligence allows you to monitor your shipment as it works its way through the postal system, so you can respond to customer inquiries with speed and accuracy. Many shippers choose PC postage (which can print barcodes) over traditional postage meters in order to deliver a more powerful customer experience.

Smart managers do not simply consider the annual postage increases as a cost of doing business—it’s a reminder to assess shipping practices. This year, take the time to consider the USPS postage increase in the context of how you prepare and send your shipments. What services do you use?  How much time do you spend creating packages and traveling to the Post Office?  And most of all, how can you provide better service—and better information—to your customers?

While there are a lot of ways to save, this year may be the ideal time for you to make the switch to a PC postage solution.  You too can beat the postage increase!

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Check out more best practices for using online postage stamps to reduce costs in your business.