Good news! The business of shipping e-commerce goods is now much easier, thanks to the many tools and services currently available through the U.S. Postal Service�s Web site. Cost-savings, convenience and improved efficiency are some of the advantages shippers enjoy by connecting with
The site now offers a suite of Web tools that may be easily installed into an organization�s own Web page, allowing customers and e-shoppers to seamlessly conduct all of their business at one location. The tools are designed to benefit all business customers, from large-volume shippers to SOHO clientele, and include:
Track/Confirm: This extremely popular Web tool provides a quick, convenient way to check the status of any package shipped Express Mail, Priority Mail or Parcel Post. By using a Delivery Confirmation service number, shippers and customers can instantly receive the delivery information they need, including the date and time of delivery, ZIP code and whether the delivery was made, attempted, forwarded or returned. Available 24 hours a day, the service has the potential to save businesses both time and money, since it reduces the number of incoming calls to their customer service centers.
Rate Calculator: This program immediately determines how much it will cost to ship a package by Express Mail, Priority Mail or Parcel Post. It also instantly calculates international Global Priority Mail and Express Mail International rates.
Transit Times: Need to know when a shipment may arrive? This handy tool allows your Web site to provide transit time standards for Priority Mail and Standard Mail (B) as well as guaranteed commitments for Express Mail. Simply plug in the origin five-digit ZIP code, along with the destination ZIP code, to find the average delivery standard for two- or three-day service. Likewise, those using Express Mail can find out if delivery is guaranteed by noon the next day, by 3 PM or two-day, including Saturday and Sunday commitments. In addition, the Standard Mail (B) Service Standards program estimates deliveries between three-digit ZIP codes for Parcel Post, Bound Printed Matter, Library Rate and Special Standard.
Delivery Confirmation Service: Ideal for low-volume shippers, this service generates a Delivery Confirmation service barcode label for all Priority Mail and Standard Mail (B) shipments including Parcel Post, Special Standard, Library Rate and Bound Printed Matter. The complete address label with the sender�s address, delivery address and Delivery Confirmation service barcode is provided, while the shipper furnishes the postage. This Web tool is currently in beta test.
Address Information: For shippers who are looking for standard-ization and address cleansing, this feature assures that addresses will be correct. The program may be built directly into a Web page to cleanse addresses during registration. From there, it can be customized to automatically correct addresses as well as add ZIP+4 codes. Statistics show correct addresses have a huge impact on productivity and can cut missed deliveries by 10% to 15%. In addition, there is a separate ZIP code look-up and a city/state look-up feature. All three of these Web tools are for shippers who commit to giving the U.S. Postal Service the majority of their package business.
Electronic Merchandise Return: A recent survey of online shoppers revealed that one of their top five complaints was the inability to conveniently return merchandise purchased via the Internet. This inconvenience was enough to keep some online customers from ever visiting a site again. The Electronic Merchandise Return Web tool offers an easy merchandise return solution that features postage-paid return labels, which consumers can download and print for Priority Mail or Standard B packages. Once the label is placed on the package to be returned, it can be handed to a letter carrier, dropped in a collection box or taken to the nearest post office.
Ordering Supplies Online: Supplies such as containers and envelopes which are machineable � those that don�t have to be posted manually � may be ordered online. One click of the mouse immediately links the user to, a site that outlines available supplies and how to order them. Unlike the competition, these supplies are offered at no additional cost to the shipper.
Forms: There are also a number of helpful forms that may be accessed online, which can save shippers time and money. A sampling of such forms includes those for Special Standard Mail, Standard Mail (A) and Standard Mail (B). Some of the related links listed are Change of Address forms and Postage Statements.
Getting started with any of these amazing features is as easy as typing Upon entering the site, users have a choice of working with the �Business� or �Household� pages. The Business page includes a series of �action tabs� that are labeled Mail or Ship, Order, Locate, Track or Confirm and Get Info. Clicking on any of these tabs allows users to view a variety of available services, related links and system requirements for downloading.
When it comes time to register for any of the Web tool services, users can click on the �Mail or Ship� tab. Next, click on �Priority Mail,� which may be found under the �Products and Services� heading. Users will be linked directly to Once there, follow the directions to an online registration form for the Internet Shipping API (application program interface), which can be found in the Web Developer�s Tool Kit.
�After the form is filled out and sent electronically, registrants can expect to receive a technical user guide, complete with free samples of code, within one to two  hours,� says Stuart Willoughby, program manager, Internet Shipping Solutions, U.S. Postal Service.Willoughby says the user-friendly guide provides step-by-step instructions for integrating the Web tools written in the Internet�s �language of business-to-business e-commerce,� Extensible Markup Language (XML). The free sample code is available to software developers who use ASP, Visual Basic and Perl.
After all of the desired programs are installed, a short test must be run in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service to ensure the chosen features will perform well on the registrant�s Web site. Free technical support is provided throughout installation of the APIs by the Postal Service�s Internet Customer Care Center. Says Willoughby, �Once the tests are complete, shippers may begin benefiting from the programs almost immediately.�
�The main goal of this site is to make business easy and convenient for our customers,� notes U.S. Postal Service Marketing Specialist Karen Tucker. She adds that the site is also a rich resource for those who are interested in accessing further data on the Postal Service.
In addition to all of the advantages mentioned, Tucker says shippers will also benefit from such standard U.S. Postal Service shipping services as Saturday deliveries (at no additional charge), no service charge for residential deliveries, the carrier leave option (permission is given to leave a delivery even when the customer isn�t there to receive it) or the carrier hold option (customer requests deliveries are retained) for up to 30 days.
When doing any type of business on the Web, customers may be concerned with security issues. Tucker says that shippers using the U.S. Postal Service APIs don�t need to worry � they�ll be in good hands. �The U.S. Postal Service continues to be a trusted third party in securely handling customer mail,� she comments. For those who are interested, the Web site offers further information on protection issues. Click on the �Postal Inspectors� tab to find out about current schemes that target business shippers, as well as general information on how to guard against mail fraud.
There are plans to expand the current Web site to include even more services for shippers. According to Tucker, the future site will offer links to PC postage vendors as well as to other companies that can assist online retailers, such as consolidators and fulfillment companies.
Site users can have input into what services they would like to see provided. �The site will evolve according to what we�re hearing our customers say,� notes Tucker. �When they express a need, we respond to that need.� Customers can give their feedback to the USPS by clicking the �comments� button. The Web site also continues to be an excellent resource, as it constantly provides more and more new information on how shippers can best use USPS services.
When it comes down to the bottom line, the U.S. Postal Service�s Web site allows shippers to conduct business quickly, economically and conveniently. Best of all, these services are delivered in a way that shippers can truly appreciate � everything comes in one great package.
Larry Wood is assistant vice president of E-Business of the Expedited/Packages Services with the U.S. Postal Service. For more information on any of the Web tools mentioned in this article, please visit