Online Postage Services Part 1: Endicia Innovates
By Julia Wilkinson
Most online sellers use some sort of online postage solution, even if it's simply printing labels from eBay, Amazon, Etsy, or the USPS Click N Ship website. But if you sell on multiple channels, or if you want greater flexibility, you might investigate services whose sole mission is to help shippers save time, be more efficient, and turn shipping into a competitive advantage. Today in part 1, we look at Endicia, to be followed in our next issue by part 2, Stamps.com.
Did you know you could include a return label with your shipments and only pay for the postage if and when it's used to return your item to you? Or, if you sell on PoshMark, you could ship any item for a flat rate of $4.99? These are both recent innovations by online postage service provider Endica. EcommerceBytes chatted with Endicia's General Manager Amine Khechfe to find out more about the service and some of its new features.
Endicia is known by many as an innovator in the online postage space. They were the first to offer a customs form integrated into the postage label. And this year, they introduced another first: a "Pay-on-Use" return label for customer returns.
With these, merchants can create USPS return-shipping labels that are only charged for postage upon use. "Previously, online sellers shipping with the USPS had to pre-pay postage whenever a return label was created," explained Khechfe. Sellers can save time and money with this new service, he explained, as they no longer have to spend time trying to refund unused return labels - or tracking whether the labels have been used.
"It used to be that if you tried to include return-shipping labels in the package, you better make sure it got used, because you got billed for it the minute you printed it," he added. (Not that merchants want unnecessary returns.) "So then you didn't really do returns, because having to monitor that was a pain, and so you lost out on some customers."
From a seller perspective, he explained, you now can put it this very nice policy on returns. You don't have to overthink it. You can put a return label in all shipments, or you can print it on-demand."
For larger merchants with returns policies where buyers call into customer service, customer service can send return labels via email, Khechfe said. Further, if you're a self-service portal, "you can integrate with our API and have it printed on demand," he added. If you just want to include it with every shipment, when you print your outbound label, you can print your return label at the same time. Postage is only deducted if and when a return label is scanned into the mail stream.
From a buyer perspective, "you just want to be able to simply put a return label on and not have to think about it afterwards."
"We rocked this one," said Khechfe, who said he thought it was Endicia's "big product of the year," since "for the longest time it had been very difficult to use with the Postal Service," he said.
"This year has been a year of innovations, and this is definitely one that's going to be one of those changers for sellers," he added.
Online sellers can use Endicia directly, or through a third-party solution. "Because there are so many marketplaces today, our primary focus has been to work with our highly valued partners who offer hundreds of integrations," says Khechfe. Those solutions may offer many features such as Amazon integration, for example, or a way to interface with another carrier that is important to the merchant.
An order-management system or other company offering online seller solutions will work with Endicia, so Endicia's features are integrated within their application, rather than the customer having to use Endicia as a separate program. "We don't want you to have to hop in and hop out of different programs," he said. You can view a page that links to Endicia's various partners on the Endicia partner page.
Endicia's sales folks help the merchant based on what they're doing and is trying not to have them change the way they do their work, Khechfe said. "Our customers have varied needs, so rather than forcing them down a specific path, we prefer to offer choices through our partners."
Endicia recently announced its direct integration with Amazon. (It was already integrated with eBay). "The solution allows sellers to easily import orders while reducing manual errors by supporting automatic post-back of tracking information. This also helps retailers meet Amazon's selling requirements," said Khechfe.
So why would a customer use Endicia rather than just using Amazon's own built-in shipping functionality?
"Because we will have a lot more shipping options, and we allow them to interface with a bunch of different marketplaces."
The customer could be using Amazon native, "but let's say you sell on Amazon, eBay, and BigCommerce; and you want specific accounting functionality and an invoice functionality, and neither one of the ones do, so you might end up using ShipWorks or ABOL. Within ShipWorks or ABOL, you could use Endicia's shipping features and not have to switch interfaces."
"We make sure if you're growing, and your needs are changing, we help you move in our platform, whether using us directly, with the marketplaces directly, or wth one of our partners," said Khechfe.
Another marketplace Endicia works with is fashion marketplace PoshMark. Endicia worked with PoshMark and the USPS to create PoshPost, the first label designed specifically for shipping fashion, Khechfe said. The service allows PoshMark users to ship any piece of fashion weighing less than five pounds anywhere in the United States for a flat rate of $4.99, offering a savings of up to 28 percent. (You don't need an account with Endicia to use PoshPost).
How did Endicia get the USPS to agree to that concept? "We approached the Postal Service and said, let's get a sample and figure out what their average weight is. We have some awesome folks at the Postal Service and they said "You know what? We probably have two or three choices,"" said Khechfe.
"We took sample data from about several thousand pieces," Khechfe explained. "So we came up with an average weight, and they came up with a special case for PoshMark."
International Solutions, Alerts, and Customs Forms
Endicia was the "first and only online postage provider to deliver all-in-one customs forms for several years," said Khechfe. "Our software can help you choose the correct customs forms, pre-fill the information and print a declaration along with postage on one integrated label."
"Anything we do to try and take that and pain out of international shipping and make it as easy as domestic, is what we really focus on."
One specific time-saving feature in Endicia's customs forms is they alert users to specific country bans to ensure they don't send any restricted items.
"Who knew you can't send playing cards to Germany or saccharine to France? We did!" said Khechfe. "We are regularly expanding our range of international solutions to help businesses grow by reaching audiences abroad."
Above: a sample of Endicia's Country Restrictions alert screen; this one is for France.
Easy Returns from Canada
Working closely with Canada Post, Endicia introduced a returns program that allows easy returns from Canada. A U.S. shipper can now create a Canada Post return label, and either include it in the original outbound shipment, or create it on demand when the recipient requests it.
Khefche called the Canada Post Return Label "a big deal." And it encompasses the whole idea of cross-border returns, and taking care of currency. "There is so much happening globally right now,...and I think this is a nice start for us, and for our customer base to take advantage of it, and start building business ideas around taking the friction out of cross-border."
Help and Online How-To Videos
Endicia regularly participates in webinars and offers its own product-specific events to help customers get started or understand important changes in the industry. Khechfe says Endicia has also been building out its library of videos, particularly helpful to customers looking to get their accounts up and running:
"We're regularly adding new videos, so it's worth checking back. Another great resource for customers is our company blog, which provides shipping advice and insights on news that impacts online sellers, "said Khechfe.
Endicia offers a free 30-day trial. Beyond that, the prices are as follows:
- DYMO Stamps: No monthly fee;
- Endicia Standard $9.95/month; $99.95/year (save $19.45);
- Endicia Premium $15.95/month; $174.95/year (save $16.45);
- Endicia Professional $34.95/month.
You can find plans specifically designed for online sellers on this page.
As for postage purchased through Endicia, it offers Commercial Base rates. (High-volume shippers should inquire if they're eligible for Commercial Plus rates.) And it offers all mail classes.
A spokesperson provided the following definitions:
Retail Price: Retail pricing refers to the standard counter price for postage at the Post Office or other physical retail locations.
Commercial Base Price (CBP): Commercial Base pricing refers to the discounted postage price for certain mail classes available to electronic postage users. Endicia customers automatically enjoy this price for applicable Competitive mail classes.
Commercial Plus Price (CPP): Commercial Plus pricing refers to deeply discounted postage prices for certain mail classes available to qualified high-volume shippers. Endicia customers that qualify for these discounts automatically receive them through their software or application.
She explained: "Endicia customers automatically receive Commercial Base pricing, which is discounted from the retail rate. Those customers that ship at a high volume automatically receive Commercial Plus pricing from Endicia as well (which is even more discounted)."
For Mac users, one of Endicia's key selling points is its "native" compatibility with Mac products. "An important distinction for Mac users is the availability of a native solution, which only Endicia offers," said Khechfe. "Unlike a Web client or online portal which can diminish the value of a native Mac client, Endicia for Mac - an award-winning product first released in 2003 - is the only built-just-for-the-Mac solution for printing shipping labels and stamps."
"It looks like a Mac, feels like a Mac, it works with all the Mac applications - and the performance is the same," says Khechfe. "It's not a web-based app that works on the Mac."
The address book also integrates with the Mac address book, and Endicia wrote its own driver for thermal printers, and it uses the Mac client.
"What I'd like people to know is that when it comes to Endicia, we are proud to be problem solvers and innovators. Our priority is our customers and finding creative ways to solve their problems. We look for alternative approaches to getting around the roadblocks to make sure we don't lose sight of what's important: helping our customers grow their businesses," said Khechfe.
See part two, Stamps.com IDs Best Rates.
About the author:
Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at YardSalers.net where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.
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