The PeC Review: Stamps.com is A Helpful Tool for Many Merchants
Stamps.com provides online retailers with a simple-to-use, software-based service that calculates official U. S. Postal Service postage from any PC, formatting printing labels and any required shipping documents.
The Stamps.com software, which was developed in conjunction with the Postal Service, is fast downloading, effortless to install, and intuitive to use. In fact, more than 300,000 companies and individuals already use the service. Unfortunately, Stamps.com does not easily integrate with many shopping carts, so using it might be something of a challenge for large volume shippers. But Stamps.com’s software does a superb job of achieving its stated goal—printing proper postage from a PC. And it offers developers tools that make it possible to overcoming at least some of its shortcomings. As a postage processing tool, Stamps.com get four out of five stars in this PeC Review.
Unfortunately, for the 8 percent of computer users on Mac, there is no Stamps.com option for you.
Stamps.com: The Small Retailer Use Case
For a relatively small online merchants, shipping say 20 or 30 orders a day and generating perhaps $100,000 in annual sales, Stamps.com is a fine solution. Using it as part of your workflow would go something like this:
- An order comes into your shopping cart platform and is stored in queue.
- The order is reviewed and a packing slip is printed.
- The order is carefully packaged in a free U.S. Priority Mail box and weighed.
- The customer’s address is pasted into Stamps.com for the shopping cart’s backend, and a few clicks provide an official postage rate and format the necessary labels and documents.
- The postage prints and is attached to the package.
Using this procedure in a brief (and unscientific experiment), two workers were able to process 23 orders—including packaging—in approximately one hour and 20 minutes. The Stamps.com portion of the order processing to about 32 minutes, or about a minute and a half per package.
Integrating with Address Books
The software allows users to import address lists from several leading contact tracking tools like ACT!, Intuit QuickBooks, Microsoft Outlook 97-2007, Schedule Plus 7.x, Lotus Organizer 97, and Windows Contacts for Vista. And it will accept both comma separated value (.csv) files and tabbed separated value (.txt) files. So it is possible to import addresses from a shopping cart platform if a merchant is willing to take the extra steps involved in exporting, normalizing, and then importing those addresses.
The service tracks all of an online retailer’s Postal Service expenses, tracking numbers, customer addresses, and other shipping related information and makes it easy to retrieve the data. For example, when tax time rolls around, an Internet merchant can review every penny spent for U.S. postage. And Stamps.com will output data for integration into an account software suite.
Premium Stamps.com customers also get access to FedEx shipping services, making it easy for shippers to select from dozens of domestic and International shipping options. Also, with DHL exiting the U.S. market and the Postal Service assuming many of those customers, don’t be surprised if more shipping options become available.
Stamps.com users get discounts and free services on many orders. For example, many users will save 3 percent on Express Mail, 11 percent on Priority Mail, and premier program customers save up to 21 percent on selected FedEx shipments.
Stamps.com charges as little as $17.99 per month for its service, but most retailers will want to invest in a premier program account which is as little as $24.99 per month, and includes access to the FedEx services.
The tool allows users to “hide” postage rates on the printed label. This is particularly useful if a store adds a handling fee to its shipping to cover the cost of packing materials or labor. Just select hide and the customer will not see the actual rate. Conversely, if a store offers free shipping and wants to make sure customers understand how much they saved, don’t select “hide” and the postage rate will print in large letters at the top of the label.
If Stamps.com Integrated with Carts It would be Perfect
Stamps.com does what it does very well. Its main weaknesses lie in what it doesn’t do, but I wish it would.
If Stamps.com easily integrated with shopping carts it would be a perfect solution for many Internet merchants. As mentioned above, Stamps.com is not fully integrated into many shopping carts. This is actually surprising to me since Stamps.com offers tools for developers and makes affiliate payments to programmers that include a Stamps.com feature in their software. Note to cart developers, it would be great if new orders just flowed into fully integrated Stamps.com software—including estimated weights.
Although I did not experience any issues and; therefore, any customer service challenges while I was testing Stamps.com for this article, I did find complaints about Stamps.com’s customer service in several online forums.
Most of the complaints fell into one of three categories: (a) price issues, (b) integration issues, and (c) tracking problems. But, personally, none of these complaints would deter me from using the tool.
I am giving Stamps.com four out of a possible five stars for providing a simple and effective postage processing tool.