Updated: Apr 5, 2021
As featured on Practical eCommerce - MAY 21, 2018 • ARMANDO ROGGIO
The United States Postal Service offers flat rate boxes and envelopes that may help online stores reduce shipping costs while improving a shopper’s buying experience.
Shipping can be a significant challenge for ecommerce merchants. A business must pay shipping charges and carrier fees, buy packing materials, and pay labor to pick and pack each order. Moreover, for much of the industry, free and fast ecommerce delivery is the norm. Shoppers expect to place an order, get free shipping, and have that order in about two days. You might call this expectation the Amazon Prime effect.
Fortunately, the USPS has been a pioneer in flat rate shipping services. The postal service’s first flat rate offering began in February 1991 when the Priority Mail flat-rate envelope was introduced.
More than a decade later on November 20, 2004, the USPS released the first Priority Mail flat rate box. Today, USPS flat rate services address many ecommerce delivery problems and costs.
Advantages of Flat Rate Shipping
Among the various carriers available to North American online merchants, the USPS offers some of the most attractive options, especially with its aforementioned flat rate and prepaid flat rate boxes and envelopes.
Here are seven reasons to consider these services.
Free boxes. USPS flat rate boxes are free. Merchants can simply order them at no cost and start shipping. Merchants will still need to purchase packing peanuts or similar cushioning material, but not having to pay as much as $1 per box can be huge savings.
Known costs. Although shipping calculators are accurate, there are times when the actual shipping cost for a package exceeds what the merchant expected. Flat rate boxes have a known cost — no surprises.
Priority delivery. The USPS flat rate boxes are Priority Mail, meaning that a package will normally be delivered in two or three days. Priority Mail packages also get special handling in the USPS system.
No surcharges. The USPS does not add fuel, residential, or Saturday delivery surcharges to any shipment.
More addresses. The USPS delivers to every U.S. address, including post office boxes and government addresses like APO (Army/Air Force Post Office), FPO (Fleet Post Office, for Navy), and DPO (Diplomatic Post Office, for U.S. embassies). Other U.S. carriers can only reach these addresses when the postal service delivers that last mile.
Security. Only the USPS is authorized to place packages in mailboxes. Plus, unlike some carriers that simply leave packages on the porch, the USPS will try to re-deliver large packages in some cases. Not abandoning packages may help prevent purchase fraud or theft.
Law enforcement protection. Flat rate USPS shipments are protected by U.S. federal law enforcement, which, again, may contribute to less fraud and theft.
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