Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What USPS Barcode Should Be Used for Packages to Insure Holiday Delivery?

Are You Using the Right USPS Labels?
Barcode technology for USPS packages has changed a lot over the last few years and if your shipping software has not changed along with it, your packages may not be able to be tracked this holiday season, or they may even be delayed!  On the other hand, if your shipping software has been kept up-to-date with all the changes, then you are well-positioned to receive all the discounts and greatly upgraded tracking capabilities USPS provides.

How do you know if your shipping software has been kept up-to-date with these new USPS requirements?

This article will provide you with some direction and lets you know if your shipping software is doing it right to ensure that your packages reach their destination on time, with tracking and at the best possible price.

First, let’s talk about the USPS barcodes of the past.  Before implementing Intelligent Mail barcodes, USPS had POSTNET and Planet Code barcodes.  For example POSTNET barcodes would have looked something like this:

Old USPS POSTNET Barcode Example

As described above, POSTNET has been replaced by the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) (also known as OneCode Solution or 4-State Customer Barcode).  IMb combines all previous Postal Service barcodes and puts them into a single barcode for letters and flats.   The IMb looks similar to the POSTNET barcode at a glance, but is very different in content.  The new IMb barcodes look like this:

New USPS IMb Example

What is the right Intelligent Mail barcode for packages?

For letters and flats, IMb technology is used but this type of barcode is not used for packages.  For packages there are specially formatted labels with Intelligent Mail package barcodes (IMpb) that look like this:

New USPS Package Labels and IMpb Examples

The Intelligent Mail barcodes for letters and flats were originally required beginning May 2011, however, the USPS postponed the requirement date, allowing mailers to continue receiving automation discount rates using the POSTNET barcode after the May 2011 deadline.  We have been told that the extension has expired and the POSTNET barcodes are no longer used by USPS.

For packages, effective January 27, 2013, barcode requirements changed.  At that time, package shippers receiving discounts had to switch to the Intelligent Mail package barcode (IMpb) along with other special labeling requirements.  The IMpb and the new labeling requirements are now mandatory for all tracking and Extra Services barcodes, and includes all First-Class Package Services, Parcel Select, Parcel Select Light Weight, Bound Printed Matter, Media Mail, and Library Mail parcels in order to receive special presort and destination entry pricing.  

Without using properly formatted labels and IMpb technology, packages could be delayed as they may need to have special handling to be processed!

The new package labels have several important changes to help your packages get delivered on time.  When a USPS package moves from your business to your customer’s location, it passes through many hands and is processed by several different types of equipment.  The new labels standards developed by USPS are to insure that this happens as efficiently as possible.  Therefore, it is very important that all of your USPS labels contain all the new components and are done correctly on each and every label if you plan to get the service you expect.  

Some of the new USPS changes include things like new Service Icons so all USPS services used for packages will be easily recognized by handlers and new Service Banners, with all the correct service names, that also further reinforces handling accuracy.  Also included is the all-important new Intelligent Mail package barcode (IMpb) that should be on each and every package label so it is properly sorted and tracked.  Click here for information on the new USPS package labeling requirements using IMpb.

The new tracking capabilities alone make using the new IMpb barcodes invaluable when it comes to making sure your customers receive their holiday orders on time and they provide you with the ability to track your package if there are any delivery issues.  Click here to learn more information about IMpb barcodes for USPS packages.

For this holiday season, the IMpb barcodes and new label formats should be used for every package shipped using USPS. That is, if you want your packages to be delivered on time, at the best price and with the ability to be tracked…and who doesn’t want that?

If your current shipping software does not support the new barcode and label format requirements, we highly recommend you find a shipping system that does so as soon as possible before the holiday crunch.  

All of Harvey Software’s current shipping software that is Powered by CPS and supports USPS package services also supports the new IMpb barcodes and is fully carrier certified along with being quick and easy to install.  Our USPS shipping software solutions have options for both IMpb compliant on-line Internet postage and USPS eVS package processing for high volume package shippers.  So, if your current shipping software solution cannot be upgraded to take advantage of the new IMpb label requirements, let us help.  Click here to see our current products for options.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How Do I Offer Free Shipping?

Is Free Shipping Right for Your Company?
Now more than ever, all on-line stores should be looking at the marketing value of offering the right shipping choices, including free shipping, to maximize sales, market size and return on investment.  The days are over when you can just pass on the costs to the customer and expect to close the sale.  Try that with today’s savvy Internet shopper and you will lose them to your competitors!

A recent study by Forrester Research, Inc says low prices and low delivery costs are the top two reasons visitors revisit an e-tailing site, according to an article titled “Free shipping, more than fast shipping, draws consumers back” at   For this reason, you cannot afford to not consider using free shipping, or at the very minimum, flat rate shipping for your company.  Click here to see the Internet Retailer article.

So, the first questions should really be…

Should I offer free shipping?  Will my sales increase by offering free shipping?  How do I evaluate if free shipping is right for my company?

That is more than we can get into for this post, but a great article is titled “How to Offer Free Shipping without Going Broke”, found at, explores these questions with a very good discussion about deciding if free shipping is right for your company.  Click here to see the Web Marketing Today article.

We have published our own whitepaper discussing free shipping titled “Offer Free Shipping and Increase Sales” that you should download.  This whitepaper discusses many additional topics that help you decide if free shipping will help you increase sales.  Click here to download this free whitepaper on free shipping.

Knowing free shipping is not for everyone the next questions should be…

Should I offer flat rate shipping?  Will flat rate shipping increase my sales and my market size when I cannot make free shipping work?

Stop Abandoned Shopping Carts with Solutions Powered by CPS
To explore questions covering how flat rate shipping can change everything from increasing your sales to increasing the market size you service, we have also published a whitepaper on this subject, titled “Internet Retailer’s Guide to Reducing Shopping Cart Abandonment”.  Even though the title does not say it can help you with this, this is one of our most popular downloaded whitepapers and has received many comments about how a business can change just by changing how shipping costs are handled!  Click here to download this free whitepaper on flat rate shipping.

If you decide that flat rate shipping is right for your company, Shopify has a handy article titled “Shipping Rate Strategies for Your Online Store”, explaining how to effectively offer flat rate shipping at your web site to maximize its sales closing appeal.  Click here to read this article on shipping rate strategies.

Ship More for Less with CPS Smart RateBots
Once you have made the right choice concerning what is right for your company, it is time to look at the tools you will need to get the job done efficiently.  Tools like those found in all our Powered by CPS products are a great place to start.  Click here for some ideas of features you should be looking for to lower your shipping costs so you can offer the right type of shipping for your company.

So, if you think free shipping or flat rate shipping is not right for your company, there is a very good chance this is negatively affecting your sales!  We highly recommend that our readers take a careful look at all the articles and whitepapers listed above.  You will be very pleasantly surprised!