Whether you consider yourself a serious seller or more of the casual variety, whether you list your items on eBay, or somewhere else, there seems to be universal agreement that waiting in line to have packages processed for shipping is not nearly as fun as it sounds.
It also happens to be largely unnecessary. That's because some very clever people have figured out that practically anything that can be done at the shipping counter can also be done right from your computer.
Here, we take a look at five of the most popular shipping solutions tailored for online sellers. Most offer the same basic features, with a few variations to set themselves apart. Not sure which one is right for you? The good news is, they're all either free to use, or free to try, so there's no investment required, other than your time.
U.S. Postal Service
The great thing about USPS is that, for the majority of shipping needs, it's cheaper than other package carriers, and pretty darned convenient all around. USPS's Click N Ship online postage service offers discounted postage rates when you generate labels online, and the ability to pay for postage and shipping insurance using a credit card. Order free USPS shipping supplies online, have them delivered to your door, then schedule pick up for your parcels. You may never make another trip to the post office!
Higher volume sellers may benefit from the more comprehensive organization and tracking features of USPS Shipping Assistant. For example, this free application generates customs forms for international or APO/FPO shipments, saves shipping preferences, verifies addresses and allows addresses to be imported or exported.
USPS also happens to integrate well with eBay. Print shipping labels right from My eBay or PayPal, and the cost of postage is simply deducted from your PayPal account. Tracking information is automatically be appended to the transaction record, allowing both buyers and sellers to trace packages en route and have an electronic record of delivery.
Most domestic postal services are supported on eBay, as are Express Mail International and Priority Mail International.
UPS may be more economical than the postal service if your packages are on the heavy side
Though UPS is commonly considered to be one of the more expensive shipping services, it can actually be more economical than the postal service if your packages tend to be on the heavy side. UPS insures all packages up to $100 in value and enables detailed shipment tracking. If you have a UPS account—which is free to open, by the way—you can also order free shipping supplies and arrange for packages to be picked up from your location.
Process UPS labels and track shipments right from My eBay. When you sign up for the eBay Special Pricing Program, you can save up to 31 percent on shipping fees, making UPS more cost effective than USPS for heavier parcels. For example, shipping a 4-pound package from New York to San Francisco costs $11.57 by Parcel Post. The discounted UPS rate for eBay users would be anywhere from $1 to $3 less, depending on whether the address was residential or commercial. This special pricing is available for packages processed on eBay or PayPal.
For eBay sellers who mainly use USPS, Stamps.com's free service provides all the necessities: You can import your orders from eBay, print shipping labels one at a time or in batches, track packages, receive free Delivery Confirmation with Priority Mail service and rate discounts on priority and express services, and get free USPS supplies. Another convenient feature of Stamps.com's program for eBay sellers is integrated customs forms, which saves international shippers the pain of having to stand in line at the post office.
Multichannel and non-eBay sellers might find one of Stamps.com's paid plans more useful. These start at $15.99, and integrate with eight popular shopping carts, including Amazon, Google and PayPal.
Endicia will pre-fill customs forms when you print an international label
Endicia is a package for serious sellers, whether you sell on eBay or elsewhere. That is, it's oriented toward higher-volume shipment processing, and integrates with shopping carts other than PayPal. As such, it comes with a monthly subscription fee—although the first 30 days are free.
Users like Endicia's ability to efficiently create labels in bulk, print "return postage" labels, print labels with "stealth" postage, and integrate with a weight scale for more accurate mail rates. Customizable shipping labels and tracking e-mails allow you to project a more professional image by incorporating your logo or other branding into every shipment.
If you frequently ship to international customers, you'll appreciate the fact that Endicia will pre-fill customs forms when you print an international label. For some sellers, this feature, alone, is worth the $15.95 a month subscription price. To add support for UPS and FedEx, expect to pay $34.95 a month.
If FedEx is your preferred carrier, and eBay is your selling place, ShipRush for eBay can simplify your life. This application—which is free until Dec. 19—integrates with eBay to streamline shipment processing. ShipRush automatically pulls buyers' address data from eBay or PayPal and generates tracking information. Shipping labels can be printed with just a few clicks.
Free ShipRush programs are also available for a long list of other shopping carts, including Amazon, Google and PayPal. So if you sell outside of eBay, you can still enjoy similar integrated FedEx shipping features.
Additionally, FedEx offers 20-percent savings to ShipRush users, with no minimums required.
ShipRush also supports other shipping solutions, including Endicia, USPS and UPS. The Endicia package is $39.95 a month. Contact ShipRush for additional pricing.
What shipping solutions have you used? Which have you found work best for your business model? Are free applications as useful as fee-based, or do you get what you pay for? Visit Auctiva's Education forum and let us know what you think.