Friday, August 26, 2011
This week, we’re going to take a look at the fuel surcharges that are added on to your shipping costs by the package carriers. The carriers changed how they structure the surcharge for ground service in 2011. It is now based on $0.12 increments of the average on-highway diesel fuel prices, with each change of $0.12 corresponding to a 0.5% change in the fuel surcharge. The chart begins at $1.99 (wouldn’t that be nice to see again!) with a 1% surcharge and currently goes up to $4.15 with a 10% surcharge (unfortunately too close for comfort). The fuel surcharge is updated monthly, allowing the carriers to deal with their fluctuating fuel costs by passing them along to you, their customers.
Over the five years since 2006, the shipping fuel surcharge has fluctuated from a low of 2.25% to a high of 10.25%. Many of you will recall in 2008 when the surcharge began at 6.25%, skyrocketed to 10.25% in the summer, and then fell back to 6.75% after oil prices went down with the stock market. In 2009 we saw the lowest prices in this time period—the 12 month period from July 2008 to July 2009 saw eight percentage points shaved off the surcharge to a low of 2.25%. 2010 had a pretty stable fuel market, with the surcharge staying between 5 and 6%. This year, we have seen the price climb again from 5.5% in January up to 9% currently. For September, it drops to 8.5%.
These costs are the great unknown of shipping charges for online retailers. We don’t know what fuel will cost in three months, but that cost definitely impacts how you plan for the busy season. To gauge the impact, you can make sure that your shipping system accurately reports these costs to you. Multi-carrier shipping systems, such as Harvey Software’s CPS shipping software, are updated monthly to reflect the national carriers’ surcharge changes, and CPS users can rest assured knowing they are not surprised by the carriers’ surcharges.
In some ways, this fuel surcharge is similar to an Internet retailer charging for shipping. The cost of getting the product from warehouse to customer is passed along to the customer. This can put the retailer in an awkward place—the carriers are passing their costs along to you, but with new pressure from competitors to provide flat rate and free shipping, the retailer is hard pressed to pass the same costs along to its customers. This is why Harvey Software’s CPS multi-carrier shipping system is so important.
The fact is, not all multi-carrier shipping systems are created equal. Not all are certified and able to provide the rate optimization features found in CPS. Not only does CPS allow you to take advantage of the best rating available for each shipment, you are also able to track your shipping costs over extended periods of time or through fluctuating shipping cycles. Another CPS exclusive is easily accessible reporting, which shows the optimal prices to charge when evaluating flat rate or free shipping promotions. This allows online merchants to flatten out their shipping expenses and offer attractive shipping prices to their customers. In today’s competitive online market, the right flat rate shipping charge strategy can open up new customers and their business to your company.
As you continue to prepare sales and promotions, consider using the CPS shipping system to help you accurately track your shipping costs, including the fuel surcharges. For more information, visit www.HarveySoft.com.
Friday, August 19, 2011
If you have school age children, they have either started school already or they will soon. With the new school year comes your family’s busy schedule: sports practice, band practice, after school clubs or maybe even just some extra help on those times tables. Hopefully the summer to-do list is close to finished, because it’s off to the races. Every minute you can spend with your kids is valuable time, and it’s great to have as much as possible.
Have you looked at your shipping process lately? How much of your valuable time are you spending trying to get your orders shipped? Or, if you’ve hired one or more staff dedicated to shipping, have you looked recently at how much time it takes them to ship each package? If they use the computer for more than a few seconds per package, it might be time to look at alternatives for your shipping system.
Your shipping system can be the smooth last step in your order management cycle, or it can be a system that puts up a daily fight when you are trying to get your orders out the door, and who needs that? Ideally, your shipping system connects easily and reliably to your order and shipping data. Then, with just a few keystrokes to complete each shipment, you are able to eliminate errors such as choosing the wrong carrier, shipping to a bad address, or worse yet, picking the wrong service and increasing costs to your organization. Here are some of the ways that Harvey Software’s multi-carrier CPS shipping software helps your shipping department work at peak efficiency for every package, every day, while ensuring that your shipments are routed with the most cost-effective carrier and service available.
It takes only a few minutes to learn the basics of shipping using CPS. Attach a compatible scale and shipping label printer to the shipping computer and you are ready. Using the CPS shipping screen is equally easy for those who prefer to use a mouse or the keyboard. Set up a connection between CPS and your order management system and CPS immediately reads the shipping data, reads the package weight automatically from the scale, and can choose the shipping option you prefer automatically. Carrier approved labels are printed, tracking number and all, and you’re on to your next package. The process is also completely customizable so you can enter dimensional weight, send a tracking email from your company’s address, and even produce necessary international shipping documents. Once you start using CPS shipping software, you will be amazed at how quickly the orders are processed and ready for pickup by the carriers. Your shipping labels will be coming out as fast as your printer can print them. And your shipments will be ready to go practically as soon as you pack the box.
Could this sort of shipping speed help you win back some of your valuable time? Our development team has spent years streamlining the CPS shipping process to an intuitive step by step action. Your shipping system should simplify your shipping workflow and save time and money – a simple interface, streamlined choices, and customizable options to put your shipping process into just a few keystrokes.
If you think you’re spending too much time getting your packages out the door, try Harvey Software’s multi-carrier CPS shipping software today and start enjoying more time with the family. That way, when school’s out, you can be there to help with times tables instead of scrambling to get those orders out. For more information about CPS, visit www.Harveysoft.com.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Are you planning for your 2011 holiday season yet? Have you begun your marketing plan for this year’s new products and offerings? Are you hoping to increase your sales compared to last year? If you answered yes to these questions, you’re well on your way to having a successful holiday season. But could there be a better way to handle your shipping this year?
How much did you spend on shipping last November? Did you feel that was too high? If you’re using a single carrier shipping solution, you may not have a lot of options. Perhaps you already negotiated a special rate with your carrier. That’s a great first step to saving, compared to paying standard published rates. However, if you use the carrier supplied shipping system, your view of shipping rates can be one sided. You will not know if another carrier could deliver your package for less or that you (and your customers!) are paying more than you should. Ok, sure - you could go look up prices on different websites. It would only take a couple of minutes…..for every shipment. Wouldn’t it be nice to get alternate rates instantly?
Users of Harvey Software’s CPS shipping software can tell you instantly what it would cost to ship with another carrier. The CPS BestWay calculator provides a list of choices ranked by amount, time & amount, or carrier & amount. Need the fastest way? Calculate by time & amount and see your best options. Need the least expensive shipping option? Your possible choices are ranked by amount. Do you want to see your preferred carrier’s options at the top? Select carrier & amount.
A great online order experience involves more than great product presentation with prompt, correctly priced shipping. It also involves providing the best in customer service, including easy package tracking. Is it obvious that your current tracking email is from your company? Does your carrier supplied shipping system send an email that your customers sift through to see it’s from you? It is hard to build your company’s brand ID like that! With CPS, the email comes directly from YOUR company using YOUR email address, so there is instant recognition of your company and your brand. CPS can help you build a more personal connection between you and your customer.
So what DID you pay for shipping last November? How easy is it for you to look that up? CPS saves your shipping history, giving you quick access to important shipping data by date, service, and carrier. You will easily know which carrier you use the most and your shipping costs—important information for planning and carrier negotiations. The idea is to make the data easily available so you can focus your energy building your business.
You could be using CPS shipping software this holiday season to save your business money. Even if you ship a moderate volume of packages, CPS pays for itself. Check out the Estimated Savings Calculator at www.HarveySoft.com. The more you ship, the more you save! And when your customers get a great deal on shipping, they buy more. Let Harvey Software’s CPS help you expand your business while saving you money on your shipping costs.
Friday, August 5, 2011
There has been HUGE news coverage about Congress, their budget, and the nation’s debt. Significant issues, to be sure. However, that coverage has overshadowed some news that also affects all of us—major changes proposed within the United States Postal Service. The USPS has formally requested to close many Post Offices, to raise their postage rates, and to eliminate Saturday delivery. Should even one of these actions take place, Post Office shipping services will change, affecting both businesses that use the USPS as well as private individuals. If all three are enacted, USPS users will make adjustments concerning what can be expected from the Post Office and how Post Office services can best be used, especially for business shipping. Online retailers in particular will have many things to think about concerning their future shipping via USPS. Here are some specifics:
The USPS wants to close 3653 post offices across the country as a part of its Retail Access Optimization Initiative. In some states, more than 200 offices are being reviewed. The general public may appeal a Post Office slated for closure: interested parties must submit a notice of intervention to the Postal Regulatory Commission by August 19th. The PRC will hear cases of appeal beginning in September. The offices being closed will receive formal notification in late October through December, and they will remain open for 60 days after notification. When the closures begin in early 2012, postal customers will see some changes. In cities, you might have a longer drive or walk to the nearest branch. However, in rural areas, postal customers are likely to have significantly longer trips to pick up packages shipped to them. Expect to see more post office villages where customers can use a few postal services inside another business.
The USPS wants to raise its rates in January 2012, and they don’t even seem to be asking permission anymore. They told the PRC the rate changes are an emergency. Why are they raising shipping and mailing rates? They justify this particular hike with a $2.34B decrease in their revenue due to the recession and decreased shipping volume. We don’t yet know how the rate hikes are going to be distributed. Right now, the expectation is an across the board increase of 5-6%. As you plan your shipping budget for 2012, you will want to take these rate increases into account.
The post office has requested permission from Congress to switch to a five day delivery cycle, eliminating Saturday delivery completely. They say the change will save $3.1B a year in operating costs and help them cope with the losses caused by greatly reduced overall mail volume.
It looks like these three changes will all hit at the beginning of 2012—the post offices that are left will be delivering less often and for a higher price. Watch for more news of these shipping changes in the coming months, and prepare for your business now.
Remember, Harvey Software’s CPS shipping software stays current with ALL carriers’ rate and service changes. When deciding how to ship your packages to your customers, know that CPS can help you make the best decision. For more information about our multi-carrier shipping system, CPS, visit www.HarveySoft.com.