In January 2013, the USPS will be increasing their rates for First Class International Mail for packages dramatically. In many cases, the rates to ship a package internationally will double. Although this may seem like very bad news to many Amazon and eBay sellers, there is some good news. The USPS is officially launching a new International Service called Commercial ePacket in the United States.
Commercial ePacket is a USPS product offered via the services of a USPS approved Pre-Qualified Wholesaler (PQW). This service seems to be very beneficial to many shippers sending lightweight low value items overseas. Amazon & eBay sellers can now take comfort in the fact that they will no longer have to prepare the documentation and required labels for exporting from the USA. The USPS PQW that you select, will take care of all the necessary documentation. In addition, all eRetailers can now track these packages on USPS.com to the 14 participating countries.
Some key features of the Commercial ePacket Service are as follows:
- Economical eCommerce postal product with tracking and delivery confirmation
- Lightweight low value merchandise, < 2 Kilos & < $400 value
- Dispatched as commercial Letter-Post Packets and utilizes overseas foreign prime post network.
- Transit time is 4-7 days
- Postal Customs Clearance (Duties & Taxes paid by recipient)
- Free returns on undeliverable items
- Tracking is performed right on USPS.com
- 14 Participating countries: Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, New Zealand, Sweden, Spain. Ireland, Finland, France, Portugal, and UK.
- Delivery scan rates of 90% on average for all countries
- Pricing provided by a USPS approved PQW
- Induction sites are New York, Chicago, & Los Angeles
- Acceptance scan by USPS and delivery scan by foreign post
- Unique Label and Barcode ID – LX item prefix
- Electronic manifesting, labeling done by Pre-Qualified Wholesaler, & dropped off in sacks ONLY
How does ePacket work?
Customers would contact a USPS PQW in their region and speak with someone regarding how they can get started. Ideally you would want to select a PQW who has mailing capabilities in all three acceptance cities. This becomes extremely important during inclement weather and natural disasters. Using a PQW with multiple facilities located in all 3 acceptance facilities ensures that your mail can be re-routed to another acceptance center if one becomes closed or has no flights departing as we saw during Hurricane Sandy.
The PQW will walk you throught the process of setting up your labels and data capture features. Once you have all of the data capture features running, you will either send your shipments or the PQW will dispatch a vehicle to your location. Each day you will need to provide the mail you are dispatching and send a manifest electronically outlining all the customs information for each package.
Once your packages arrive at the PQW, the PQW will confirm that they have received your electronic manifest for that particulars days shipment. If the PQW does not receive your manifest they can not process your mail through the Commercial ePacket service. After receipt of your manifest the electronic information will be uploaded into the USPS system and all the labels and necessary customs documentation will be generated. The packages will then have the proper labeling and will be sacked by country of destination and delivered to the USPS designated International Service Center (ISC).
Once accepted at the USPS ISC, the sacks will be opened and every package scanned as evidence of posting and placed on the next available outbound flight for that destination country. After flight arrival, the packages will clear through customs via the Postal Customs Clearance mechanism. This ensures that your packages move quickly through the clearance process and will not be impacted by typical delays incured by the normal airfreight clearance system.
After Clearance, packages will then be entered into the PRIME network and will receive priority processing within the destination country. Customers that are waiting to receive their packages, can have confidence that they will see the tracking information directly on the USPS website. This one feature should eliminate many customer service calls that many Amazon & eBay sellers receive daily from their customers.
Once the packages make it through the postal system of the destination country, the package will be scanned as delivered by the mail carrier once it is delivered.This scanning event will then be uploaded into the USPS site and available to all who wish to monitor the progress of each shipment.
Based on my initial findings, this service seems to be an excellent offering for companies shipping 100 or more packages daily. However, some customers that are shipping less than 100 packages per day, may also be able to benefit from this service if they decide to consolidate one or two days worth of orders before dispatching. Obviously, each customer has their own idiosyncracies that may factor into when a service like Commercial ePacket becomes beneficial. However, depending upon how far you are from JFK Airport, O’hare International Airport, or Los Angeles International Airport it may become feasible to use the service daily even if you have less than 100 packages daily. For specifics regarding the service, I would contact a USPS approved PQW today.