May 7 2010 08:52 AM

Many small businesses shy away from selling to an international audience and have expressed that trepidation about shipping is a key factor. By accessing the international shipping expertise of the U.S. Postal Service and Internet PC Postage providers, international shipping anxiety will be a thing of the past. Years ago, simple things like obtaining the shipping cost for a five-pound package going to Japan could consume an hour of your time. Filling out a Customs form was a confusing and slow process because it had to be done manually. To meet 9/11 security requirements, you would have to visit a local Post Office and obtain a “round stamp” before the package could move forward. Once you managed to ship a package, you had very little visibility as to its whereabouts. Thankfully, the international shipping experience has improved dramatically in the past decade. This is particularly true for those who ship via the U.S. Postal Service and those who take advantage of Internet PC Postage providers. 

There is no need to be confused about using International mail service. With a little help from the U.S. Postal Service and Internet PC Postage providers, you’ll be well on your way to fulfilling your products around the globe. Some countries have universal mail delivery service to the door; others only serve certain geographical areas. Some countries have strict prohibitions or restrictions on the contents of your mail; others are more open. Some countries serve the same areas for Express Mail International and Priority Mail International; others use different networks. How could you possibly manage this complexity? The answer is right on your computer. The Postal Service’s Click-N-Ship, Web Tools API, Global Shipping Software and Endicia’s International Mail Advisor, among other PC Postage providers, take the guess work out of your international shipping and help you avoid costly mistakes. These systems show you the cost, weight/size restrictions and delivery standards for the mail class you choose to your destination. It also lists that country's prohibitions, explains its restrictions, notes any useful observations and shows the areas served in that country for Express Mail International and the other mail classes. Now you can make informed decisions and ship overseas with confidence.

Are you concerned you don’t have time to figure out which Customs forms are required for your international packages, let alone fill them out by hand? Well, you don’t have to be concerned anymore. The next time you ship an international package, let the Postal Service and their authorized PC Postage providers choose the correct customs form, pre-fill the information and print your declaration along with your postage on one integrated label. All you need to do is declare the contents. If you’ve ever had to ship 50 international packages with Customs forms in a day, you’ll fully appreciate having your “signature” now printed by the computer. Note that a person’s name is required – a company name or “shipping room” is not an acceptable signature. 

For First-Class Mail International and the Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelope, you can print the integrated Customs forms in a convenient, single-copy 4"x6" format. For other services, the correct number of copies will be printed on 8.5"x11" sheets to attach to your packages. 

You can also print pre-filled Customs forms for your military (APO/FPO/DPO) shipments. Even though you use domestic mail classes to send packages to these locations, they are still foreign destinations that require Customs forms. That can be taken care of too – on standard 8.5"x11" sheets that you can attach to your packages with a plastic pouch (PS Form 2976-E) provided by the Postal Service.

What about pricing? If you spend a few minutes doing comparisons between Postal Service international rates and those of the private carriers, you will be pleasantly surprised. U.S. Postal Service Flat Rate prices are especially attractive. You can send a small flat rate box via Priority Mail International to France for only $12.78. A four-pound Priority Mail International parcel (non-flat rate) costs $35.29 which includes the benefits of insurance and a delivery scan in most countries. You can alternately ship up to four pounds via First-Class Mail International. A four-pound package sent First-Class Mail International to France costs $31.40. A one-pound First-Class Mail International package to France is only $10.76 when you use a PC Postage provider to print your shipping labels.

When you ship using the Internet, you save five percent off the retail price for Priority Mail International, eight percent off of the retail price for Express Mail International and 10% off the retail price for Global Express Guaranteed (currently available on Click-N-Ship only). The savings on retail prices are given in recognition of the cost you save the USPS in not having to accept/weigh/round stamp your package at the Post Office. If you are a high-volume international shipper, you can qualify for additional price savings from the Postal Service, with potential rates of more than 15% off of retail pricing. 

Get It Overseas — Fast 
Global Express Guaranteed is the Postal Service’s fastest international service with delivery to most countries in one to threebusiness days. Express Mail International is a great way to ship your product overseas fast. It's available to most countries with delivery in three to five business days, and for some countries, the Postal Service now offers day-certain Express Mail International delivery (day-certain Express Mail International shipments must be mailed at the post office). You also get full tracking for your Global Express Guaranteed and Express Mail International shipments. If you’re looking for a good deal on international shipments, try Priority Mail International parcels with delivery in six to 10 business days, which provides tracking and delivery confirmation. The Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelope and Small Flat Rate Box (up to four pounds) offer one low price to Canada and Mexico ($11.45) and another to all other countries ($13.45).

First-Class Mail International is another option for packages weighing up to four pounds. Tracking and insurance are not offered for the Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelope and Small Flat Rate Box or First-Class Mail International services.

With competitive pricing by the Postal Service and tools specifically designed to save you time and money with your international shipments, it’s time you start selling your goods and services and shipping them internationally!. 

As Chief Development Officer, Harry is the lead software architect for all Endicia software products. Holding a Ph.D. from Stanford University, Harry has built a solid reputation in industry and government milieus, both in the U.S. and abroad, with his 35 years of experience in developing software as well as his tenure as Professor at Stanford University. Harry founded the predecessor firm to Endicia – PSI systems - in the early 80’s. He and his team have consulted with the USPS since 1982, building a variety of software systems for various departments within the USPS. Harry founded Endicia in 2000 and has led the company until its purchase by Newell Rubbermaid in 2007.