Oct. 2 2006 03:39 PM

We live in an instant gratification culture. When consumers want something, be it fast food, designer clothing or high-end stereo equipment, they want it now, and they want choices. If the company cant deliver its products on demand, customers will often look elsewhere, which means that businesses are constantly searching for ways to supply their customers with their desired purchases as quickly as possible in order to build and maintain their customer base, while simultaneously struggling to keep shipping costs down. Yet, speedy delivery at affordable prices isnt always enough. For customers who purchase certain products, the packaging and storage of the items are as important as how quickly they arrive at their destination. For many shipping managers, that can create quite a conundrum.


Luckily, the people at the United States Postal Service have a myriad of solutions at their fingertips; businesses just need to use them. Dixondale Farms, a produce grower in south Texas, learned just how sweet success can be by utilizing customized packaging designed by the USPS.


Hold the Onions

Dixondale was already sold on the convenience of the flat-rate boxes and the visibility of co-branded packaging. However, just as customers demand choices with respect to their purchases, Dixondale required flexibility and selection with respect to their packaging. Based on the nature of their shipment, the company needed ventilated packages to keep produce fresh, and traditional packaging simply would not do. USPS stepped up to the plate and worked with Dixondale Farms to create a customized box with ventilation holes that would not have an impact on the size or shape of the box. Now, Dixondale Farms can package its onions in bags that specifically fit into the boxes, which maximizes space and allows the company to ship up to six pounds of onions in one box, and they do not have to worry about their produce spoiling en route.


These boxes ensure that the product arrives fresh and intact, and consumers are noticing; Dixondales produce is selling like crazy. The quality of the product when it arrives shows that our company cares enough to go out of its way to ensure excellent delivery, explains Dixondale Farms President Bruce Frasier. Customized packaging is a great way to deliver the value our customers expect.


And quality isnt the only feature of customized packaging that customers savor; speedy delivery is much appreciated as well. Frasier explains, There is this Web site, sort of a garden watchdog, so to speak, and users often send in comments. I was reading it recently, and one customer said that he ordered his plants from Dixondale Farms on Thursday and received them on Saturday. And this was all the way in North Carolina! Needless to say, he was very pleased.


Frasier also welcomes the fact that utilizing these customized Priority Mail boxes allows him to build the cost of shipping right into the overall price. I like that I can ship the products anywhere in the country, and I know its going to be one low price for me as a shipper. This allows me to charge all consumers one price for a product, regardless of the final destination. Customers appreciate the fact that the price they initially see on the Web site is the price they are going to pay, and Frasier likes not having to spend company time dealing with varied shipping rates for his product. That sounds or perhaps tastes like a win-win situation for everyone involved.


Customized packaging allows businesses to promote their products using  their own branding while still partnering with the USPS.


Is Customized Packaging Right for Your Business?

If your interest is piqued so far, youre in good company. However, there are some requirements that must be met before customized packaging can become a reality for your business (see sidebar). Once a company meets those criteria, its respective USPS sales account representative completes the required business case and submits it for review. Each case is reviewed based on its own merits and subsequently approved or denied. If the company is approved, the Postal Service will work with it to design a package to meet the business specific needs. The packaging is created and produced according to customer specification so that businesses can promote their products using their own branding, while still realizing the advantages of partnering with the USPS. If your company satisfies the necessary criteria, customized packaging could drastically improve the overall efficiency and customer satisfaction of your business.


Brimming with Benefits

While the perishable aspect of foods often makes customized packaging a must, other businesses, such as Capital One, Club Photo and H&R Block, are finding that it works to their advantage as well. Pat Milstead, Acting Manager of Expedited Packaging Services for the Postal Service, says companies are utilizing this service more and more frequently, largely because of the positive message that the company sends to its customers when they work with USPS. Additionally, convenience for the company is maximized through the use of customized packaging; the USPS helps manage the business packaging inventory, and companies do not have to worry about the separate cost of packaging, since the Priority or Express Mail rate that they are paying already includes this cost.


Being a shipper in todays environment is no easy task. Competition abounds, costs soar while revenue drops, and on top of that, if you dont deliver products to your customers as quickly as they think you should, and in the condition they expect, you run the very real risk of losing them. While no one product offers solutions for every problem, customized packaging with the USPS goes a long way toward mitigating the headaches suffered by shipping managers across the country. And really, when its so easy to deliver to customers what they want, when they want, what have you got to lose?


Want to learn more about making Priority Mail Customized Packaging work for your business? E-mail the Postal Service at packageservices@usps.com.



Want to make customized packaging work for you? If your company meets the following

criteria, you could be well on your way.



Standard and specialized packaging will not successfully satisfy the needs of the shipper.


Proposed annual Priority and/or Express Mail revenue must meet $500,000. Each request is reviewed on its own merit.


The customers facility has the ability to accommodate a tractor trailer delivery.


The customers facility can offload the tractor trailer and accept appropriate production run quantities.