The evolution of the U.S. Postal Service is continuing, with the agency introducing its USPS Connect eCommerce service for online businesses.
The program is an expansion of its growing USPS Connect program, first launched in 2021 in Texas, and is being rolled out nationwide this year. The new eCommerce service is designed to streamline the pricing and shipping process for businesses. It offers an accelerated agreement process, integrated Postal Service or PC Postage software, and access to special benefits designed for eCommerce customers.
“USPS Connect eCommerce makes it easier for online marketplaces and shipping platforms to work directly with the Postal Service and offer their customers access to discounted rates,” said Jacqueline Krage Strako, chief customer and business solutions officer for the United States Postal Service.
E-commerce marketplaces get lower pricing
For e-commerce platforms, the Postal Service said the new service provides discounted pricing for the platform and rates to offer merchants, access through Postal Service APIs, manifest systems and PC Postage software. Merchants receive discounted rates through participating platforms, no minimum volume commitments, free package pickup service, free Saturday delivery, no fuel surcharges and no delivery surcharges. There are no additional charges for packages that must be forwarded or those that are returned as undeliverable. (Some product restrictions apply on this last item.)
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“A majority of e-commerce businesses are already working with online marketplaces and shipping platforms, and we expect that trend to continue,” said Strako. “We are providing participating online marketplaces and shipping platforms the very best solution to drive growth for merchants and the Postal Service.”
In a previous interview with Modern Shipper, Strako said that USPS Connect’s goal is to give businesses, especially smaller businesses that are looking to take advantage of e-commerce opportunities but are straddled with high shipping costs through FedEx (NYSE: FDX), UPS (NYSE: UPS) and others, a path to profitable sales.
USPS expanding delivery network
The rollout, part of the Postal Service’s Delivering for America plan, includes USPS Connect Local, USPS Connect Regional, USPS Connect National and USPS Connect Returns.
- USPS Connect Local allows businesses to offer next-day service in all locations, with same-day delivery, Sunday delivery and pickup options in select locations. It includes USPS Connect Local Mail, a first-class mail option for documents up to 13 ounces. Businesses can inject their USPS Connect Local packages and mail at the receiving dock of the designated postal facility or take advantage of free en route pickup when their carrier delivers their mail. Free flat-rate bags, boxes and envelopes are available via USPS Click-N-Ship.
- USPS Connect Regional provides businesses next-day regional and local delivery of Parcel Select packages and Parcel Select lightweight packages.
- USPS Connect National provides delivery solutions through first-class package service, Parcel Select Ground and Retail Ground.
- USPS Connect Returns allows businesses to offer customers returns with free en route pickup by their carrier or drop-off at a nearby post office.
Strako said what USPS Connect is ultimately doing is opening up the Postal Service network, which was really only available to larger shippers with high volumes, to everyone. Connect Local includes access to the Click-N-Ship platform that allows customers to buy postage online and print labels. There is no minimum number of packages for Local, Strako said, which delivers items the same day within local ZIP codes if dropped off at the local drop-off location between 5 and 7 a.m. On-demand pickup is available for a fee, as is marketing collateral for businesses.
USPS slowing some delivery
Even as the Postal Service rolls out new solutions to address an e-commerce world, it is looking to offset costs. In April, it announced the Postal Regulatory Commission had approved its plan to slow delivery of some long-distance parcel shipments, allowing it to use more surface transportation rather than more expensive airfreight.
As of May 1, nearly one-third of all first-class parcels will be delivered one to two days later than the current two- to three-day delivery windows, the Postal Service said. The time in transit will be based on delivery lengths, with a coast-to-coast move likely taking five days. About 68% of parcel volumes will still have two- to three-day deliveries, while about 4% will be upgraded from three days to two. First-class parcel shipments typically weigh less than 1 pound and are mostly designed to move via e-commerce.
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