This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Being able to purchase, manage, and print postage online is a great way to save your business time and money. Here we will take a step-by-step look at how to buy postage online, reviewing several vendor options and the tools that you will need to print your postage at home.
Step 1: Choose an Online Postage Vendor
First, you will want to choose your online postage vendor. Depending on the available features, pricing, and currier restrictions, you will want to consider different providers. Here we will take a look at USPS, Stamps.com, and ShipStation and the postage services they offer for your small business.
Best for those
Wanting a free service
Looking for discounted USPS rates
Using any carrier
USPS, FedEx, UPS, Amazon, DHL, and more
Marketplace order integration
Shopping cart integration
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is a great option for small businesses that want to buy and manage their postage online. With USPS, you sign up for one of its three shipping programs—Click n’ Ship, Click n’ Ship Business, and Business Customer Gateway—depending on your reporting needs and monthly order volume (we take a more detailed look at the programs below). From there, you can start to utilize USPS’s shipping features and purchase and print your postage online.
USPS offers a lot of great features through its online postage service.
Stamps.com is a USPS affiliate program that offers discounted domestic and international USPS postage rates through a Stamps.com membership. Through this, you will pay $17.99 per month for unlimited discounted shipments. While this used to mean that USPS had to be your carrier, Stamps.com now offers UPS postage if you need one-day or overnight shipping. UPS postage, however, will not be subject to a discount.
The real steal with Stamps.com, however, is its discounted USPS rates. Stamps.com gives you access to some of the most competitive prices available anywhere.
- Domestic: Up to 40% off USPS and up to 66% for UPS Daily Rates
- International: Up to 7% off for USPS and up to 76% off for UPS Daily Rates
- Package Protection: Save up to 40% on package insurance and coverage.
- Best Shipping Rate Available: Stamps.com automatically selects the best USPS delivery option based on price, package size, weight, and required delivery date
With your subscription, Stamps.com also offers a great list of features that you can utilize.
- Marketplace order processing: This feature allows you to import orders from across selling platforms. In other words, if someone placed an order on your website, that order and its postage would be automatically loaded onto your Stamps.com account.
- Postage and user reporting: Stamps.com will track all your postage history and contact information, so you can get insights into your shipping and keep track of your customers.
- Customized customer communication: You can send branded shipping notification emails through Stamps.com. This ensures that you get your customers all the information they need while never breaking with your brand voice.
- Print stamps: Buy and print stamps directly onto your mail from your home printer.
- Live support: Stamps.com offers live phone support so that trained experts can answer your questions without having to wait around for an email.
- Live package tracking: You and your customers will be able to view live parcel tracking, and Stamps.com will send automatic package updates to your customer at different points in its journey.
ShipStation is another membership-based service where you can print and manage your postage online. However, ShipStation allows you to print discounted postage for USPS, Amazon, eBay, FedEx, UPS, Magento, and DHL—it searches all these providers to find you the best rates and ship times for your orders.
Depending on the number of orders you send, ShipStation offers various membership options—starting at $9/month for 50 monthly shipments and going up to $159/month for 10,000. In addition to order volume, ShipStation’s membership options also get richer in customization features as they get more expensive and allow for more users per account. Otherwise, their features are the same in each membership tier.
Speaking of features, ShipStation offers an impressive list of features through its program.
- Order Management: Manage all your orders from one platform by integrating ShipStation into your storefronts. This integration allows you to track all your shipping history, keep an address book, manage all incoming orders, and track orders from multiple carriers from one platform.
- Browse Shipping Rates: It finds you the lowest rates from a variety of carriers so that you can find the postage that works best for your business.
- Scan to Verify: ShipStation creates a barcode label for each of your orders. Scanning these barcodes allows you to detect packing errors and confirm that the contents of every order are correct.
- Branded Shipping Notifications: Send your customers custom shipping notifications at set points in their package’s journey. You can even send custom SMS notifications.
- Branded shipping labels: Add your logo or other branding elements to your shipping labels so that even the outside of your package aligns with your overall brand experience. This is an especially good option if you use custom boxes.
- Leave a message: ShipStation sends a packing slip that lists the items inside, but you can leave a custom message or thank you note on the slip as well.
- Package tracking: It provides you and your customer real-time parcel tracking via its carrier.
Step 2: Select a Printer
To print your postage at home, you will need a printer. There are two different types of printers that you can use: inkjet and thermal. Each requires different paper and settings to make it compatible with your labels.
Step 3: Purchase Shipping Label Sheets
For printing labels on either printer, you will want to purchase adhesive shipping label sheets either online or at your local office supply store. Depending on the retailer that you choose, you can pick your paper based on either the label size or your carrier.
For example, ULINE sells different labels specifically sized for USPS, UPS, and FedEx postage. This means that you won’t have to adjust margins or mess with sizing when printing. However, if you can’t find carrier-specific label paper, you can always change your printer settings to make your postage into your desired size.
When choosing your label paper, ensure that you select paper that’s compatible with your specific printer. Inkjet versus portable label printers take different kinds and sizes of paper and are not interchangeable. In general, thermal printers take rolls of label paper, whereas inkjet printers use sheets, so be sure to check your specific model for compatibility. Choosing the right paper ensures that your labels will print onto your sheets correctly.
Tip: You can also use regular paper to print your postage, but you will have to cut and adhere each label, which takes time and resources.
Purchasing your postage online and printing it at home is a great way to save yourself time and help streamline your shipping process. With this guide, you are equipped with the tools to choose the best online postage vendor and printing option for your business.
The process of getting your packages to your customers, or fulfillment, is the next step in your shipping journey. You can learn more about how to do order fulfillment with our article on order fulfillment processes and strategies.