Metered Mail 101: The Benefits of Digital Meters

In the frenetic pace of our digital world, physical mail has secured its position as a credible communications channel with staying power and popularity. In fact, a Royal Mail study of mail users in the United Kingdom found 87% of customers rate mail as believable, compared to 48% for email, and 65% of customers are likely to give it their full attention.1

Small and medium-sized businesses know this. Sending invoices and other client communications by physical mail is a daily occurrence for them, but many are generating unnecessary costs. Without knowing the exact postage for a mailpiece, senders find themselves estimating costs, resulting in postal surcharges and delays or even returned mail.

Metered mail can help prevent all these issues. Read on to learn the value of this service when it comes to postage and the benefits of using digital meters.

The Perks of Metered Mail

Metered mail allows small and medium businesses to use a meter to print postage on mailpieces as proof of payment. By leveraging this service, businesses could easily simplify their mail process. They could also improve accuracy and save money.

A meter’s built-in scale is designed to accurately weigh everything from postcards to packages, removing the guesswork and ensuring senders pay exactly the right postage every time. Meters also offer discounts unavailable in a Post Office™ retail location or when using stamps. As of January 2019, using a postage meter saves $0.05 per piece for envelopes up to 3.5 ounces, lowering the cost of your postage to $0.50 for First-Class Mail® letters weighing 1 ounce or less.

Save Time and Boost Your Brand

Replacing manual mail operations with a meter saves time, the most valuable asset. In a Pitney Bowes study, 37% of small businesses said that finding time to go to a Post Office retail location was their biggest hassle in regard to sending mail.2 Meters eliminate this, giving businesses back valuable time that can be spent on growing their business.

Meters also boost the professional look of business mail, as a company logo or personalized message can be printed on the envelope, boosting brand visibility.

The Next Generation of Meters

Today’s meters integrate advanced digital technology with design innovation. Some models even use Android® operating systems, so it’s as easy as using a smartphone, with convenient functionality and a simple interface. It helps businesses select the ideal sending option for every letter, flat and parcel they send, while delivering savings and helping track costs.

Older analog connected meters still have a place in many mailrooms across the world today, and for some organizations, they are a viable and effective option. However, it’s worth taking some time to consider the benefits of digital meters.

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    Digital is faster and more flexible.

    A dial-up Internet connection can vary from 1.2 to around 56 kilobytes per second. A digital connection is 100 megabytes per second, which could make it up to a thousand times faster than the connection of an analog meter. By connecting to Wi-Fi or Local Area Networks, digital meters don’t vie for Internet access with your other communications technology. Also, if you connect via wireless and switch offices, your meter can move with you.

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    Rate changes and software updates are simple and precise.

    These inevitably require preparation and attention. Without a meter, businesses must remember to accurately factor in the cost of the new rates into their postage. With an analog meter, time is spent establishing a connection first before information can be transferred, then there is the additional need to wait for the downloading and installation of new rates for a rate change, for example. A digital system is always connected, so rates can be updated anytime.

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    Digital meters provide enhanced accounting.

    They allow you to track how much your business spends on postage down to the product level. You can also measure what time of the year your spending goes up or down.

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    Digital connections are reliable and future-proof.

    If an analog line disconnects while trying to credit your meter before a mailing, it can cost you time and productivity. The copper analog network can also be costly to maintain and vulnerable to service outages. In the future, service providers are likely to become less willing to provide and support analog connections. Digital meters help alleviate this concern.

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    Digital meters can generate additional savings.

    An analog-connected meter requires a dedicated phone line, which for most businesses is an incremental cost they often overlook. Many organizations are already paying for broadband, so there is no additional cost for a digital meter connection, and no need for the analog line.

Key Takeaway

Today’s connected customer draws information from a diversity of platforms but the value of physical mail remains. Postage meters help ensure that businesses continue to benefit from this vital customer engagement channel, while optimizing their budgets.

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4 Ways to Grow Your Business with Metered Mail

Mail is a cornerstone for many successful businesses. Sending monthly statements and occasional postcard campaigns helps companies grow and thrive.

As the volume of mail grows, many businesses find it hard to get to a Post Office™ location to calculate the exact postage for each piece. Instead, they estimate postage to save time, which ends up costing them.

One solution to save time and money? A postage meter. This tool makes sending mail quicker, less expensive and more customized. Here, we’ll highlight four benefits of having your own postage meter.

For a more in-depth analysis of metered mail’s benefits, see our article, “Metered Mail 101: The Benefits of Digital Meters”.

Save on postage

Instead of estimating postage by using traditional stamps, you can weigh each piece you send—whether it’s a letter or a package—and pay the exact postage required.

Plus, as of January 2019, USPS® offers businesses that use postage meters a $.05 discount on every First-Class Mail® letter they send. The savings adds up: a small business sending 1,000 mailpieces a month could save about $600 a year by using a meter.1

Avoid surcharges and delays

When you estimate the cost to send an item—especially one that is large, weighs more or is unusually sized—you may underpay for postage by using stamps. This leads to surcharges that could delay delivery or make an item undeliverable entirely.

With metered mail, you’re always paying exact postage, which helps to ensure that your mail gets to its recipients without costing you time and money.

Drop off mail and skip the line

Finding the time to get to the Post Office location can be tough, according to 37% of small businesses who participated in a Pitney Bowes study.2 With a meter, you don’t need to go out of your way or wait in line.

Once the metered postage for your mail or packages is printed on your pieces, it’s ready to mail. Drop mail in the nearest blue collection box or at a convenient drop-off point and get to the next thing on your to-do list.

Boost your brand

Meters can print more than postage on your mailpieces. You can add a personalized message or your company’s branding to envelopes, too, which boosts your visibility.

Envelopes with messages specific to the recipient—as simple as “Kate, your offer is inside!”—are shown to be effective: 84% of consumers surveyed said they were more likely to open a piece of mail if it is personalized to them.3

In Summary

Metered mail offers true value for small and medium businesses. By using a postage meter, you can save on the cost of postage, cut down the time it takes to send out mail and focus on growth.

Interested in how metered mail works and how it can benefit your business? Read our article: “Metered Mail 101: The Benefits of Digital Meters”

Preparing Your In-Store Staff for Ship-from-Store Fulfillment

Optimizing a brick-and-mortar retail store to manage ship-from-store processes is a complex and intricate task. One of the biggest hurdles is training and motivating retail sales staff to accurately fulfill online orders. These employees are hired to assist customers in person and most likely don’t have training in picking, packing and shipping inventory.

To successfully implement ship-from-store fulfillment, retailers need a well-trained and highly motivated staff that can execute sales on- and offline. Here are four important tips for building a staff that will support ship-from-store.

Think (and Staff) Ahead

If you anticipate a greater demand for shipping, bolster your ship-from-store operations by staffing up. Bringing in dedicated support for picking, packing and shipping can help offset training time and concerns about commissions for your regular sales staff.

Train Your Staff on Fulfillment

Adding in-store fulfillment for online orders calls for a different skill set than that of a customer-facing sales team. Develop reference materials like booklets and posters, and use them as part of ongoing training programs to help employees performing fulfillment functions implement easy-to-follow processes. Training should include:

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    Picking

    Train your staff to pick products for online orders in the most efficient way. This is best done in batches when in-store customer traffic is low, like before the store opens, after it closes or during slow periods throughout the day. Scheduling it during these time periods will cut down on in-store distractions that slow down the picking process. Having staff members assigned to either fulfillment or customer sales also makes picking easier to implement without hurting the customer experience.

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    Packing

    Next, you’ll need to teach your staff the proper way to pack items. Create a dedicated packing station that is stocked with all the right tools—boxes, envelopes, fill material, scissors, tape—and that displays instructions for properly packing items to ship. It is considered best practice to use consistent packaging across fulfillment channels to avoid any issues. If a product is improperly packed, it could be damaged, lost or delayed, causing a customer to ultimately lose trust in your store.

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    Shipping

    Shipping time is a huge factor in customer satisfaction. Develop a process that takes into account pickup times and also ensures that employees check off all the necessary steps before sending. For example, a package being shipped internationally would need different paperwork and postage than a local one.

Provide Emotional Motivation

Adjusting to ship-from-store standards and processes can be taxing for everyday sales employees. They may see the addition of fulfillment as losing productive hours and commissions or feel underappreciated and overworked. In your orientations and trainings, make sure to address these emotional pain points—transparency and reassurance helps show your appreciation for your hardworking staff.

Provide Financial Motivation

Hand in hand with emotional motivation comes financial motivation. If your employees are worried about losing in-store sales, adjust your commission structure to fit the new ship-from-store strategy. Bring ordering technology into the store with laptops or eCommerce apps that employees are trained to use. This will improve the experience of a customer who can’t find what they need in person, and will help your sales staff seamlessly close deals for products bought online.

In Conclusion

Implementing a ship-from-store process in your brick-and-mortar stores requires understanding and participation from employees. Transparency along with robust, ongoing training for staff members can help any store optimize its new fulfillment strategy.

5 Ways to Start Distributing from Your Retail Store

More and more store owners are turning to a ship-from-store fulfillment strategy, leveraging in-store inventory and shipping directly from their retail locations. There are many potential benefits to this method: fewer markdowns, improved asset utilization and, with stores shipping to nearby customers, lower costs and quicker delivery times. But it takes detailed planning and effort to make the transition seamlessly. Here, we take you through the five all-important steps to turning your stores into effective distribution centers.

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    Make Your Inventory Status Transparent

    Creating system-wide inventory visibility is the first step to implementing in-store fulfillment. This will allow you to have the right product available in the right locations at the right time. Assess your current inventory management system and make sure it can track and reallocate products when needed. If you have multiple systems in place across stores and distribution centers, integrate your inventory management to ensure that your inventory is visible across channels. This is essential for managing consumer demand and keeping orders moving efficiently.

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    Define Which Stores Will Turn Into Distribution Centers

    Next, you’ll have to choose which stores will double as fulfillment centers. This is critical to success. It’s important to note: not all of your physical locations need to answer your fulfillment needs. Focus on converting larger stores that have both the backroom space and a sizable amount of inventory. This will ensure that there’s enough supply in stock and enough space to manage it. Also consider the locations of the stores. Use data from past sales to see which regions order the most and could benefit from having a fulfillment center nearby. Fulfilling orders from a store in proximity to a large number of customers means shorter delivery times and lower-cost deliveries.

    Choose stores that also have inventory-management technology that will allow you to catalog products correctly and have orders fulfilled in a timely way. Be sure at least one of your stores fulfills these characteristics before starting to ship from store.

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    Organize Your In-Store Distribution Center

    Typical distribution centers have streamlined processes in place for picking, packing and shipping. Mirror the process on a smaller level in your stores, so that products are handled and packaged just as professionally as in your traditional distribution centers, and you create efficient shipping practices. Not to mention, your customers will be provided with the same standout experience regardless of where the product is shipped, so they can expect consistent branding and packaging with their order.

    Some employees may not see fulfilling online orders as their main priority, sending out poorly wrapped and packaged orders. Train them in the picking, packing and shipping process, and make sure your in-store distribution center is organized efficiently so that employees can consistently meet your packaging and wrapping standards.

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    Set Up a Product Return System

    Easy returns are critically important to customers. Set up a return system that works for you and your customers. Determine whether orders should be returned in person to stores or shipped back to stores or distribution centers. Then set clear guidelines about mail-only or in-store returns and communicate them clearly to your customers.

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    Retrain Your Staff

    When you add distribution to the list of items your employees are responsible for, you will have to retrain your staff on new procedures and challenges. Some employees may be resistant to being tasked with supporting online sales in addition to their main in-store responsibilities. To motivate commission-based employees, consider offering incentives to help ensure buy-in or adjusting your commission structure to fit the ship-from-store strategy.

    In some cases, it might be beneficial to hire additional staff to handle in-store fulfillment and train them specifically for that purpose. Naturally, their performance would be measured differently than that of commission-based employees, allowing for a higher degree of control, quality and accountability.

In Conclusion

If you prepare your space, adapt your in-store procedures and work with your employees for a smooth transition, you can begin shipping from store and see the potential benefits to your bottom line and in your customer satisfaction. You’ll not only utilize your inventory more efficiently, but also be able to get items out the door faster and at lower cost.