One Step Closer to Elite: USPS and Our Checkout Process

Continuing my series of posts on our USPS Launch, I want to delve a bit deeper into why this is such a good customer experience, why it saves us a ton of money, and how it really rounds out a great few months of improvements to our checkout process.

I mentioned a few months ago that right now I’m most interested in helping us become an “elite” e-commerce company. What’s happened since has been exactly what I was hoping for. I’ve always thought we had a very good checkout process, but it’s really gotten much better these past few months. We added guest checkouts, vastly improved checkout page speed with our improved FedEx quoting, and added USPS in to the mix, in addition to plenty of smaller improvements. What we had even 4 months ago is almost laughable in comparison. That’s what I’m gunning for: leaps-and-bounds improvements.

As far as USPS goes it’s easy to say that for light packages it’s cheaper and faster, that it’s both better for us and our customers, but I feel like a real-life example can really drive the point home.

Let’s say you’re a California resident (one of our most popular states) looking to buy a 50 ml 22ple VX1 Pro Glass Coating (one of our most popular products). These are the shipping options you’ll see:

Detailed Image USPS Checkout 22ple Example

Previously your cheapest alternative would have been FedEx SmartPost for $5.99, which would take almost two weeks to arrive and we’d be subsidizing by $2.20. Your other option would be our Guaranteed 1 – 3 Day FedEx Express Saver Upgrade, which would have arrived in 3 business days and would also be subsidized by us (more details on that here).

Now First Class Package Service is $2.25 and arrives in 3 days, or with Priority for $6.51 it would arrive in 2 days. With the weekend being factored in for this example (USPS moves on Saturday, Express usually doesn’t), FedEx Express Saver is even a day longer than USPS First Class.

Also, because this order is over $150 it’s eligible for our Ship & Save Free Shipping coupon code DIFREE. Our system is smart enough to pick the cheapest non-SmartPost option as the DIFREE option, meaning that if you decide to use DIFREE to get free shipping, as many customers would in this instance, it will cost us $2.25 instead of $10.82 + the Express Saver subsidy.

Now extrapolate that out to our entire business over an entire year and the immense impact of this move should be obvious.

And then there’s the flat rate boxes. The USPS offers an array of Flat Rate and Regional Flat Rate boxes that make heavier shipments cheaper. To effectively offer these methods and price them properly, we needed a level of precision that is only possible because we’ve spent years optimizing every aspect of our shipping process. How do you know if an order will fit into one of these Flat Rate boxes? You measure every single product, build a box-sizing system, and then refine it over several years so it’s highly accurate. Had we not built that back in 2008 we wouldn’t have had a chance at offering these Flat Rate boxes, which have turned out to be the best option for more customers than anticipated.

It just goes to show how a “very successful” project that to an outsider would look like it took a few months, really was only possible because of years and years of small, barely significant improvements.

2 comments on One Step Closer to Elite: USPS and Our Checkout Process

  1. Rob says:

    Congrats on getting this all sorted.

    I just can’t believe that USPS were being so bad about picking up from your park. Surely between you and the other businesses there they were missing out on $10k+ per month? It seems absolutely insane. I’d be interested to hear their answer for why they weren’t doing pickup if you ever do find out.

    Have you stopped subsidising the premium shipping options now?

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Surely between you and the other businesses there they were missing out on $10k+ per month? It seems absolutely insane.

      I would love to know more too! As you suggested, the huge business opportunity for them made it worthwhile to get rid of all of the barriers. I think it was all “political” between the park, USPS, the local postmaster, etc. I don’t know that for sure, but given how fast this all came about I don’t think there were any logistical barriers.

      Have you stopped subsidising the premium shipping options now?

      We’re still offering those subsidized options when it’s the best available option for the customer, however that should be much less frequently now because of USPS. But yea, if someone is ordering a heavy package to California we’ll still subsidize a FedEx Express shipment to get it to them in 3 business days.

      It’s possible in the future our FedEx volume goes down, our rates go down, and then we aren’t able to afford the subsidy anymore. We’re not hoping for that, however if it does happen it will be because USPS has taken a substantial portion of our business so it’s not like it will end up hurting us all that much.

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