Small businesses and entrepreneurs selling online may find welcome relief from their shipping woes when iShip.com goes live next month. At least, that’s what the young company’s founders are hoping for, as they launch a Web-based shipping service designed specifically for e-commerce.
The new service, which will be available in late February, is targeted first for the needs of low volume shippers. These include small Web stores, as well as individuals selling via Web auctions or classified ads on the Internet. The company also intends to expand its service in the near future to meet the more demanding needs of larger Web stores.
iShip will enable merchants and their customers to compare rates and services across multiple carriers, including Airborne Express, Federal Express, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service. It will also provide practical tools for preparing shipments and tracking packages. Online sellers will be able to add customized shipping options directly to their Web store or auction site, free of charge.
The company’s founders report that iShip.com is a first-of-its-kind service, offering multi-carrier rates and service comparisons online. They suggest that merchants can turn e-commerce shipping into a competitive advantage by giving customers more shipping options and better tracking information.
iShip.com was founded by the same team that developed UPS’s shipping and tracking software. The new multi-carrier system is designed to work directly with each carrier’s own system.
CEO and co-founder Steve Teglovic sums up the opportunity: “People have discovered that where the Web ends, the shipping docks begin.”
The company estimates that approximately 240 million e-commerce shipments were made last year, and that number is expected to increase exponentially in the years ahead. Thus, the company’s strategy to help e-commerce sellers provide better shipping service seems like the right idea, at the right time.
When fully mplemented, iShip is expected to include these functions:
Provides package pricing based on zip code, not an estimated average
Allows shipments from a drop-box, retail outlet, or scheduled carrier pick-up
Permits use of shipping services by people who don’t have a shipping account.
Adds an optional handling fee to the shipping charges seen by buyers.
Prints certified shipping labels to a desktop printer. Enables buyers and sellers to check delivery status online.
Sends automated e-mails to the buyer or relevant third parties.
iShip.com was founded in 1997, and is based in Bellevue, Washington. The company is privately held with funding from Intel, United Parcel Service, and the venture capital firm of Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson.
According to investor Tim Draper, “These guys are equipped with the experience, product, and the passion to hit a homerun with Web-based shipping.” Sounds promising, indeed.