October 25, 2012, 2:20 PM

Pitney Bowes lets e-retailers show overseas delivery costs

It manages international shipping and shows fully landed costs in online checkout.

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Pitney Bowes, as it continues to expand beyond its initial business of providing postage meter technology and services, is building out its international shipping services for what it views as a growing market in online retailers selling into foreign markets.

“A lot of merchants are seeing growth in domestic e-commerce, but for many of them getting to the next big level of growth means they need to look at international markets,” says Craig Reed, vice president of global e-commerce. “We’ll be much more in the foreground in this, and want to be more of a household name in global e-commerce.”

Pitney Bowes’ client base includes hundreds of retailers, Reed says, including Rickshaw Bagworks, a San Francisco retailer of backpacks and other types of bags, that recently began using Pitney Bowes’ shipping services to show international customers their full “landed” costs of items shipped to their doors. Providing such information on product pages or in the checkout process makes foreign shoppers more likely to buy because they know the full cost of delivery, including cross-border customs duties and all domestic and international shipping fees, before they click to complete a purchase, says Chris Schroeder, director of sales and marketing for Rickshaw.

“Pitney Bowes allows us to give our customers fully landed, fully guaranteed quotes which increases our customers’ confidence, and prevents any surprises from unexpected duties and taxes,” he says. “We saw an immediate lift in international conversion.” He declines to specify the increase.

Pitney Bowes provides a range of technology and services, including contracting with international shipping carriers, gathering information from foreign countries on their cross-border tariffs and customs duties, and providing online retailers with Internet-hosted, software-as-a-service technology that provides them with an on-site shipping cost calculator.

The calculator, which is connected over the web to Pitney’s databases of international tariffs and other information, is designed to instantly process data on each product in a retailer’s online product catalog and calculate the full delivery cost to a customer’s destination. Pitney guarantees for retailers the final delivery rate presented to consumers.

Once a client retailer accepts an order from a foreign customer, it ships the order to one of two Pitney Bowes shipping facilities near international airports in Cincinnati and Newark, NJ. Pitney then cross-docks a retailer’s shipments, unloading them from the domestic carrier and aggregating them for re-loading on international carriers, depending on the final destination. Shipments to Canada are generally loaded onto tractor trailers; shipments to other countries get loaded onto either commercial or cargo airlines. Pitney also arranges for local deliveries in the destination country.

For Pitney, its global e-commerce business is a continuation of a venture it first entered in 2004, when it began working with eBay Inc. to provide eBay e-marketplace sellers with an international postage printing service. It increased its global services the following year when it acquired the ClearPath technology unit from Canada Post Borderfree; ClearPath provided the technology Pitney uses to calculate landed costs for international shipments. (Canada Post sold the remaining assets of Borderfree, which provides international shipping services from Canada, in March to FiftyOne Global Ecommerce, a competitor to Pitney Bowes.)

Going forward, Pitney will continue investing in global e-commerce technology and services, says Reed, who was one of the founders of Borderfree and joined Pitney with the ClearPath acquisition. Pitney’s forte is in handling shipments from U.S. companies selling into international markets, but it plans to build a stronger presence in serving e-commerce companies shipping between other international markets, including Europe and Asia-Pacific, Reed says.

In the meantime, Pitney is working with eBay in a test of its international shipping services designed for e-marketplace sellers on eBay.com. Reed says it’s too soon to say what will become of the test. EBay did not immediately return a request for comment.

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