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Occasional Contributor
Status: New

What the subject says. I've done some fairly heavy duty online retail stuff in the past, then didn't for a long time... I started up a "hobby business" awhile back... And now it's going to be growing quite a bit. Ooops.


As with a lot of people who sell small/light things, it makes a ton of economic sense to send things as USPS First Class Mail Letters or Large Envelopes/Flats. The universal problem is they don't have tracking. Except THEY DO. USPS created their Informed Visibility program years back and tracks them all by their Intelligent Mail Barcodes.


Basically every online shipping provider out there uses the IMB on their mailings, but nobody offers a solution to actually allow you to get access to the tracking data! What an obvious oversight and fail by literally every company in the world. Haha.


I've been researching this to death because I know it's going to become more of an issue as I scale. Things I know:


eBay and possibly Etsy integrated a way for items sold on their platforms to use this data and show buyers tracking. Which is cool, except for everything you sell other places can't use this.


A company called Letter Track Pro exists which allows you access to this data AND has a customer accessible tracking page! Problem solved, right? Unfortunately their system is really manual in nature, and doesn't really have integrations anywhere. Which is unfortunate, because if they could somehow piggy back onto ShipStation or somewhere else it would be problem solved. They charge a lot on a per piece basis, but still massive savings vs sending as packages, so I'd probably do it. I actually need to talk to these guys, as perhaps there is way to make it workable.


Pitney Bowes seems to support IMB and has some sort of tracking stuff in their back end from what I can make out from their website... I have messaged them and am waiting to hear back. Their whole system seems a bit clunky and backwards, they do things very old school, don't list relevant info on their website but want you to contact them so a sales guy can call you, etc... So I don't have high hopes. I get the impression they allow YOU as a mailer to see some tracking info, but have no solution you could just send to a buyer. So only of minimal value as a retailer telling a customer an order is somewhere when the customer has no way to see it themselves will probably come off as more shady to the customer than anything.


Then there seem to be super weird, old school mass mailer companies that use this technology in various ways, but none are really useful for online retailers.


Somebody PLEASE tell me I have missed something in my research and there is a company out there that would allow me to send letters and flats and actually track the things, while preferably allowing my customer to do the same from a link. PLEASE!


I like ShipStation and have used them for years. It gets the job done. But I really don't understand why nobody, including them, has the sense to do the extremely simple coding work to just allow people to access the IMB data that the USPS will gladly give them for free. It's bonkers that only eBay and maybe Etsy are doing this. The difference between a $.60 mailing cost (or even flats at $1.xx) and $3-4-5+ bucks just to get tracking is silly, and for many product types that are small there's no need. People are buying more and more stuff online, and some small items are only viable to sell if you don't have high shipping costs.


If anybody at ShipStation reads this, please tell the boss to develop this feature! From the forum posts all over the internet of people talking about this subject, I am 110% confident that if ANY decent shipping service provider offered this service they would swoop up a ton of customers instantly just for this service, not to mention make many existing customers ecstatic.


Anyway, end of rant for now. I hope to get some responses from people who perhaps have info I don't. If I hear anything useful back from Pitney Bowes or Letter Track I will post here for the good of the universe! I swear that if nobody ever gets this figured out I might have to do it myself for my business, but also offer it as a product to others. It'd probably make more money than my current businesses do. LOL


Hey there @exoticp


Thank you for joining us here in the community and for taking the time to write out this post.  


I definitely see why this type of tracking could be desirable. I'll move this over to our ideas section so that other community members like you can show their support via kudos! 

Occasional Contributor

Hi @Moderator-Davis Thanks. Yeah, it's a pretty silly thing IMO that this has been an option potentially available for around a decade now, but it is not widely supported. It is a niche issue, as many people don't ship items this small, but it is very useful for those that do. The fact that it would take borderline zero effort on the part of ShipStation is the main thing though... You could make a lot of people VERY happy with almost no dev team effort, and swoop up customers in the process.


So definitely pass the idea along to relevant people if you happen to be chatting to them. Also, as an FYI, I have received info that Pitney Bowes and some services DO have support for this, it's just not well advertised and potentially not particularly well executed... I know they're your arch nemesis being that you guys are owned by, and you guys have them beat by orders of magnitude in most other technical ways... But I gotta be honest, if their system is even remotely workable once I find out details I'm going to have to switch. So there's a customer and thousands of future dollars lost just right there from me. Multiply that by how many people??? and it starts to add up. You guys gotta at least keep up with the Jones' if not best them right? I'd way rather stick with you guys for a variety of reasons, but this is a single feature that is important enough to switch for. So you can pass that along too.

New Contributor

I really wish this came to fruition. This would save so much money and be a huge boost to my sales. I'm already using the letter tracking on both Ebay and Etsy, and would absolutely love to easily use this on all of the other marketplaces and websites that I currently sell on. I know it would be a game changer!

Occasional Contributor

Hey! Long story short is I did finally find a way to track using IMBs! Another guy I was talking to on here had tried out a different company that had been on my list to look into, and it ended up working. It's called Easy Post.


I will say right off that ShipStation is a far more functional and awesome product... So you guys should still add in this feature, because you guys DO generate IMBs for every letter and it's absurd that you can't track it since the system is free to utilize with the USPS. You just have to do the code once and your customers will have this awesome feature forever.


Easy Posts system is a little wacky. I think their target customer base is really high volume shippers directly integrating their system with custom coding, BUT there are some regular people facing apps built upon it. I use Shopify so use a Shopify shipping integration called Ship Blink.


The short version of it all is that I can send items with IMBs, and I get tracking links from Easy Post via Ship Blink... That all works just fine, and has been very handy. The issue is that they don't integrate into anybody else's tracking systems. So I can send people a link to track it, but on places like Amazon etc it will never show any delivery info directly in their built in tracking system. On Amazon they have a $10 limit under which tracking isn't required, so I can send some of my stuff this way, but still have to send anything over $10 Ground Advantage even if it would easily qualify for being sent as a letter still.


So it's kind of like a 75% solution. I'm talking to the developer of Ship Blink about adding Pitney Bowes USPS postage printing ability, because they're integrated with almost all online marketplaces for their tracking... He's seriously looking into it for me because I straight up offered him a cash bribe if he could get it done, and he'd been wanting to add a secondary "source" for USPS postage anyway. If he does get that done it'll be the holy grail because PB IMB tracking should integrate most/all places.


Easy Post is free to sign up for directly, and you can print postage directly in there. So maybe give it a test run and see if you think it'll work for you without the tracking integrating places. I do get some messages asking about the tracking not working, but it's a small percentage and I just shoot them back a template email with a tracking link. I also mention the lack of integration in listing text where I can. If it works for you I'd sign up for an integration of some sort as the direct interface kinda sucks.


The integration I'm using is not as slick as ShipStation... But it gets the job done, and saves me a bundle on postage. Some of the others that use Easy Post may or may not be better. So it is what it is! I just figured I'd help ya out and send you this info. I hope it is helpful and works out for you. If Ship Blink ever adds Pitney Bowes postage I will be the happiest man in the world!