Amazon Working to Bring USPS Ground Advantage to its Buy Shipping Service
In a recent announcement, Amazon revealed its ongoing efforts to incorporate USPS Ground Advantage (GA) into Buy Shipping, a service that allows FBM sellers to purchase and print shipping labels for orders they receive from shoppers on Amazon. This service helps sellers save time and effort by integrating the label purchasing process directly into the Amazon platform.
We’ll take a deeper dive into USPS’s newest shipping solution and see how it might benefit your Amazon business, plus a few tips to help you deal with unexpected hiccups during this transition period.
What is Ground Advantage?
Launched on USPS on July 9, GA is a new service offering that rolls First Class Package Service (for letters and parcels under 1 lb), Parcel Select Ground (for packages weighing between 1-70 lbs), and Parcel Select Cubic (priced based on parcel dimensions) into one.
That means you will now be able to ship items that weigh up to 70 lbs through a single USPS ground delivery service.
Previously, USPS business customers such as Amazon FBM sellers who buy and print shipping labels with an online postage service provider had to use different service options for different types of shipments and sizes. For example, First Class for letters and lightweight parcels and Parcel Select or Priority Mail for medium and large items, causing seller confusion and indecision.
Aside from offering a streamlined shipping option, USPS also sweetens the pot by adding these benefits:
- Up to $100 insurance
- No fuel or residential surcharges
- Available for shipping hazardous materials (HAZMAT)
- Package forwarding and return-to-sender endorsements are included for all USPS Ground Advantage shipments
Pricing by Weight and Zone
For packages weighing less than a pound (previously known as First Class Package), rates will be determined at 4-oz increments (4 oz, 8 oz, 12 oz, and 15.999 oz). Rounding up to the nearest tier also applies. For example, if your parcel weighs 3.5 oz, then you’ll pay the 4 oz price.
For packages weighing over a pound, rates will be calculated in 1-lb increments, extending up to 70 lbs (aka Parcel Select Ground). There will also be dimension-based cubic rates for weights over 1 lb, previously known as Parcel Select Cubic.
2 to 5-Day Delivery Promise
USPS is also making use of its “improved service standards and modernized operational structure” to increase delivery speeds across 50 US states. GA promises 2 to 5-day delivery within the continental US, which is as fast as First Class and faster than the previous standard of up to 8 days for Parcel Select.
To provide you with greater savings, GA rates will be lower compared to its previous offerings, with the legacy carrier looking to the new ground delivery service as a way to boost profits after posting a $2.5 billion net loss and lower parcel volume in Q2 2023.
In a statement dated May 10th, USPS said that the “published prices for GA will decrease 1.4% relative to current Parcel Select Ground and First Class Package Service pricing. USPS Ground Advantage Retail prices will decrease by 3.2% and USPS Ground Advantage Commercial published prices will decrease 0.7%.”
Presented below are the changes in commercial pricing for Ground Advantage in contrast to First Class Mail Package, Parcel Select Ground, and Priority Mail services.
|Ground Advantage||First Class Mail Package||Parcel Select Ground||Priority Mail|
|Delivery speed (days)||2 to 5||1 to 5||2 to 8||1 to 3|
|Insurance||$100; you can buy additional insurance coverage up to $5,000||$0; No for letters (unless you buy certain other add-on services)||$0; but you can buy external insurance options||$100; you can buy additional insurance coverage up to $5,000|
|Package pickup||Included||Included||Not included||Included|
|Commercial Pricing as of July 9, 2023 (4 oz)||$3.59 to $4.13 (from Zone 1 to Zone 9)||Large envelope: From $1.551(4 oz) to $3.711 (13 oz)||N/A||Flat Rate Envelope: From $8.05|
USPS Mailing Box (Flat Rate): From $8.55
Your Own Box By Weight/Zone: From $8.55 to $45.07
|Commercial Pricing (15 oz, Zone 1 to Zone 9)||$5.85 to $6.78||N/A – Max weight is 13 oz||From $2.84 to $5.06 depending on destination entry||$7.64 to $18.03|
|Commercial Pricing (3 lbs, Zone 1 to Zone 9)||$7.17 to $11.43||N/A||$3.91 to $6.17 depending on destination entry||$8.43 to $37.43|
|Commercial Pricing (10 lbs, Zone 1 to Zone 9)||$9.38 to $18.73||N/A||From $4.70 to $9.02 depending on destination entry||$10.82 to $91.62|
|Pricing (up to 0.20 cubic, Zone 1 to Zone 9)||$6.32 to $8.03||N/A||$7.07 to $10.12||Large envelopes and Parcels: $8.23 to $27.59|
|Pricing (up to 0.50 cubic, Zone 1 to Zone 9)||$7.52 to $13.15||N/A||$7.36 to $13.66||$8.74 to $56.29|
|Pricing (1 cubic, Zone 1 to Zone 9)||$9.45 to $18.82||N/A||$9.30 to $17.68||N/A|
First Class (1C) and Parcel Select (PS) may be cheaper than Priority Mail (PM), but they come with certain disadvantages.
While 1C’s delivery speed is faster than PS, it offers limited shipping weight options, requiring you to shift to other services that have a higher max weight limit. You could opt to use Parcel Select for heavier packages over Priority Mail to cut costs, but you’d have to sacrifice delivery speed. Plus, PS doesn’t come with built-in USPS insurance.
By merging 1C and PS into Ground Advantage, however, USPS presents a competitive shipping alternative in contrast to Priority Mail. You could see savings of as little as $1 to as much as $43 per package, specifically in larger cubic shipments. This could be huge given how FBA fees have substantially increased in the last two years, mainly due to dimensional weight pricing and surcharges.
Not only does GA come with $100 insurance and decent delivery promise (albeit depending on destination and time of year it could be slower than 1C and PM), it also employs a pricing structure that adjusts according to weight, zone, and dimensions. That means you could get affordable rates for shipping compact packages over shorter distances.
Conversely, rates may go up for longer or larger, lightweight items like pillows and tiki torches, as they take up more space. Being charged by dimensional weight (plus any applicable non-standard size fees) rather than your product’s actual weight can lead to higher shipping costs that can cut into your profits, unless you implement a price hike or resize your packaging to get to a lower size tier.
Another workaround is to buy USPS labels through Amazon, Shopify, ShipStation, or Pirate Ship to potentially save on fees. These online shipping label providers offer negotiated rates that are typically lower than the published rates.
Amazon, for instance, recently announced it’s now offering the lowest commercial USPS rates available, with an average of 35% off USPS Ground retail rates.
Pirate Ship boasts even bigger savings. Its USPS Commercial Pricing offers discounts “up to 89% off what you’d pay at the Post Office.”
Check out the full USPS price list here.
A Few Caveats
While some sellers may like the fact that they can now ship heavier packages without having to go the Priority Mail route, which is more expensive, others may not be happy about:
- Slower delivery times. The 2 to 5-day delivery speed may be too slow for time-sensitive parcels or when trying to get your goods delivered on time during peak season. So, be sure to factor these variable into your process. Alternatively, you may also use Priority Mail for urgent shipments.
- Transitioning issues. On June 30, USPS experienced some technical issues in preparing its system for the shift from First Class and Parcel Select to the new Ground Advantage shipping service.
“Our IT teams are currently investigating the issues and plan to resolve these issues on July 2, 2023. Display issues on other eVS reports related to USPS Ground Advantage instead of First-Class Package Service, will be resolved as a part of the July 9, 2023 Release.”
A few days after GA went live on eBay, however, several merchants reportedly run into some problems. For example, the USPS scanners failed to recognize the QR codes for the new shipping service, the listing form on the seller side displayed inaccurate pricing, and the vague wording of eBay’s announcement left many sellers confused about the steps they need to take to update their listings with the previous USPS services to Ground Advantage.
It would be very concerning if these technical issues continue through Q3 because that’s when most sellers start to prepare for BFCM and the holiday sales period. Sellers want to make sure that there are no delays when shipping a large volume of packages during the busiest time of year. Exercise prudence by meticulously reviewing all facets concerning USPS shipping and billing, particularly as soon as Amazon launches GA, to preempt any potential issues during crunch time.
Many Amazon sellers are also not happy about the fact that it’s taking Amazon so long to enable Ground Advantage on its Buy Shipping platform, as this means they’re still stuck with the slower Parcel Select service and paying the additional insurance. Worse, a couple of sellers reported that their First Class parcels were refused by their local postal office locations, one stating that “USPS in my region is refusing to accept any First Class packages. They are rejecting all package with a First Class label printed from Amazon.”
Unfortunately, no official launch date has been released yet by Amazon. But according to USPS, it will still accept all First Class and Parcel Select services without penalty until September 30, 2023, allowing for an easier transition.
While Amazon is still playing catch up (perhaps working through some implementation issues), consider buying GA shipping labels from other service providers to be able to enjoy the mentioned benefits. If you’d like to stay with Buy Shipping, continue using the outgoing legacy services for your orders in the meantime. Just make sure to inform Amazon of any postal offices that refuse to accept parcels with First Class or Parcel Select labels to resolve the issue immediately.
All things considered, Ground Advantage seems to be a welcome improvement over First Class Mail with the max shipping weight limit expanded from 13 oz to 1 lb (plus insurance), Parcel Select with the faster delivery speeds and built-in $100 insurance coverage, and, with significantly lower rates, over Priority Mail as well.