When’s the last time you took a really close look at a UPS label?
These days, if you take the trouble to scope out the ubiquitous UPS label, you may see something absolutely unheard of instead of the black barcodes, maxicodes and other scan-ready symbologies you’re used to:
In fact, UPS is so high on the new Epson-UPS-CTPShop solution that starting early this year the international shipping company will be hosting a series of ecommerce symposia—largely to introduce and promote its new color shipping labels. The symposia will target retail customers and ecommerce companies using UPS, with topics ranging from new UPS services to shipping options, security, post-purchase activities and much more. Additional presentations will be given by UPS partner-companies.
Seeing the World In Color
Why would you want to add a color logo (or any other kind of color image) to your shipping labels?
CTPShop’s web site notes that: “Color images resonate with the human mind far better than black and white, simply because we see the world in color.”
CTPShop’s color label solution involves buying (or acquiring; see below) an Epson TM-C3400A color inkjet label printer and setting up your own template inside UPS’ ubiquitous WorldShip application. Then you can print color labels automatically as part of the normal WorldShip labeling process.
According to CTPShop, color shipping labels:
- promote your business
- increase orders and repeat business by placing your logo and product advertising on every label
- let you offer a color label program to your drop-ship customers
- drastically reduce the cost of ordering preprinted labels
Best of all, you may be able to acquire the TM-C3400A at no cost through UPS’s Customer Technology Program (CTP).
If the advantages of printing color shipping labels are easy to see, the economic up-side of a venture involving two huge business partners, Epson and UPS, took some selling. “First, we had to convince Epson that this made sense,” says Mike Anderson, co-founder/partner of CTP’s parent company, Thermal Solutions International (TSI). “And then we had to prove it would actually work.”
Figuring out how to make the color-image-printing code work with the huge, complex shipping platform known as UPS WorldShip was a serious challenge. WorldShip not only prints labels, it also uploads customs documentation, sets up shipment alerts, tracks shipments, exports shipment data and runs reports. And the Windows-based software has to run in 20 languages and more than 140 origin countries. Working on that platform that was no cakewalk.
“We partnered with UPS,” says Anderson. “Then we brought in a software company that we knew, and they worked with our code. Once UPS saw that it was possible, they took over and did all the programming to add the printer drivers to WorldShip.”
First Thing the Customer Looks At
The adventure had started three years earlier. TSI is an Epson value-added reseller, and Anderson’s business partner Warner Copeland had seen a new Epson printer at a private showing—a printer with awesome new technology. “Wow,” said Copeland, “this printer can do something no printer has ever been able to do before.”
TSI operated numerous Yahoo ecommerce stores, so they did a lot of shipping—and were already putting color labeling and graphics on their shipping boxes. But to do that, they had to buy custom-printed labels and stick them on every box. “We thought, how nice would it be to be able to print color right on our UPS shipping labels,” Anderson remembers. “Because that’s the first thing the customer looks at when they get a package: Where does this come from and who is it for? And there are big cost savings if you don’t have to buy those color labels separately.”
Anderson and Copeland first came up with the idea in 2011, and color label capability went live as part of the UPS WorldShip platform on July 1st, 2014. “UPS ‘blessed’ it a year ago,” says Anderson, “but until it shows up as a feature in the WorldShip software it’s not official-official.”
The precise nature of the business relationship between Epson, UPS and TSI is complicated. Technically, TSI manages the CTPShop.com ecommerce site for the three-way partnership. Anderson claims that after no more than two weeks in official-official business, CTPShop is already in the black.
One reason might be Yahoo. Anderson is a big fan of Yahoo; in fact, TSI has been running all its ecommerce stores on Yahoo for 12 years.
Why? Anderson answers in one word: Stability. “And the confidence that we have in the platform. POSPaper.com is TSI’s flagship web site, a multi-million-dollar enterprise that’s been very successful. We’ve never had any serious technical issues with that web site, or any of our other Yahoo ecommerce sites. We’re quite pleased with the Yahoo platform overall.”
The biggest challenge for TSI was getting all three companies, two of which are huge, multi-billion-dollar corporations, to cooperate. “Getting anything done with a huge conglomerate like that is tough,” Anderson laughs. “Here we are, three years later, and it’s just starting to roll. But really, things went very well. It was mainly a matter of being really persistent.”
Today, CTPShop’s biggest challenge is just what you’d expect: Getting the word out. Anderson’s job is to educate UPS customers—and about 1700 UPS sales reps scattered around the world. “We’re holding lunch-n-learns in all 17 regions,” he says. Some of it is being done through webinars too.“
The UPS-Epson symposia will make a big difference as well. Sounds like persistence is still the secret sauce at CTPShop.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Signs Up
Anderson is particularly pleased that the Pro Football Hall of Fame has just signed on to use the UPS color shipping label solution. "This is an interesting one for us,” he notes, “because we are starting to see different types of organizations, including charities, foundations and non-traditional businesses, using the Epson color technology to help promote their cause. We are excited to know that shipping packages from the Pro Football Hall of Fame retail store and eCommerce site now use the UPS color marketable label solution.”