USPS toolkits aimed at tapping online retail sites

The U.S. Postal Service today announced plans to release toolkits that World Wide Web developers can use to create information services related to package delivery for online retailers' Web sites.

The toolkits will include application program interfaces (APIs) that developers can use to create features that can make retailers' sites more useful. The features would give customers access to information about the delivery of packages, including such things as a shipping rate calculator, mailing labels to return merchandise, and the ability to track a package and confirm that it was delivered.

Developers will be able to download the APIs after filling out a certification form at the USPS Priority Mail Web site (www.usprioritymail.com), USPS officials said today at a news conference.

USPS' goal is to meet the needs of big online retailers that want to provide as many services as possible at their Web sites and use the services to build relationships with their customers, said Karla Humphrey-Briggs, program leader for the Priority Mail Web site.

USPS officials believe the Priority Mail package delivery will become an essential service as e-commerce use increases, especially given the higher rate at which customers return items that they order online. Priority Mail, which has a one-third share of all e-commerce shipping, is cheaper than overnight mail, and packages usually arrive within three days.

The idea of becoming the delivery arm for online retailing is very attractive to USPS, said Jim Lucier, an analyst at Prudential Securities. The Postal Service has been trailing its competitors, but today's announcement shows another way it is beginning to catch up, he said.

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