Martin Abrahams Team : Web Development Tags : Online Trends

Australia Post release US shipping forwarding service

Martin Abrahams Team : Web Development Tags : Online Trends

In the real world, Australian's have been paying disproportionally high prices for imported goods, this has been going for as long as I can remember. In the early days of online retail it was possible to purchase products direct from overseas suppliers with virtually no regard given to your location. This was a good time, even with the high shipping costs and the AUD losing out to the bigger markets it still worked out to provide significant savings (often up to 50%) over purchasing the equivalent product over the counter locally. This didn't remain unnoticed for long and before we knew it the dreaded "Australia Tax" was implemented all over the web.

There's a number of ways in which the Australia tax is implemented. When it comes to brands they typically impose shipping restrictions by region, forcing you to purchase through a local supplier or they switch out price lists by your detected region where they can jack up the price for us.

Last week Australia Post launched it's very own freight forwarding service, name Shop Mate. This is fairly big news because it's bringing freight forwarding to the mainstream public of Australia. A freight forwarder is a service which provides you with a local mailing address in a specific country, which allows you to purchase items online from a local store in that country and have it shipped to your special address. It's standard practise in the US for retailers to offer free shipping to the lower 48 states which means that you're not paying for shipping twice. Your parcels pile up at the warehouse against your account and have them shipped over back to Australia in one parcel at a greatly reduced (at least in theory) cost.

Freight forwarding is not a new concept at all, people in the know have been using these services for years to bypass the Australia Tax. There are a number of well established US to AU forwarders such as ShipItTo and myUS. It would be hard to convince a regular user of one of these suppliers to switch over to the new Australia Post service, however for a new user who is unfamiliar with the concept of freight forwarding it's a great way to start out. I actually received a pamphlet in my mailbox a few days ago advertising the service which shows that they are pushing this service to everyone.

I decided to sign up to the service and give it a try. They are offering a 20% discount on shipping for November so that definitely sweetened the deal. I ordered three shipments to my ShopMate address from 3 different US based online stores, each offering free ground shipping to my US address. Everything went well the items arrived and I could see them in my account.

This is where my personal experience didn't go as well as I'd expected. The main feature of a freight forwarder for me is the consolidation of multiple parcels into the one shipment for the purpose of saving on shipping. If I'd shipped these items separately, it would have costs $150 USD (174AUD) which a lot of money to blow on shipping especially on fairly light and physically small items. My final shipping price came in at $156 (actually $130AUD with the promotional discount). So for the sake of a fair comparision I saved $18, which is nowhere near as much savings as I've come to except from using other providers.

I haven't received the package yet, however I suspect that nothing has been repackaged and everything has been thrown into one giant inefficient box. This is the difference where the more established providers have had invested more time into their repacking processes to pass on the maximum savings in shipping. I genuinely expect that Shop Mate will catch up eventually in this respect.

Overall I found the service easy to use, I did save some money through consolidating products, however I think they could do better in this respect.