Firstly I will start this article by being honest with a disclaimer. We process mail and have done so for nearly 15 years now sending our customers postal mail through our website www.pc2paper.co.uk basically you send your postal mail via our website or using our email gateway and we send it on your behalf. For a large part of that time we used Royal Mail SmartStamp which suited us perfectly. When Royal Mail discontinued SmartStamp it threw us a bit, however after talking to Royal Mail and based on the volumes of mail we were sending they recommended we used Printed Postage Impressions or better known as PPI Mail.
PPI Mail is great for us based on the amount of mail we send each day. However it may not be to everyone's taste as it requires considerably more paper work than SmartStamp did and you have to weigh your mail in bulk and attach dockets to it based on the types of mail you are sending. So what I have done is listed out what solutions are available below.
DMO (If you only send parcels)
If you only send parcels, you are in luck. Royal Mail have a service called Despatch Manager Online or DMO for short. From what we can see your only outlay would be for a printer you can purchase from Royal Mail for printing out the labels (I believe it is £150). You select your postage online and print out the labels for your parcels. This is paid for by keeping a credit account with Royal Mail. You could in theory send letters via this service however the labels are quite large and may no suit the aesthetics of how you would like your mail to look.
Franking has been around for a long time and usually provides a much cheaper postage price and looks rather professional, it can also be used for letters and parcels. However we have always been put off by the hidden costs involved with Franking, these have been.
- Machine rental costs/ or purchase cost
- Top up costs (some providers will charge you per top up cost)
- Maintenance/recalibration costs
- Ink costs (many of the machines require specialist ink you can only purchase from the provider)
Note that not all franking providers will have the same fees mentioned above or charge for the same things, the above is a list of the ones we have discovered from various providers or from customers who have spoken to us. If going with a franking provider we recommend you ask about those costs and go over the contract carefully with the sales person.
This is one of our favourites as we have mentioned earlier it does require a lot more paper work than SmartStamp did, here is a list of the key points
- You will be billed every 30 days for the postage you use
- You will need an Online Business Account
- You place Printed Postage Impressions on your mail with your licence number. This is basically the postage stamp on your mail. You may have seen these types of stamps when your electricity or gas bill is delivered by post.
- You will need to weigh your mail by different types and work out the amount of items you are sending and average weight.
- You will need to prepare paper work from Royal Mails portal with the information mentioned in the last step to prepare your mail for collection (if your post is collected) or for taking to the post office.
For more information on PPI you can visit Royal Mails website. They will also be happy to talk you through what is required.
The above may seem daunting at first but after a while it becomes easier as you learn the process.
Online Letter Sending Services
As I said in my disclaimer above, we are an online letter sender. Online letter sending will not work for you if you need to send parcels. But if you only send letters this may be something you may consider. We are not the only online letter sending service although we have been around for a while we focus more on the types of mailings that other online letter sending services don't do such as Recorded Mail, Special Delivery, large letter sending and non machines marked or windowless mail.
If you would like to try us out this is our website www.pc2paper.co.uk . There is no contract, all that is required is to sign-up for an account online place some credit in your account and send a letter using either.
- Our website
- Our virtual printer driver (windows 7 only)
- Our email to letter gateway
- Our APIs
You can write your letter online. Or if you prefer writing your mail in MS Word for example you can save your letter as a PDF in MS Word and send it via our service.
I hope the above has provided some information for people who are looking for alternatives to SmartStamp.