AfterShip makes its automated shipping API, Postmen, available for free

Catherine Shu

AfterShip, the e-commerce shipment tracking platform, announced today that Postmen, its shipping API, is now available for free, with no limits on shipment volume.

Co-founder Andrew Chan told TechCrunch that the company decided to make the Postmen API, previously offered as a SaaS subscription for enterprises, free in response to the massive jump in online shopping caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. About 60% of Postmen's users are in the United States.

Since February, AfterShip has seen an 85% increase in shipping volume, a sharp contrast to previous years, when volume declined after the holiday shopping season ended, Chan said. Many retailers have also had to move most or all of their operations online, with many brick-and-mortar stores adjusting to e-commerce very quickly as movement restrictions were put in place around the world.

Postmen is partnered with 60 couriers, including USPS, DHL, FedEx and UPS, and integrates with a retailer’s existing shipping system. It allows them to print shipping and return labels, and track courier costs, delivery time estimates and shipment performances. It also allows them to keep discounted rates they have already negotiated with couriers and makes it possible to add new couriers within two weeks, a process Chan said can typically take months.

He added that gives retailers more flexibility during the pandemic, which has disrupted many logistics and fulfillment networks.

"If you are shipping with postal services, we have data that shows most of China Post’s parcels, for example, were usually delivered within 26 days, but now it is 40 days. Some of them take longer and some of them are shipped within normal times, but the problem is we don’t know," Chan said. "Postmen lets users switch to other carriers more easily and then for tracking, we give visibility into shipping performance, so you can analyze carriers and choose different ones."

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Hong Kong, AfterShip’s products are used by clients ranging from small to medium-sized businesses to large enterprises. Postmen users include Etsy, Harry's Razor Blades and Watson’s, one of the world’s largest health and beauty retail groups. Chan said Watson's uses the software to manage shipments for its Asia-Pacific operations, including warehouse-to-store deliveries performed by multiple couriers.

Some of the smaller companies that use Postmen include e-commerce order fulfillment provider Floship. Its co-founder, Steven Suh, said in a statement that Floship’s postal shipping lead time used to be about one to two weeks, but after the pandemic, that increased to as much as 60 days or more. At the same time, Floship’s postal costs rose by almost 100%.

"For our business to survive the pandemic, we need to offer express shipping with major carriers, and Postmen allows us to do so. Rather than building our own carrier integrations, we can go through Postmen’s catalog of existing carrier integrations and get express shipping up and running within 2-3 days," Suh said. "Without Postmen, we’d need to hire three additional full-time developers to manage and maintain our shipping process. Postmen has been a huge time-saver for us and has helped accelerate offering new and better solutions for our clients."