The United Parcel Service of America is providing its paperless invoice and international returns solutions as APIs.
Announced June 18 as API components of the UPS Shipping Tool, the two technology-enabled services are designed to simplify global trade.
"When you ship internationally, you have to put together a commercial invoice that in the past has consisted of five sheets of paper," said Donna Barrett, manager of technology public relations for UPS. "You have to put down what the goods are, where they were manufactured, their cost, and their materials, and then attach that documentation to every package. It takes a lot of time to generate and is the number one cause of problems in international shipping with paperwork that is lost, incomplete or incorrect."
Using the UPS paperless invoice API, retailers can incorporate its functionality into their own internal shipping systems or develop it as part of another software application, such as Quicken. As a result, Barrett said they can create electronic document templates with corporate letterhead and signatures and then electronically transmit commercial invoice documents to countries that accept them electronically.
For shipments to countries that do not accept electronic invoices, Barrett said the solution still makes the generation of paper documents easier and more accurate.
The international returns API can also greatly ease the international trading process, according to Barrett.
"For a lot of businesses selling goods to other countries, the returns process is so difficult they won't bother trying to get goods back," she said. "It creates a barrier, especially for small-to-mid-sized businesses."
The UPS international returns solution provides an electronic means of generating the necessary documentation and shipping labels for returning goods from other countries, Barrett said. A retailer can then supply the materials to the customer via e-mail, traditional mail or UPS delivery.
Rick Amari, president of retail consulting firm Columbus Consulting, said UPS' paperless invoice and international returns APIs should create significant internal savings for direct retailers.
"You'll save on paper, labor and people messing with pens," Amari said. "Especially if a direct business is expanding internationally, which is a huge opportunity because there is a lot of demand for American products due to the weak dollar, it provides a nice advantage."
Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out eWEEK.com's Retail Site.