The Aftership API: Great Customer Service on Shipping for Online Retailers

Greg Bates
Feb. 20 2013, 08:00AM EST

Great customer service has long been a competitive advantage for any business. But for online merchants, that can take up valuable extra time, as customers wonder where their packages are.  Amazon's massive online retail business has done many things, such as famously upended the book industry. It's also  changed customer expectations--free shipping (or shipping by subscription), fast delivery, giving customers the ability to track with a click of a button. It puts the mom-and-pop online stores--and many other large operations--at a disadvantage. Aftership provides the Aftership API to help level the playing field.

The company helps smaller retailers by providing notifications to customers of online stores so they "are informed before they get worried or upset."  The website for the Aftership API shows that it uses JSON over HTTP, following REST principles. API keys are required. Requests are limited to 100 calls every 10 minutes.

Beyond the big 3 of USPS, Fedex and UPS, Aftership tracks packages  from over 40 carriers, including international shipper DHL.

The power of the API is that your developer doesn't have to worry about all those different shippers, in order to push notification, and access tracking. The webmaster inserts just one piece of code that accesses the entire Aftership system, explains Darrell Etherington in Techcrunch. But, he continues, there are a lot of features included, like making sure you don't spam your customers,

"Chan gave me a run-through of the AfterShip dashboard that merchants see, which allows them to see at-a-glance the status of all open and closed orders, where they are and what their current shipping status is across carriers. Vendors can also customize notification emails sent to customers, and send both emails (included in API subscription pricing) and SMS (with fees that vary depending on volume). Chan points out that a merchant can tweak which notifications get sent as well as their content, ensuring that they don’t spam their customers, and also include sales-generating opportunities in their messages, like sale notifications for items related to that customer’s order, giving them more post-sales revenue-generation opportunities."

After winning the 2011 Start Up Weekend in Hong Kong, Aftership launched in March of 2012, and has already tracked nearly half a million shipments in less than a year. Prices are tiered starting at free for fewer than 100 shipments a month, rising from there.

Greg Bates A writer for Programmableweb since 2012, Greg is a freelance writer and a maniacal editor of dissertations and term papers. - Follow me on Google+

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