This story originally appeared at PROFITguide.
With contract negotiations ongoing between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadians are bracing for a service disruption.
A potential Canada Post strike or lockout has left businesses scrambling for alternatives to their delivery and shipping needs. They’re turning to international carriers like FedEx and UPS, as well as to local businesses like Chit Chat Express, which specializes in shipping from Canada to the United States. “The influx of phone and email inquiries is up about 800 percent,” says owner Carly Wood, barely audible over the ringing phones in the family-run firm’s Markham, Ont. office. “It’s off the hook.”
According the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), 98 percent of its more than 100,000 members still use letter mail for invoices, bills, flyers, payment reminders, and packages. For such companies, a work stoppage could be devastating.
Whether or not a Canada Post work stoppage occurs, here are some alternatives to its most widely-used services.
Plenty of small businesses still send paper bills in the mail. One alternative to is to email your invoices and have clients transfer the amount payable via email. But there’s an extra step in this process that doesn’t need to be there, and luckily, there are services that simplify the experience.
FreshBooks, a Toronto-headquartered cloud-based system, lets contractors and small businesses create invoices using one of several templates, and receive payment from their client without ever handling paper. Monthly subscriptions range from $10 to $80.
Zoho has a free tier that allows you to bill up to 25 clients, as well as a paid subscription service that cost between $7 and $30. The platforms also integrates payment gateways like Stripe, PayPal Express Checkout, and Authorize.net to let clients pay invoices automatically.
If you don’t have a PayPal account already, here’s your chance to set one up. Not only can you send payment to anyone with an email address, but the service can handle practically any e-commerce transaction.
That said, the long-time eBay partner now has a number of other competitors. If you’re looking specifically for an online accounting tool, you could try Tipalti, a cloud-based payment automation system. Or, if you want to keep it in Canada, Toronto-based Plooto also lets you send and receive payments, which are always settled within three business days.
While there’s no digitizing parcel delivery — the one Canada Post service that’s actually growing year over year—there are shipping alternatives to the government mail carrier.
Chit Chat Express facilitates delivery from Canada using the United States Postal Service. Individuals and businesses can ship packages worth up to U.S.$800 to the United States without being charged taxes or duty fees. The service is fast—two to four days—and the delivery and tracking costs $4.
Another Canadian company, Flagship Courier Solutions, functions like FlightNetwork for couriers. Enter the information about your package and where it’s going into the online system, and you’ll be able to see rates and timing for a variety of shipping services.
In anticipation of a work stoppage, Brydie Griffin has switched Victoria-based Baggins Shoes from the national mail carrier to FedEx. “A strike would totally disrupt all of our services,” says Griffin, who normally uses Canada Post for all her shipping. (E-commerce deliveries represent 50 percent of the company’s sales). “Whether they stop service or not, we’re set up with FedEx now, so we may stick with them going forward.”
Sending flyers via snail mail remains an effective way to advertise your business, and it’s a strategy many retailers still rely on. But if you can’t get physical leaflets out the door, Kitchener-based startup Reebee can help you send digital ones.
The app, which creates and distributes electronic flyers, has an audience of 1.5 million consumers, and is used by more than 100 Canadian retailers, including Walmart, M&M Meats, Zehrs, Rona and Best Buy. While retailers aren’t abandoning print flyers just yet, many are adding digital versions to their advertising strategies. Stoppage or no stoppage, going digital that will help you attract consumers online.