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Escher, the global leader transforming postal operators and couriers, today announced the results of its third annual Future of Posts survey. Composed of feedback from a total of 129 respondents from 52 national posts from all over the world, the Future of Posts 2020 report reveals parcels and cross border e-commerce are taking precedence over traditional services such as mail. The survey results indicate a continued need to manage growing postal ecommerce traffic with greater emphasis on the last mile and supporting retailers.
Postal Networks Adapted to Global Pandemic
The postal network sector will be forever changed after the global pandemic of 2020. An overwhelming 83% of Posts indicated that they had adopted a new solution or new approach in order to adjust to the new environment. It’s clear postal operators across the world are experiencing pressure to re-shape their strategies in order to meet the evolving needs of today’s customers.
Parcels and Cross Border Ecommerce Are Top Priorities
Investment in the parcels business over the next five years is highlighted as the highest priority for postal operators, in line with last year’s survey where 90% of Posts stated the same. Respondents reveal a need to act quickly in order to capture the explosive growth in the parcel delivery market. Cross border e-commerce is the second most important investment priority, followed by technology innovation and customer experience.
In general, the results indicate that Posts must balance the need to introduce further user-friendly cross border e-commerce service features with continued reliance on traditional physical points of service. Our research reveals that the Posts who will be best positioned for the future are those who invest in diversifying their channel mix and take advantage of artificial intelligence to collect and analyze data for improving the efficiency of business and providing more satisfying user experiences.
“This year was one like no other and there is no denying that the world as we know it – at least for the foreseeable future – has changed drastically,” explained Nick Manolis, CEO, Escher. “Posts everywhere continue to demonstrate to the world just how essential they are, delivering critical packages, and preserving access to vital deliveries even under the most challenging circumstances. The results from this year’s survey clearly show business priorities are moving towards initiatives that drive greater efficiencies, improve customer retention, and yield greater revenue opportunities.”
Other Highlights from the 2020 Report:
- Opportunity in Data Analytics: Similar to last year, respondents share a concerning gap in data analytics. With 52% of postal operators using data analytics, and another 17% planning to implement a platform within the next 12 months, there is a tremendous opportunity for Posts to leverage data analytics and AI based technology in order to reduce costs and expand revenue opportunities.
- Cross Border Growth a Priority: While cross border e-commerce ranked as the second overall priority for Posts across the globe, nearly a fifth of the respondents ranked this area as most critical to their success. Posts cited real-time tax and duty estimation solutions, cost transparency, and transit times as obstacles to optimizing their cross border e-commerce offerings.
- POS Diversification: Postal operators cite the top reason for increasing Point of Sale channels is to improve customer experiences. As a result, over three quarters of Posts plan to expand their POS channels within the next 12 months, compared with only 68% in last year’s survey. Most likely to be added are self-service kiosks and mobile apps.
- Preparation for Parcel Volume Increase: Up from 83% last year, 87% of Posts have plans in place for managing the growth in e-commerce postal traffic, revealing that nearly all postal operators expect an increase in parcel volumes.
Everything you need to know about the Future of Posts 2020
The more immediate technology we’re seeing across the postal operator market is artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
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Escher Group CEO Nick Manolis in an exclusive interview with Freightcomms reveals his views on the future of Posts 2020 and the company’s participation in the digital era of Posts.
Q: Do you think after COVID-19 the engagement and interaction process with customers have changed and how?
Yes, our Future of Posts 2020 research revealed that 83% of those surveyed have adopted new solutions or new approaches to adjust to the pandemic.
Some Posts introduced self-service kiosks (SSKs), enabling customers to access postal services outside of standard post office hours and eliminating the need to go during peak hours. SSKs enable customers to carry out the same transactions as they would at the post office, including preparing parcels, printing labels and paying with cash or card. The current pandemic will spur the adoption of SSKs, particularly in the suburbs where more professionals will be as their employers embrace remote working.
Other Posts have implemented or increased their Pickup Drop Off (PUDO) offerings. PUDO locations provide consumers with additional access to parcel pick up and drop offs through third-party outlets, like convenience stores or shopping malls. According to our Future of Posts survey, 48% of Posts plan to add PUDO channels over the next five years.
Q: With the current Global pandemic situation how can Posts adapt to these challenges?
According to Escher’s Future of Posts report for 2020, we can summarize the following ways that postal operators have adapted to the pandemic situation.
Changes to postal operations
Like all organizations, Posts adapted to the challenges brought on by the global pandemic. An overwhelming 83% adopted new solutions or new approaches to adjust to the pandemic and its implications. While some postal operators introduced Self-Service Kiosks and improved the sorting and handling of increased parcel volumes, other Posts introduced staff-rotation schedules or made changes to delivery policies. One in four Posts introduced remote working (where possible) and just under 10% made changes to improve overall efficiency.
Effect on postal operations
Over 43% of Posts, across all regions, experienced a substantial increase in parcel volumes, particularly in the domestic market. This is explained through the increase in e-commerce activity. The challenges (and decreases) in cross-border shipments in the first half of 2020, is due to restrictions in place to combat COVID-19.
Q: With decreasing returns in core mail business, what is your take on eCommerce and changing customer expectations?
Parcel deliveries are continuing to grow with many consumers relying on ecommerce for both essential and nonessential goods. When we asked postal operators about their top investment priorities this year, they identified parcels and cross-border e-commerce as their top to areas of focus.
Posts across the globe are handling the increase in e-commerce postal volumes by adding automation, developing new sorting and delivery strategies, adjusting handling capacity and staff and implementing new services.
The technological shifts, whether it’s adding automated mobile solutions or using AI to identify the most efficient shift schedules, will all impact the overall customer experience for the better.
Q: Do you think with the digital options available in the existing market, traditional posts need to adopt technology rapidly?
Yes, Posts have a finger on the pulse of technology and are adjusting their automation strategies by rapidly adopting technologies that improve the customer experience, streamline the retail process, and simplify points of engagement.
Adding more consumer apps, improving track and trace capabilities, and incorporating more self-serve kiosks, to name a few, are ways that Posts are increasingly offering more digital options.
The benefit, of course, is that data can then be leveraged by a comprehensive data analytics program to help Posts better understand performance, customer behavior and engagement patterns.
Adoption becomes even more pressing when one considers the growth of the delivery sector. Global e-commerce sales are expected to reach $3.9 trillion this year. It’s imperative that Posts have the correct technology in place to meet this increased demand.
Q: What are your views on drone parcel delivery, do you think it is the future of parcels and cross border e-commerce?
Drones may be in the future at some point but with the government and regulatory approvals required, I think we’re still several years away from widespread use of drone deliveries. The more immediate technology we’re seeing across the postal operator market is artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
AI provides insights into how postal networks can optimally operate. By collecting and analyzing data from all postal locations, mobile apps, retail partner systems and self-service kiosks, postal leaders receive tailored recommendations to efficiently manage their network and operations. For instance, Posts can use AI to identify peak traffic periods in order to allocate proper staffing and trucks. This reduces wait times within the branch and ensures deliveries are made within a timely fashion.
It can also help branches identify employee performance based on transaction volume, upsells or custom attributes defined by postal leaders. For lower-performing employees, managers receive recommendations for additional training or performance improvement plans.
From the customer experience side, AI can help Posts determine how to expand business operations based on traffic, peak times and services most used. By applying the data analytics to business operations, Posts can enhance overall customer satisfaction before issues even arise.
Q: How is Escher helping the postal sector with digital transformation?
The postal industry is changing; Letter volumes are continuing to decline while parcel deliveries are on the rise. The challenge here is that the parcel market is very competitive. We’re helping forward-looking postal executives understand how data and technology can identify new revenue streams, streamline operational processes, and delight customers along the way.
To do this, Posts will need to expand their mandate. Delivering letters and packages well is no longer the primary objective. It’s part of a larger mission focused on exceeding customer expectations, anticipating their delivery needs, and offering the services they want before the competition can do so. This means actively incorporating advanced customer engagement technology, artificial intelligence, cross border solutions and more.
With our technology and experience, we’re showing postal operators how they can capitalize on new market opportunities whether it’s across different channels (e.g. mobile, PUDO), different services (e.g. parcel, retail, government, finance), modes of engagement (e.g. full-service, guided, self-service), or locations (doorstep, branch, office, PUDO, third-party retailer).
Royal Mail launches Inflight options for parcel deliveries
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Royal Mail has launched new Inflight delivery options to offer greater convenience and flexibility for receiving customers. This has been the number one ask from our parcels customers.
When retailers and other customers send items via Royal Mail Tracked*, prior to delivery the recipient will receive a notification including an estimated delivery window and the Inflight delivery options.
If the receiving customer knows that they may not be at home at that time, the new Inflight delivery options will enable them to request their item is delivered to a safe place or a preferred neighbour instead. The initiative is designed to offer greater convenience for recipients while increasing the number of first-time deliveries.
Following delivery, Royal Mail will also notify the customer when and where the parcel has been left in line with their selected Inflight delivery option. If left in a safe place, Royal Mail will provide a photograph of the parcel in the requested location. This follows a successful pilot of the service in the South East of England.
Later this year, Royal Mail will be adding further Inflight delivery options and expanding the range of parcel services it will be available on. Options in the pipeline include arranging for the parcel to be delivered for collection at the customer’s convenience at a Royal Mail Customer Service Point, a local Post Office® branch or arranging for the parcels to be delivered on a different day.
Nick Landon, Chief Commercial Officer at Royal Mail, said: “At Royal Mail we are proud to help our UK customers stay connected during these challenging times. Inflight delivery options have been the number one ask from our sending customers in e-commerce. Giving customers the option to specify where their parcels are delivered – in the event they are not at home to receive them – is just one of the ways we are helping to bring greater convenience to the lives of our customers.”
During lockdown, the delivery of parcels and letters has been a key way of keeping the country together and helping many people who may not have the option to leave their homes.
Since the start of the crisis, Royal Mail’s number one priority has been keeping its people and its customers safe. Royal Mail was one of the first delivery companies to introduce contact free delivery.
Royal Mail changed its standard ways of working to ensure that colleagues stay two metres apart. We changed our rules so that only one person is in a Royal Mail delivery vehicle at any one time.
NZ Post plans to invest close to $170 million on infrastructure – starting with a new Wellington ‘super’ depot for parcels
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The investment programme begins with construction of a new ‘super depot’ for parcels, in Grenada, Wellington. The programme also includes a new processing centre in Wiri, Auckland, due to open in 2023, and an upgrade to the Southern Operations Centre in Christchurch in 2022.
The Wellington super depot is due to open in 2022. NZ Post plans to invest around $18 million in the latest global technology that will sort and scan parcels at a much faster rate than what we have now.
“We know that customers really want complete visibility of where their parcel is at all times of its journey – and this technology will improve our ability to do this,” says NZ Post Chief Executive, David Walsh. “We’re making this multi million dollar investment to support New Zealand businesses – both growing new businesses as well as major ecommerce giants.
“NZ Post is forecasting significant growth in the amount New Zealanders will buy online in the next decade – this was before the explosion in online shopping during the COVID-19 period. Last year online shopping in New Zealand grew 13% with almost 50% of adult New Zealanders now shopping online, and we are expecting this growth to continue. We’re pleased to be able to invest confidently in our future, to meet the growth in online shopping.
“The depot will have a 10440 square metre processing floor – about the size of a rugby field – with plenty of room for processing New Zealanders’ parcels.
“We are proud to be contributing to the Wellington regional economy over the next two years, with the projects main contractors, Aspec Construction Wellington LTD, expecting to employ around 350 people through 60 sub-contractors on this project,” says Ash Pama, the property owners’ representative.
During the COVID lockdown period, NZ Post received over 3.5 million parcels in the first two weeks of Alert Level 3. It had been planning for this quantity of parcels in 2023.
Supporting our commitment to be carbon neutral from 2030, the Wellington super depot will incorporate a range of environmentally sustainable design features and has also been designed to accommodate a large solar power installation once battery technology makes this a viable option for our operation.
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