If one thing was made clear last year, it’s that e-commerce is here to stay. While online shopping grew out of necessity, it persisted out of convenience. Customers want to shop wherever they want, whenever they need to, and e-commerce gives them that flexibility. As the consumer behavior of choice, e-commerce continues to be a driving force in the postal industry, forcing rapid digital transformation, delivery optimization, and adoption of new consumer-focused technology.
The results of Escher Group’s fourth annual Future of Posts Report make it clear that dealing with increasing parcel volumes is a huge area of focus for postal operators in 2021 and beyond. As a result, Posts are striving for greater operational capabilities to handle more parcel volumes and be more efficient, all while providing a superior customer experience. Below, we outline a few ways Posts handle the continued influx of parcels and strengthen their customer relationships.
Postal volumes went up drastically last year and continue to skyrocket. Reorganizing and brainstorming strategies to deal with surging e-commerce demands was inevitable. So as you might expect, 53% of postal operators are reevaluating their operations in 2021. Posts are finding ways to expand or contract delivery and in-person services in accordance with customer demand, using technology to minimize and automate routine tasks. This allows Posts to minimize their Post-owned brick and mortar presence, moving to a variable cost model, offsetting the cost of investing in technology.
Posts are improving the customer experience with self-service options like kiosks, parcel lockers, and PUDO for their physical locations. Each of these solutions helps accelerate the shift to parcels over mail, expanding Posts’ parcel capacity at a lower cost per piece and giving customers the option of how and when to interact with Posts. At the same time, Posts are increasingly forming partnerships with direct-to-consumer businesses, transforming their shipping operations to enable faster, more efficient last-mile delivery. Diversifying Posts’ channel mix and increasing automation can simultaneously boost revenue and cut costs.
There are many ways to handle higher parcel volumes efficiently, but last-mile delivery seems to be a core tenet of postal operators’ strategies this year. Specifically, they noted APIs between core systems as a high priority, indicating that digitization and real-time data analytics will play a significant role in perfecting delivery.
First-mile processing and omnichannel expansion were also high on the list of important e-commerce logistics initiatives this year, going hand in hand with digital transformation. To date, just under half of Posts have fully integrated their POS systems with customer e-commerce sites, and 68% have plans to develop the necessary APIs on their roadmap.
Cross-border parcel volumes present a whole set of other unique challenges. This increased regulatory complexity caused Posts to hire more staff as an interim solution. 34% of postal operators mentioned it as their way of dealing with higher parcel volumes. But many Posts are planning to invest in automation as a long-term way to address these problems.
The rise of e-commerce prompted a dramatic influx of returns. Return handling is now of increasing importance for postal operators—42% of postal operators are starting reverse logistics projects in the next 12 months. Even Posts that aren’t ready to implement changes this year will launch initiatives within one to three years. Only 15% plan to tackle returns projects over three years from now.
Taking the time to rethink e-commerce logistics with sophisticated analytics can help Posts better understand customer behavior when it comes to returns. Offering essential return services that are convenient for the customer only generates more revenue in the long run. Investing in PUDO, mobile apps where customers can print shipping labels and more, and equipping third-party locations with returns capabilities give customers myriad options to manage their returns quickly and efficiently.
The experts at Escher are veterans when it comes to postal operations and technology solutions for Posts. You can learn more about how Posts around the globe are planning for e-commerce by downloading the 2021 Future of Posts Report.