The holiday season is upon us. And while that means spending time with loved ones, hot chocolate by the fire, and online shopping, the holidays have a completely different meaning for postal operators: The BUSY season. Because of the pandemic, many Posts and courier companies have already ramped up their delivery capacity. But with global demand weakening with a corresponding softening in e-commerce, Reuters has noted that collectively, the industry may be in a position of excess delivery capacity.
This is quite the turn of events. Just last year, at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, one executive projected that the industry will not have the capacity to handle 4.5 million packages per day during the holiday season.
As discussed previously, building out a larger delivery network isn’t the only option and doesn’t need to be the main goal to deliver more parcels. The goal should be to expand delivery capacity and to do so in a profitable way. To us, adding delivery capacity isn’t just expanding the delivery network. It’s far more than that, and when executed effectively, results in efficiencies, synergies, faster deliveries, an improved customer experience, and so much more!
But another important question is this: How are Posts ensuring this holiday season is a joyous one for their customers? Below are a few strategies postal operators are implementing to ensure smooth operations this holiday season, fast and efficient deliveries, and happy customers.
From our recent Future of Posts 2022 report, 38% of Posts leverage PUDO channels today, with 33% planning to invest more in this area over the next one to three years. Posts are unique in that they can leverage their country-wide retail network of post offices and PUDO locations to help alleviate bottlenecks in their delivery network. So rather than deliver 200 parcels to 200 separate houses and apartments, the delivery truck might simply make 10 stops at its post offices and PUDO locations throughout the city. Customers increasingly prefer an out-of-home delivery pick-up option, which is also far more efficient for the Post and is good for the environment too! This approach also minimizes failed first-time deliveries, reducing costs for Posts and gets packages and presents into the hands of customers faster.
Robust track and trace technology plays a big role in fast and efficient delivery networks. When delivery routes are efficient and routes are optimized in real-time, Posts can handle higher parcel volumes and get them delivered quickly and efficiently. The best track and trace solutions also integrate seamlessly with a Post’s retail network supporting the full array of delivery, return, and collections scenarios. Additionally, the ability to offer real-time parcel delivery redirect, parcel intercept, and delivery window services allows customers to know where their package is at any given moment. This type of automation is critical during the busy holiday season, and customers appreciate the white glove services they receive.
Self-service provides many benefits for postal operators. Customer traffic at post offices balloons during the holiday season and with the retail network also serving as pick-up and drop-off locations, self-service technology is critical to alleviate bottlenecks and keep parcel volumes flowing smoothly and quickly. With the post office serving as an out-of-home delivery option for customers, Posts will want to avoid long line ups at the counter. Self-service kiosks (both outside and inside the post office) can help automate parcel drop-off and shipment, returns, and many other transactions. Smart parcel lockers or pick-up stations can also be leveraged to provide 24/7 access outside the post office, allowing customers to pick up their packages anytime or evening. Back in the post office, staff have the ability to serve customers while they’re still in line with mobile POS software running on tablets, smartphones, and more. Today, even the counter systems that clerks use can serve as a multi-purpose solution that customers can use when not in use by staff.
While advanced OCR solutions can certainly help lower parcel processing and sortation costs, it’s their ability to increase parcel throughput that will help during the holiday season. With advanced OCR, Posts can eliminate the manual sortation of packets and parcels and increase their ability to make faster deliveries. Look for OCR solutions that are based on machine learning or AI and employ deep learning, intelligent voting logic, and advanced recognition technology to deliver maximum read rates with very low errors. This will help to avoid any delays that keep parcels from being successfully delivered to your customers and ensure all enjoy the holidays!
Last but certainly not least, data analytics has the potential to profoundly improve so many areas for postal operators today. In our Future of Posts 2022 survey, data analytics was the 4th highest-ranked area that is expected to have the greatest impact over the next five years. Yes, data analytics can positively impact almost every area of a Post’s business. From the survey we learned that 77% of Posts are leaning on data analytics to understand operational efficiencies, 70% rely on data analytics for improving the customer experience, while 69% use it for optimizing last mile delivery, with 68% relying on data analytics for optimizing network performance.
Remember, postal retail networks generate an incredible amount of transactional, track and trace, and customer experience data daily. With the right solution in place, Posts can easily analyze all transactional, reference, and operational data. Furthermore, a data analytics solution can act as a single source of truth leveraged by anyone, anytime, anywhere 一 from a clerk reviewing customer experience data for their store to executives reviewing how to optimize and expand delivery capacity profitably to ensure smooth operations this holiday season, fast and efficient deliveries, and of course, happy customers.