World Mail & Express Europe 2015 Sponsored by One World Express- Universal Service: Re-defining Delivery
The core activity of companies in the mail and express sector remains the delivery of physical things on a universal or quasi-universal scale. But the capability to do this cost effectively is facing multiple pressures.
In mail, as physical volumes continue to be eroded by digital communications, and competitors ramp up their capability to cherry pick the more densely populated delivery areas, posts are becoming increasingly vocal that the universal service obligation is about to become economically unviable. Within the EU the USO is generally defined as a five to six day letter delivery to every address at a uniform price irrespective of location. Questions are being asked as to whether regular mail should be delivered to every home and business address every day, or only two or three times a week? Should delivery even be to the individual address, or to an intermediate collection point? And can the principle of the same price irrespective of geography still be upheld? Can postmen be used to deliver other services to the home to offset the cost challenge? In summary, does universal service require a re-definition that can be seen as part of the fundamental re-definition of delivery that is already underway in the parcels sector?
In parcels, the incredible growth in e-commerce is bringing its own delivery re-definition, particularly as the focus shifts to the requirements of the receiver rather than the sender of the goods. There have already been radical improvements in the when of delivery, with recipients offered time slots and pre-notification by text and SMS, for instance. The where of delivery is also being fundamentally re-thought, in a way that in particular challenges the USP of the posts, delivery to the door. Parcel shops, parcel lockers, click and collect are just three examples of this new wider definition of where. Even the how of delivery is being debated with discussions about emerging technologies such as 3D printing and drones, as well as the movement of some online retailers to establish their own in-house delivery capabilities. The speed of delivery is also up for debate, as some argue same day will become the norm.
Overlay these challenges with the growth in cross border e-commerce, with its implications for customs and security processes, continued examples of postal diversification strategies, and the need to become more and more environmentally friendly, and it becomes clear that the need to rethink how universal service should be interpreted, related to how delivery is being re-defined, are becoming the hot industry topics for 2015.