By 2016 over half a billion customers will use M-commerce solutions to shop via their smartphones, according to Hamburg based research company yStats. Many of these shoppers will be making use of innovative next-generation postal and express delivery services.

    As the trend progresses, a growing number of the world's leading retailers have integrated immediate delivery, scheduled pickup and consolidated delivery services into their m-commerce and e-commerce offerings.

    Here in the UK, Jewsons' has just announced its partnership with immediate delivery service Shutl, enabling London-based customers to pick a same-day delivery window of their choice and receive online orders in as little as 90 minutes. Shutl works by connecting the retailer's e-commerce platform to a network of local deliverers and gives customers greater control and live tracking via an interactive GPS map. 

    The startup's other household-name partners include Argos, Oasis, Karen Millen, Warehouse and Maplin, and most recently toy retailer The Entertainer.

    Up-and-coming Immediate Delivery sites

    A wealth of other third-party delivery platforms are also fast gaining in popularity among web and mobile shoppers. Redlaser.com allows mobile users to order items for collection at their nearest store and has barcode and QR code scanning functions that enable shoppers to view all prices available for a particular product, both online and in their local area. 

    Further afield in Seoul, South Korea, commuters can do last-minute shopping and arrive home to find their purchases waiting for them, thanks to Tesco Homeplus. The retailer has created virtual store displays on posters in subways and at bus stops containing QR codes that can be scanned with a smartphone. Customers are able to purchase products of their choice and pay via an app. 

    News has recently broken that the Korean government has placed constraints on the types of goods and trading hours so it remains to be seen whether Homeplus can remain profitable in the future.

    But what do these platforms mean for the traditional postal sector?

    Seize the e-commerce opportunity

    The explosion of e-commerce means that parcels are no longer a side product in your mail flow. With e- commerce parcel revenue projected to grow at 7% per year, cash generated from mail deliveries should fund the continued expansion of the parcel division s to meet customer demands.

    For traditional post businesses, this transformation to the way people shop should provide an attractive growth opportunity. Not just to increase parcel revenues, but to play a leading role in driving the changes forward by removing barriers for further growth in e-commerce.

    Most operators are already in a good position to benefit as they currently have a high percentage of B2C deliveries and extensive returns networks. However, new immediate delivery platforms — such as those we mentioned earlier — may pose a threat by combining third party line haul with USPS last-mile delivery to offering competitive rates to e-commerce platforms. Avoid becoming a last-mile delivery commodity by making service changes now. 

    Expanding in the B2B market can also provide growth, on top of improving your position to serve multi-channel retailers. Reliability is more important than speed in this sector.

    Plan for growth:

    — Put in place a growth plan for B2B and B2C 

    — Create service, technology and process best practise guidelines to close the perceived gap with premium express services 

    — Simplify processes, improve interoperability and optimise price levels to increase and facilitate international flows

    — Form partnerships with other organisations for an end-to-end process


    What measures have your business put in place to benefit from the growth in e-commerce? Do you think virtual technologies made a positive transformation to the postal sector? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section! 

    Andrea Percival is Director of Maxatec, leading distributor of post and parcel technology across the globe. Visit www.maxatec-europe.com for more information.

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