March 23 2014 06:32 PM

The clatter of the “peak” season noise is starting to simmer down. This past holiday season can be blamed on everyone. The major carriers (FedEx and UPS) have developed highly efficient networks with millions of dollars of advertising behind them. This has created the perfect storm… I can order my Christmas gifts at the last second, and they will get to me on time. This was unfair to the carriers. They put extensive research and analytics behind each peak season, but no one can handle a spike like they were handed. However, I’m sure they will do some different planning for this year in order to handle it. I do believe that the consumer needs to play more fairly in this equation. First of all, if you are waiting until the last days of the season, you might get some last second bargains but your selection will not be as good. I would recommend that all e-commerce shoppers try to plan their purchases a little earlier this year… you won't disappoint your loved ones that way. By the way, Santa asked me to share this message with you. He takes a bad rap in this deal too.

Let’s talk about something more important…”What’s Next?” in the parcel world.

Drones: I must say that Amazon’s drone promotion was ingenious! It had everyone talking about the company at the busiest e-commerce time of the year. It is truly building a world class e-commerce network and is shaping the future of e-commerce. It will be very difficult for anyone to match this network. Amazon has been working on this for over 10 years. It really doesn’t need drones to be successful. However, it may change the classical way of just using FedEx and UPS. I believe the local courier companies and regional carriers will become the norm for Amazon.

Technology: There will be an increase in the use of third party shipping software by many shippers. This technology will allow companies to “optimize” their shipping options and cost. Shipping software enables the carrier decision process to happen in nanoseconds. This will make shippers more efficient in their carrier and service selection.

USPS: The USPS Priority Mail service is on fire. This is becoming the new challenger brand for FedEx and UPS. The shipping and packages segment of the USPS grew to $12.5B in 2013 and had an eight percent increase in revenue. It is truly a potential carrier choice for all size shippers. The small and medium size shippers can set up accounts with or Endicia or through other strategic partners with the USPS. If you have looked at the USPS as an option to your parcel program, I would highly encourage you to do so.

The US economy will continue to grow in 2014. This will be a good thing for all parcel shippers. This is the right time when things are going well to start looking at different options in the marketplace. You may want to put some pilot programs on your business plan this year. I’m not sure about those package carrying drones but I am sure there are other options in the market to enhance your parcel shipping program.

Michael J. Ryan is the Executive Vice President –Parcel Solutions at ProStar Logistics and has over 25 years experience in the parcel industry. He can be reached at 708.224.1498