The Ultimate Convenience
We speak to Michelle De Pasquale, Commercial Director at Stamp Free to hear how a printer and label-free future could lead to more satisfied customers and why winning the Innovation award at the World Post & Parcel Awards 2022 was so important to the company.
Where did the idea for Stamp Free come from?
The company was founded by our Founder and MD, Hugh Craigie Halkett who had a light-bulb moment in 2018 when driving through pouring rain to buy a stamp, he suddenly wondered, why do it? Why not use an app to send and receive items? Stamp Free became the first independent company to offer a digital alternative to send goods which didn’t involve the use of a label or stamp.
What is the Digital Postage Solution?
Our innovation development team have created AI products to allow people to send goods and return items simply by using an app on their phone. It is great for sellers and online shoppers alike. The key difference is there doesn’t need to a label, so they don’t need to print anything out and all the information about each unique transaction is held securely in their app, on their mobile and instantly available whenever they open it.
How does it work?
Imagine, for example that you need to return an item and can access your branded retailer or carrier app on your smartphone (developed by us in conjunction with the retailer, carrier or postal organisation that would handle the delivery journey). In the app you could select that you want to make a return, provide a few details (that follows your preferred retailer journey) and it will automatically create an 8-digit (called an Easycode) that you simply write on your parcel.
The app will then ask you to hover your phone camera over the handwritten code and take a picture. This is when the AI magic is happening. In a few milliseconds it validates that you have written the code correctly.
The app then automatically sends a real time pre-advice alert to the carrier or postal organisation that you have selected to handle your parcel. Your return can travel to its chosen destination securely with nothing else visible on it. All the digital information will be visible in the retailer and delivery partner systems at every parcel scan. You have both a digital photo image and all the information held in your app, no label or paper receipt required.
How can your app improve the customer experience?
The biggest improvement in customer experience clearly comes from the sheer convenience of being able to send a parcel any time, any place or anywhere just by using your phone.
The solution benefits users throughout the course of the parcel’s journey. There may well be extra options for you to see images of it at different locations. You may not opt to do this for all parcels, but for expensive items being returned or valuable orders you are excited to receive, it can allow you to be part of the journey, deepening the customer experience. Also, as the complete supply chain becomes more transparent it has a positive knock-on effect of improving compliance and service level performance along the way. There could be real possibilities for retailers to consider speeding up refunds or exchanges with options to capture images of items being returned before they enter a PUDO or carrier network.
What are the opportunities for the technology?
The big opportunity is returns. Hundreds of millions of parcels derived from mega warehouses arrive at our doors every year and millions of individuals are returning items each day. Allowing customers access to our smartphone technology in an app is a retailer ‘gift’. Helping to smooth out current journey flows is a prime objective for us. For small businesses we can offer them our app and brand it for them. This will allow them to offer their customers the same shipping and returns experience as the major players.
There is an undeniable benefit to make the effort of shipping orders a simpler process for smaller, growing merchants and the ability to provide a branded app to their shoppers (like larger retailers) means they have the same sophistication that offers an experience to match high volume brands. Selecting, paying, and generating a code for delivery services from home, business or a PUDO outlet to send goods, could not get easier.
How are you engaging with the post and parcel sector?
Over the last six months we have come to market and engaged in conversations to help large organisations understand how they can adopt our technology, how long it could take, what they need to do to accommodate it, helping them understand the benefit for their clients or customers.
We have thought hard about how to make it as simple as possible for organisations to adopt the technology and to make it compatible with carrier networks. It is a change to the way carriers and postal organisations are used to scanning ‘old fashioned bar-codes’ (as we call them), but we can help them with this transition, so it can be part of the fabric of their networks going forward.
How will you convince retailers / carriers that such a small code can provide the same amount of information for returns?
The Stamp Free Digicodes (which we use for outbounds) and Easycodes (for returns) are designed to be user-friendly but hold sufficient information to make the parcel uniquely identifiable. The design itself is not fixed, because flexing according to the capacity needs of any carrier is a key growth factor. We have packed in a substantial capacity using a variety of usage rules, meaning that we can support significant volumes with quite a short code. For example, based on an UK implementation, our 6-digit code (Digicode) can support over 220 billionoutbound parcels per annum. The key to unlocking this is maximising the parcel information digitally, which is already captured as industry best practice in many geographies by the end-to-end delivery chain providers.
Have you started trialling your technology?
We are trialling in South Africa with a partner to use our app technology in support of a retail returns process from customers into PUDO locations, as the conduit for carriers to return items to warehouses.
Why South Africa?
South Africa is a fantastic place for us to trial our technology as there is high growth in smart phone penetration rate and e-commerce growth.
What stage are you at in the trial?
We are awaiting final checks before the first stage solution is rolled out. Our partner is a forward-looking business, and we are trying not to get dizzy on the atmosphere but are all extremely excited about the potential.
How close are you to rolling out the Digital Postal Solution in the UK?
We have received considerable interest from businesses, postals and carriers across the UK and other countries. However, we get that for some carriers, labels aren’t going to be eradicated overnight and the flexibility of full mobile shipping digitalisation is the start of an e-commerce movement, one that will grow from early adopters and organisations with an eye for practical innovation. We are taking it one step at a time and our conversations with those partners are evolving.
How can Stamp Free help the industry’s green credentials?
We like to think that we are personally on a green mission. For every label and over-label, we don’t print, for every bit of Sellotape we don’t need to use to attach a paper label, businesses and retailers move closer towards Net Zero contribution targets. Also removing the labels reduces costs as there will be a printer that won’t need to be purchased, maintained, and replaced, even looking to the removal of the cost of the ink. If people sending goods e.g., C2C sellers could made a conscious decision to reduce the use of printing sticky labels on a daily or weekly basis to start with and still make a substantial positive impact both environmentally and financially.
How did you feel about winning the Innovation award?
The award was a pivotal moment for Stamp Free. As a start-up we are really punching above our weight! As our solution was assessed by an independent industry panel it gave us further validation of our solution; the panel recognised that it can and will provide innovation for customers for the future. Winning the award has also enabled us to have new and more advanced conversations with businesses as the industry grows to recognise our solution, they are keen to learn about it and how it will keep them ahead of the curve, benefiting their customers in turn.
About Michelle De Pasquale
Michelle brings a wealth of knowledge to Stamp Free spanning over 25 years of senior supply chain, retail-led logistics and SaaS based technology solutions, in client-facing e-commerce carrier, 3PL, postal and final mile customer innovation, for start-up and corporate organisations including well-known names such as Hermes Parcelnet (now EVRi), Yodel, Post Office and Uniserve.
Her love of people engagement and forging relationships extends across B2B/B2C/C2C customer centric product development, client-facing partnerships, and operational development strategy. Passionate about enhancing the end-to-end customer lifestyle journey through the application of technology, data, and innovation.