What does the future hold for the Royal Mail?

What does the future hold for the Royal Mail?

Royal Mail is at a crossroads, and its future has never been more uncertain says Paul Holland, CEO of Beyond Encryption.

“The new CEO Emma Gilthorpe faces a myriad of challenges, with the potential of a foreign takeover looming. However, for consumers and businesses, Royal Mail has provided an unreliable and subpar service for far too long, as it struggles to meet its minimum service obligations.

The impact this has on consumers can’t be understated. Panorama, in their ‘Royal Mail: Where’s my post?’ documentary, laid bare the significant consequences of a faltering postal service with children and cancer patients missing important updates on their condition or even surgery.

As Ofcom puts forward a proposal to reduce Royal Mail’s minimum service to three days a week, is it finally time to look to digital solutions to bridge the gap for businesses and consumers due to a significantly reduced service?

Can Royal Mail go ‘digital’?

A general consensus is being reached across the market – that Royal Mail is rapidly running out of time to improve and digitise parts of its operations. The advancement of technology, accelerated by the new frontier of AI and changing consumer behaviour, means we have entered a digital-first era where convenience and speed is key. The way things stand currently, Royal Mail must quite simply evolve or die.

When considering the feasibility of phasing down physical post, the ONS tells us that over 90% of the population have access to the internet in the UK. Whilst there is a significant minority of individuals who are not online that need consideration, Royal Mail cannot ignore that the vast majority of its customers are already online and are able and willing to use a digital service.

The digital-first era has significantly undermined the primacy of the letterbox as the one-stop for all communication and correspondence needs. However, with consumers having access to over 100 digital accounts from separate providers, the digital era has been one of fragmentation, with many struggling to manage their relationships with businesses and service providers.

There is huge potential for Royal Mail if it were to digitise more of its service, creating a central hub for consumers and businesses to turn to. This would not only future-proof the Royal Mail but provide a crucial and enhanced service to all. So, the question can no longer be ‘Should Royal Mail look to digital solutions?’, it’s whether it can afford not to.

Understanding the challenges of digital communications

Implementing successful digital communications is not without its challenges. A significant and evolving threat is that of cybersecurity, with threat actors embracing new technology such as AI to enhance their abilities to access valuable and personal information of consumers.

A key tenet for any successful digitisation of Royal Mail’s operations would be a robust cybersecurity process and practices. As shown by the ransomware attack on Royal Mail in January 2023, the cybersecurity threat must be combated with a full and comprehensive approach to security that is embodied from the top to the bottom of the business.

For example, utilising security capabilities such as encryption and authentication as part of a digital hub would provide consumers and businesses with the ability to securely receive sensitive information and documents, helping build important consumer confidence and trust in the system.

Royal Mail must also take into account the serious issue of digital exclusion. Whilst the vast majority of UK consumers will be able to access online services, it can’t neglect those who are on the wrong side of the digital divide. Secure email can play an important role here, as the most commonly used form of digital communication across generations. Additionally, the operational efficiencies experienced by Royal Mail digitising its operations will allow it to further concentrate its efforts on ensuring it reaches those parts of the country that are digitally excluded.

The benefits of digital communications

Whilst vital that any digitisation of communications and operations by Royal Mail mitigates against potential pitfalls, we shouldn’t neglect the transformative impact it can have both for the institution and its users.

Firstly, there are huge cost benefits, with a recent FOI analysis of the use of postal services showing that the NHS is spending over £100m a year on post. Additionally, the reliance on paper across the organisation has seen them spend £1bn on storing medical records, according to a report from the Times.

A shift to digital communications would also have a profound effect on reducing the environmental impact of the postal service and contributing to the UK’s target of reaching net zero by 2050. For instance, the NHS’s use of postal services alone would require over 6,000 trees per annum to be planted to just offset carbon emissions.

Unlocking a digital postal service could have a transformative impact on business across the UK. As Royal Mail looks to radically change its service delivery, it must ensure it continues to adapt to provide a service that meets the changing needs of consumers and businesses. If it is to have a successful and long-term future, it must adopt digital solutions or otherwise face becoming obsolete.”

About Paul

Paul is the CEO and founder of Beyond Encryption, a Hampshire-based company specialising in the protection of customer data through secure digital software solutions. After successful acquisitions of his previous businesses by Capita and Experian, Paul now brings his expertise to the financial sector and other aligning industries through Mailock, nigel and AssureScore. Paul is dedicated to sharing his 40 years of experience in digital security and identity protection with his team and the wider market.

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