Accenture extends postal services into digital mail

Global consulting giant Accenture announced plans to extend its postal sector offerings into providing digital mail services for postal agencies around the world. The company, which has its worldwide headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, already works with more than 20 postal clients across the globe, including some of the world’s largest posts.

It is now in discussion with “several” postal agencies regarding the addition of digital post services.

Addressing the European Postal Conference in London yesterday, the firm said it now believed mail would decline by 44% by 2020 owing to the shift from physical to digital communications.

The decline, from a 2009 baseline, would amount to a loss of 297.2bn pieces for the world’s top 26 postal agencies, Accenture said, predicting an annual 5% year-on-year slide in volumes “for the foreseeable future”.

Responding to the challenge, Accenture said high-performing postal agencies were embracing the changes in the market with revenue diversification strategies to take advantage of digital mail, e-commerce and other electronic services.

Accenture plans to provide postal agencies with a short-cut to providing their own digital mail services, offering a platform that would allow postal customers to convert traditional mail like utility bills to the electronic form, for storage in digital mail boxes.

Brian Moran Accenture’s lead executive for its global postal business, said his company would allow postal agencies to catch up with independent digital mail start-ups currently threatening their revenues.

He said: “Accenture is launching digital post services to help postal agencies expand their trusted relationship as the secure gateway between business, government and their valued customers.”

The Accenture service comes on the back of a trend of advice given out at recent conferences urging cash-strapped posts to take a partnership approach to pursuing new technologies, rather than going to the expense and risk of developing their own solutions from scratch.

Various revenue models might be used for a digital or hybrid mail platform, with Accenture suggesting that posts could charge fees for delivering mail digitally, and that converting traditional mail to digital communications could make up for at least some of the revenue lost through declining mail volumes.

Digital mail services would offer high-volume mailers “significant” cost savings, while offering consumers more choice and security in the delivery of important correspondence.

Moran said the new service would allow posts to jump straight to the mobile capability, reaching their customers through smart phones rather than merely computer browsers.

Accenture joins the digital postal mail segment already populated by a handful of forward-thinking posts such as Itella Posti, Canada Post, Swiss Post and Deutsche Post, as well as independents including mail technology giant Pitney Bowes, which unveiled its developing “Volly” platform in January, and California firm Zumbox.

Volly and Manilla

Pitney Bowes poached a senior vice president from Hearst Magazines Digital Media this month to boost its efforts to chase the lucrative US digital mail market.

The Volly service is currently signing up mailers, and is set for a consumer launch in the second half of 2011.

Chuck Cordray, who begins as president of Volly from April 4, was responsible for the strategic direction and operating management for 24 Hearst websites including 12 attached to magazines.

He said of his new company: “The company brings invaluable assets to this emerging market: unsurpassed security technology, deep relationships with mailers, and a 90-year commitment to helping companies manage their customer communications. That is a winning combination.”

Hearst is also developing a digital mail service, called Manilla, which it hopes to tie in with digital magazine subscriptions for its magazine publishing house.

Zumbox

Zumbox, which unveiled its concept last year and has since been working to build relationships with mailers, particularly through their existing billing system providers, today announced a new alliance.

It has struck a deal with New Jersey-based outsourced billing company 3i Infotech that would see its mailer customers – including utilities, insurance, financial services companies – given the opportunity to move into electronic billing via the Zumbox platform.

Zumbox said 3i Infotech was one of the largest billers in the US.

It plans to offer the Zumbox service to its customers through its Global Billing and Payments Centre of Excellence, touting the opportunities for its customers to cut costs by going paperless.

3i Infotech said the deal with Zumbox was part of an overall plan to expand its electronic billing and payment services as more and more consumers seek choice in how they receive and pay their bills.

Kathy Hamburger, Chief Executive Officer and President for 3i Infotech’s BPO & Developed Markets division, said: “As consumer billing and payment preferences shift between paper, web and mobile methods, 3i Infotech is dedicated to helping companies manage this evolution while reducing costs, overhead and infrastructure requirements.”

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