MEDS 2011: Power to the customer

The opening session of the Mail & Express Delivery Show 2011 was dominated by the ever-changing needs of the customer in the digital era. Whilst technological advancement has led to a fall in traditional physical mail volumes, the e-commerce boom has led to an age of opportunity for parcel carriers.

However, as technology continues to develop at a fast pace, so has the needs of the customer.

Mark Lewis, CEO of Collect+, who examined innovating for customer convenience through combined technologies, explained that “customers want to see further innovation in delivery and returns”.

He added that the power is now with the consumer, and operators have to prioritise their needs. “As e-commerce matures, customers are being won and lost on delivery and returns experience.”

Lewis stated that “one in ten home deliveries fail”, whilst arguing that it is important for a service to “fit a customer’s lifestyle”.

Collect+ research revealed that at some point 44% of customers had avoided shopping online due to concerns over delivery. Furthermore, 58% of those questioned had stopped using a retailer altogether after a bad delivery or returns experience.

Hermes CEO Carole Woodhead explored whether there has been a convergence of markets between B2B and B2C.

She said there have been arguments in both directions, before adding “there is absolute convergence between B2B and B2C in high quality, fully tracked, next day deliveries, with MI.”

Woodhead added that “more carriers service B2B and B2C through one common infrastructure, including final mile, than have separate final miles specialising in B2C or B2B”.

She also outlined what she thought were the four key developing trends of 2011 – multichannel, mobile commerce, international, and social networking.

Ken O’Rahilly, an independent mail consultant, added that in some cases “the demands of the customer upon carriers are unrealistic.”

He also explained that whilst the immediacy of customer demands have reached an all time high, they tend to have “little preference over which carrier delivers the goods as long as they arrive safely on time”.

Looking ahead, O’Rahilly said that carriers may have “given away value in chase of volumes”, whilst adding that there is going to be a weight challenge between all carriers in lightweight packets.

“Customer experience will be the key differentiator,” he concluded.

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