Reflections and Predictions

We are conscious that this newsletter reaches your inbox along with the start of 2013, so, on behalf of the Triangle research team, we would like wish you, your families and colleagues, good health, happiness and every success in the year ahead.

You may have just returned to work – with challenges awaiting you.  No doubt you will be refreshed and inspired, with resolutions to tackle the pending tray, reorganise and make improvements to  deliver even better results and services for your customers and company in the coming months.

At a time when you are concentrating on the here and now, or looking to the future and what is new and different, we are conscious that it’s very tempting to dismiss the past.  However, despite the pace of change, perhaps you need a moment to reflect on past developments and assess their relevance to your future business.

Our research team is continuously scanning the market worldwide to identify new initiatives and developments, sharing findings with members at Triangle events or day to day discussions.  Our specially commissioned work is where Triangle prides itself on its knowledge, postal industry connections and research database to support our customer requirements.

To put it simply, although the scale and scope may be different, we, like you, have to look at and identify what and how past facts and events are likely to influence the future.

The team working on the Postal Access Forum doesn’t have a crystal ball, but there are a number of key themes from the last twelve months, which we think look likely to continue through 2013.  We haven’t gone into any detail, because we know that, as professionals, you will be well able to relate to them.  In fact we hope it enables you to consider if and how each may have applied to you and resulted in recent changes or plans for the coming year.

  • Mergers, acquisitions and changes to company ownership and business models.

In the UK, a key example was the separation of Post Office Ltd from the Royal Mail Group Ltd in April 2012.   The two now operate as sister companies under Royal Mail Holdings Plc, with a 10-year contract to continue providing Royal Mail services through UK post offices.  The UK government has pledged to retain Post Office Ltd in public ownership, whilst exploring options for mutualisation.  This will remain an interesting case to watch in 2013.

Other postal operators have been acquiring businesses in order to expand their service offerings. For example, Lithuania Post acquired the retail network of Bankas Snoras.

  • Partnerships and collaboration between Posts and with key service providers.  These initiatives maximise synergy, enable the sharing of experience and produce cost effective, reliable solutions and products.  We have seen how they challenge traditional inhibitors, as markets liberalise and customer expectations grow.  One example of this is how Poste Italiane is helping Russian Post and HayPost (Armenia) introduce financial services and digital communications within their respective post office networks.  Poste Italiane is also supporting China Post with the introduction of secure online payments and money transfer.  Meanwhile, SingPost partnered with Standard Chartered Bank to launch a co-branded credit card for supermarket shoppers.
  • Internal transformation, revised models to improve or retain access, increase channels to customers or retain services. This includes :

New design and formats for post offices.  This is sometimes referred to as modernisation and often differentiates the type of format and or store based on a geographic locality and the customer need.  Interesting examples include:

  • The “superstores” rolled out by Australia Post.
  • Lithuania Post’s on street financial services kiosks, providing a wide range of products.
  • ‘New look’ branches from Austria Post and Swiss Post.

Partnerships with other retailers or the use of space to offer both face to face options and self-service have dominated the changing landscape in 2012 and look to be likely to grow significantly as convenience and choice of access is a priority for customers.  For example:

  • Norway Post: closing down stand-alone post offices and shifting its retail operations to postal counters offered within partner-run retail stores.
  • Post Office Ltd: setting up travel agency kiosks within certain post offices.
  • Emirates Post: renting out spaces in post offices to companies such as travel agents and banks.
  • SingPost: strategic collaboration with 7-Eleven stores to offer SpeedPost EMS services.

Technology developments. These are essential to support infrastructures, enable product development  and provide customer access.  This tends to involve access via alternative channels to services throughout communities, where planning for, anticipating and keeping up to date with rapid changes in customer demand is constantly challenging.

India Post is continuing to invest heavily in its retail network, including kiosks and ATMs, as well as Internet and mobile access, alongside traditional post office counters.  Other investments in counter systems have been seen at Turkish Post, POS Malaysia and USPS.

Escher Group and have announced a partnership to provide  providing a  Postal Retail System platform countrywide? , as part of the postal operator’s Transformation Plan. USPS has chosen Pitney Bowes as its partner to rationalize the network of postage meters offering  some added value services  to consumers at thousands of US post offices under a 6 year contrac

Product strategies. There are significant differences in the strategies of Posts regarding the provision of product and services, and 2012 saw significant debate occur about whether posts should focus on core products and services or expand into new markets, none more so than in the United States, where the USPS, by law, is not allowed to sell any products that are not “mail related” in any of its post offices.

  • Financial services: there has been a noticeable expansion in the amount of financial services that postal operators are offering.  Operators such as bPost or Japan Post are expanding the reach and depth of their banking networks.  Poste Italiane has launched contactless payment solutions for customers with smartphones.  In France, La Poste introduced an Internet-based home banking service.
  • Mobile phone services: most postal operators have either already launched mobile phone offerings through their branch networks or will continue to expand these services next year.  2012 saw a raft of announcements, including Poste Maroc, La Poste (France), Magyar Posta and Correios Brasil.
  • Home delivery support:  2012 has been the year where postal operators have been leveraging their physical retail presence in the B2C e-commerce market.  Increasingly around the world, consumers are able to arrange parcel delivery or re-delivery to their nearest post office for collection when convenient.  In addition to this, many Posts have been investing heavily in self-service parcel terminals, for example, Correos Chile, Luxembourg Post, Czech Post, SingPost, and Post Danmark, to name but a few, have either expanded their networks or finally realised the potential of this technology and the benefits it brings their customers.

Watching debates about products and services reminded me particularly of the cyclical nature of many the themes which can be found in Posts and just how, in a relatively short period, the landscape can change and strategies need to keep pace with this.  As the outcome of what has been the busiest time of the year are being considered, there is no doubt that the impact of e-commerce on traffic will feature, but probably it’s more likely to be the actual volumes and service delivery of packets and parcels, which will be a hot topic round the boardroom table.

The constant proliferation of current and emerging competing providers offering innovative and accessible solutions to serve the consumer confirms market demand in this area, albeit sometimes short lived in terms of company sustainability, which provides real challenges to traditional Posts.

Thinking back not that long ago into my corporate memory, I recall endless public debates about the future of the packet and parcel market, which, at that time, was in overall decline.  However, the world has moved on.  Most of us will have examples of how our own behaviour and expectations as customers has changed in recent years.

Perhaps if we reflect a moment and look at what is happening around the globe, such developments may be of interest to us because they could help us identify new opportunities or innovative solutions to existing problems.  Thus, the Postal Access Forum team hopes we can work with you to improve our newsletter and make it ever more relevant and valuable to you.  Please discuss this with Agustin and Helen as they contact you in the New Year, to find out more about what you want to see and hear about.

We know the importance of presenting and sharing information and facts as reported in a timely fashion and are sure we can help with our breadth of knowledge and expertise in interpretation.

Don’t forget, as it’s always really helpful to getting added value discussions going that it’s only a few short weeks now to the Triangle Americas event where the overall theme of ‘Delivery’ will be highly relevant.  Your PAF membership will provide you with free entry to this.  Or maybe you will prefer to enter for the World Mail Awards and come to Europe later in the year.

Whichever you choose, we all look forward to hearing from you and hopefully seeing you in the coming months.

Best regards

Ann

This article first appeared in the December 2012 issue of Triangle’s Postal Access Forum newsletter. For further information about this forum please click here.

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