Looking forward to 2016
Clive Stringer, Business Development Director for Pitney Bowes, looks at new trends and innovations in the print and postal industries across Europe. As the year draws to a close, it’s time to dust off our crystal ball and predict the trends and market changes that lie ahead over the next 12 months. For the print and postal markets, 2015 has been a transformative year as the industry reshapes itself to benefit from seismic shifts in consumer and business behaviour and demands. The digital landscape, and the Ecommerce boom it has generated, are major influences but there is continued value in the physical world of commerce.
Businesses looking to gain a competitive edge are finding new ways to exploit the convergence of physical and digital: fulfilling Ecommerce orders with accurate, efficient back-end shipping platforms and duty calculators, for example, or ensuring the absolute precision and security of transactional mailings, using technology with integrated document integrity tools such as digital scanners. This convergence and digital transformation looks set to continue in 2016 with the connected, empowered customer at its very heart.
There are three major external influences which we see creating impact on the European market:
- The Digital Single market is set to remove barriers to commerce, aiming to enable better online access to goods and services; to create digital as a driver for growth; and to create an environment where digital networks and service will prosper. As part of this, the European Commission has committed to launching measures in 2016 to improve price transparency and ‘enhanced regulatory oversight’ of parcel delivery, which will create challenges for the posts as they comply with these new regulations.
- The EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will come into play early in 2016, with far-reaching changes in the security and management of customer and employee data, creating compliance challenges for many organisations. Initially affecting businesses with over 250 employees, eventually this will extend to cover smaller organisations too.
- Drupa takes place this year, shining a spotlight on the industry’s greatest technologies and thought leaders and prompting a host of product launches, with a strong focus on transformation and innovation.
So what should we expect in the industry next year?
- A continued emphasis on business growth and cost containment, as businesses have to ‘do more with the same’ in terms of budget and time; cost saving has become the modus operandi, and investments are made carefully with an expectation of a fast ROI
- Tighter parcel management (inbound and outbound) as Ecommerce continues its boom, even more so with the Digital Single Market changes
- Increasingly flexible delivery options – same day, next hour, more click and collect, drones, parcel lockers
- Omnichannel not multichannel – many businesses now enable customers to communicate using different channels; omnichannel takes this a step further and ensures a consistent experience and message at every touchpoint, through every device; we will see businesses continue to work to provide this across print media as well as digital media, as marketing communications becomes embedded as part of the holistic engagement with a customer
- Making every communication work harder – to save costs, generate customer engagement and improve retention businesses will make the most of every customer touchpoint. For example, using transactional post or video billing as a means of customer engagement
- More cloud-based platforms to drive efficiencies and a richer user experience
- A strong and continued focus on security in physical and digital communications, such as clamping down on fraud in parcel delivery, fueled in part by the need for precise and accurate customer data under the EU’s GDPR
- Continued advances in technology driving change such as improved finishing techniques and increasing automation for greater productivity
- Print enabling more integrated multimedia communications – video included in print mailings through the use of QR codes and augmented reality, and campaigns which incorporate physical (a letter with an offer to visit a website) and digital (prompted then to order online from the mailing)
- Increasing power of personalisation as hyper targeted, engaging, more personalised communications, whether physical, digital or both, become the norm
- Location – the ‘where’ will become increasingly important as posts and delivery firms use smarter mapping and location technology to pinpoint challenging addresses with absolute clarity
- More seamless hardware and software integration – technology integrating with other technology, not act as a standalone solution; and better workflow solutions, not just for technology but people, too
- Greater document integrity due to increasing emphasis on security and compliance – the requirement and the ability to provide a full audit trail
- More of an emphasis on sustainability as political and business leaders return climate change to the top of the agenda
- Deeper use of predictive data analytics, pre-empting buyer activity to reduce ship / delivery times
- Parcel and letter delivery providers partnering with newspaper delivery mechanisms to reduce costs, increase coverage increase speed of delivery.
If I had to pick just three trends for businesses to stay on top of next year to help improve business outcomes, drive results and create a competitive edge, I would advise:
- Getting to grips with data and security, in light of the new Data Protection changes;
- Ensuring your business is in a position to make the most of the continued parcel/Ecommerce boom and overcoming cross-border shipping and delivery challenges; and
- Understanding customer empowerment and omnichannel communications
Wishing you a happy and restful festive season and a prosperous 2016.