Shemin Nurmohamed, Country General Manager – France, Pitney Bowes, looks at how Cloud is disrupting the post and parcel industry.
Cloud computing has seamlessly integrated into our lives. Many of us experience it without a second thought –perhaps you have no space left on your smartphone for more music, for example, so you download music to your iCloud instead. Maybe you want your partner to access your home finances spreadsheet, so you save it on GoogleDrive, or you manage your family’s busy agenda by sharing your iCloud Calendar.
The convenience and flexibility of Cloud-based solutions has extended beyond the home to the enterprise, across every industry. A gamechanger for businesses large and small, the disruptive force of Cloud computing has accelerated digital transformation. Even some of the more traditional industries built on physical assets have integrated Cloud-based technologies to improve the customer experience. Now, Cloud is transforming mailing, shipping, tracking and receiving.
Cloud-based technologies driving change
The structure, volume and nature of what we are sending is changing dramatically, alongside increasing consumer expectations. We’re sending more and more parcels: Pitney Bowes’ Parcel Shipping Index identified a 48% increase in global parcel volume over the last two years alone1, and figures show that Japan’s parcel deliveries hit a record 3.86 billion in 20162.
Consumers’ demands are increasing, as same-day deliveries and one-hour delivery slots become the norm. We’re also continuing to send transactional mail and direct mail too, as consumers appreciate their tangibility and authenticity. Research shows that as a result of receiving direct mail, 92% of people were driven to online activity, 87% were influenced to make online purchases and 54% engaged on social media3.
Now, the post and parcel industry is looking to Cloud-based technologies to help manage, and indeed drive, this change – to allow them to offer a multichannel strategy and deliver an improved customer experience.
Here are ten key ways in which this shift towards Cloud is impacting the post and parcel industries:
- Cloud removes shipping and mailing complexity
Parcel delivery is increasingly cross-border. Maintaining accuracy of shipping costs, taxes and duties is a major challenge, and managing costly returns adds to the complexity. Businesses are increasingly burdened by the growing complexity of sending parcels, flats and mail through multiple carriers with a variety of rate structures, service levels, and tracking and billing processes. Cloud-based mailing and shipping platforms can now integrate shipping and receiving into a single system: businesses can securely access either through PCs, mobile devices, connected metering devices, or via APIs –shipping, mailing, ecommerce, location intelligence, customer information management, customer engagement and payment solutions.
- Cloud drives collaboration
Cloud-based software is a key driver for collaborative working. It removes the need to email huge files, inventories, invoices and shipment records to colleagues and partners within or outside a business, request changes and manage the ‘master’ document, as individuals can access a document via a link, edit it in real-time and save it to the Cloud. Documents can also be worked on in real-time, driving efficiency.
- Cloud facilitates mobility
Solutions in the cloud can be accessed from different devices, at any time. When it comes to parcel deliveries, a driver’s ability to access cloud-based delivery management software from a mobile handset is invaluable. It has transformed the customer experience, with driver tracking providing accurate, real-time intelligence on parcel management and automated SMS notifications for deliveries: customers are less likely to be out when a package arrives, reducing the cost of product returns.
- Cloud enables secure storage and improved customer information management
Cloud computing is the powerhouse of secure data storage. Organisations managing vast quantities of transactional mail can host sensitive customer data in a Cloud-based environment. They can integrate this data into a high-integrity mailing or billing run, reducing the risk of bills sent to the wrong person and driving compliance.
Security has often been cited as a barrier for business’ Cloud adoption, particularly when it comes to public Cloud usage, and a few high-profile security breaches haven’t helped the nervousness for some businesses. However, the vast majority of Cloud providers will have extremely robust security in place, bound by stringent regulatory requirements. They invest in the latest security technologies, so that their clients don’t have to.
- Cloud removes the need to invest in IT infrastructure
The ‘pay as you go’ model of Cloud computing has levelled the playing field for businesses, removing the need for organisations to invest heavily in IT infrastructure. This ‘leasing’ model also removes the need for businesses to spend on costly software upgrades, fixing bugs and applying patches, freeing up in-house IT staff and minimising the risk of service interruptions, outages and downtime following an upgrade.
- Cloud increases accuracy of delivery
Advanced Cloud-based platforms integrate vast amounts of geographic data and use it to drive meaningful insight. For example, supposing a carrier has just part of a customer’s postal address. Geolocation software – accessed through a Cloud platform – enables the user to carry out address search capabilities. It returns an autocompleted list of addresses and places. Once the address has been complete, the carrier can use additional geodata apps to calculate drive distance and drive time.
- Cloud drives digital transformation
Investment in digital transformation initiatives will reach $2.2 trillion by 2019, according to IDC4. Cloud implementation goes hand-in-hand with digital transformation initiatives: in fact, research from the Cloud Industry Forum found that 38% of Cloud users with a Digital Transformation strategy say that Cloud has given their organisations a significant competitive advantage5.
- Cloud is flexible
The beauty of web-based software is that it can scale up, as businesses grow and parcel volumes increase – even temporarily during sales or promotions. Likewise it can scale down during seasonal lows. Businesses large and small enjoy this flexibility. Cloud also accelerates time-to-value: with no upfront hardware investment and a choice of ‘pay per use’ software, operators no longer need to wait years to achieve ROI – a major benefit to the dynamic post and parcel industry.
- Cloud fuels innovation
Cloud’s flexibility also helps to fuel innovation: no longer inhibited by ageing parcel shipping systems, businesses can try ‘ready to use’ applications, processes and systems. They can test new workflow software, and can fuse physical and digital mailings across one accessible platform. And they have full control and visibility of their data, which they can use to extract insights and drive intelligence-led decision making.
- Cloud unlocks the power of the Industrial Internet for mail operators
Production mail is about getting the right information, in the right envelope, to the right customer at precisely the right time, millions of times each day. Connecting industrial sensors, machine data, people and processes across a cloud-based platform results in access to new intelligence, to drive higher levels of operational performance. This is the Industrial Internet, and Cloud is bringing it to the post and parcel industries.
Cloud as an enabler has come at a critical time for the post and parcel industry. Its scope, capacity and vast potential fit perfectly with the shift in consumer behaviour and change in expectations. Cloud is a critical force in the industry’s ability to deliver a seamless, connected customer experience.
1 Source: Pitney Bowes’ Parcel Shipping Index
3 Source: Royal Mail research
4 Figures from IDC FutureScape: Worldwide IT Industry 2017 Predictions, Nov 2016, Doc # US41883016
5 Research from the Cloud Industry Forum