• on Jun 23rd, 2014 in Delivery & Collection | 8 comments

    When you think German ingenuity, perhaps high-end automobiles or precision cameras come to mind. Might be time to add individual residential parcel box lockers to the list.

    Don’t laugh. Deutsche Post DHL plans to roll out individual locked parcel boxes to interested German households, and if successful pilot tests in two cities are any indication, the idea could prove to be a lucrative hit.

    The German postal operator is convinced residential parcel boxes are a key element in its strategy to secure more of the growing package business. Deutsche Post sees these home-based parcel delivery lockers as a more convenient option for e-commerce customers, who would otherwise probably have to trek to their local shop or parcel terminal to collect their parcels.

    Deutsche Post isn’t claiming it’s the greatest development since sliced bread, just since the invention of the mailbox. Customers can choose among different designs, sizes, colors, and mounting methods. In addition to receiving parcels, they can also place outgoing packages in the box.

    The parcel lockers are aimed at single-family and two-family homes or those apartment complexes with enough space and easy accessibility for delivery. At a rental price starting at 1.99 euros ($2.70) per month or outright purchase starting at 99 euros (about $135), it’s not clear how many customers will jump on the offering. But Deutsche Post thinks the convenience factor and improved customer experience will win over a number of residents.

    Home parcel lockers are another way the German postal operator is trying to serve customers in a rapidly changing ecommerce market, where double-digit growth is expected to continue for the next 4 years. The U.S. Postal Service is also seizing the opportunities ecommerce provides, and its 20 percent growth in package revenue over the past few years is a testament to the promise of this market.

    Do you think home-based parcel box lockers would work in the U.S.? Would you be willing to pay a small monthly rental fee or buy a box for a more secure home delivery of parcels? If yes, how much would you be willing to pay?

  • on Jun 16th, 2014 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 6 comments

    Earn more or spend less. Those are the two basic ways to achieve financial fitness, whether you’re talking about the household budget or a multi-billion-dollar corporate balance sheet.

    And that’s what it comes down to for the U.S. Postal Service as it seeks to bring revenue in line with expenses (it lost $5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2013). So far, the Postal Service has been looking at cost cutting ideas like moving to 5-day mail delivery to changing employee benefits to consolidating networks.

    It’s also been trying to grow revenue, most notably in the package delivery business. But are there some unexplored opportunities to generate income, particularly by taking advantage of one of the Postal Service’s greatest assets – its last mile delivery network?

    We asked that question in a previous blog entry and explored it in more detail in a recent audit report, Delivery Operations – Additional Carrier Services. We came up with nearly two dozen ideas – everything from monitoring services for the elderly and collection of air quality details on delivery vehicles to traffic reporting services and dry cleaning delivery. While these ideas should be explored, most would involve significant financial investments, additional training, and changes to core hours or labor agreements. Also, the 2006 postal law prohibits the Postal Service from offering any new services that aren’t postal in nature.

    But the Postal Service could move relatively quickly to add one new, albeit modest, moneymaker: advertising on postal vehicles. The agency has dipped its toe into similar waters by co-branding with Sony Pictures to promote Priority Mail and “The Amazing Spider Man-2” on mail trucks. But it could also sell space on its vehicles to promote products unrelated to mail.

    On the other hand, even with all those delivery vans, the Postal Service estimates revenue opportunities would be limited to only about $30 million in FY 2015. That’s because advertising would likely be profitable only in densely populated areas and the Postal Service would carefully select advertisers that don’t compromise its trusted brand.

    Should the Postal Service look at every opportunity to raise revenue by leveraging its last mile delivery force or should carriers stick to delivering the mail? What about advertising? Would the postal brand be tarnished if delivery vehicles promoted nonpostal products or is this a worthwhile opportunity to raise much-needed revenue? 

  • on Jun 9th, 2014 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 4 comments

    Dim weight. Sounds like something you might call your not-so-smart cousin. It’s actually a way to price parcels based primarily on how much space they take up during transport and delivery.

    FedEx is the first major carrier to announce plans to charge prices based on the dimensional weight of all its ground shipments. Retailers and other shippers are bracing for a nasty hike in shipping costs come January 2015, when the FedEx changes take effect.

    Shipping costs are heavily influenced by how much cubic volume a parcel takes up in the back of a truck or plane. If parcels are roughly uniform in density (weight in relation to size), then charging by weight makes sense. But if parcels are light yet bulky, such as shoes, diapers, and many other goods ordered online, then weight-based pricing doesn’t reflect costs. Dim weight pricing will let FedEx charge more for these light yet bulky packages – for example up to 30 percent higher on a 32-pack of toilet paper – that take up more space in the truck.

    Analysts say FedEx’s change will result in the most dramatic rate spike the parcel shipping industry has seen in decades. And these increases will affect either online shoppers or retailers, or both. As the Wall Street Journal recently noted: “Someone will have to swallow the estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in extra shipping costs.” Could free shipping for consumers become a casualty of this pricing change?

    Analysts expect UPS to follow suit with a similar pricing strategy. If so, the Postal Service and small regional carriers could see an uptick in volume – albeit higher-cost and lower-yield volume – as shippers look for ways to reduce the expected sticker shock from dim weight pricing. The move also could accelerate Amazon’s reported plan to launch its own fleet of trucks and drivers for local deliveries.

    Do you think FedEx’s change in its pricing structure will benefit the Postal Service? Or is it likely to primarily shift less-profitable packages to the Postal Service? Should the Postal Service consider a move to dim weight pricing for its ground services as well? Or would it hurt the Postal Service’s standing as the lowest-priced competitor?

     

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