• on Sep 16th, 2013 in Delivery & Collection | 7 comments

    As online shopping has become the norm for many Americans, it has brought operational changes to both brick-and-mortar retailers and online retailers. Shipping costs are now a major consideration for companies. Retailers are working to control their shipping costs as their ebusiness grows, with the traditional retailers relying on their extensive network of stores to reduce shipping costs. Instead of shipping goods from centralized warehouses to far-flung customers, major retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Gap Inc., deliver from stores close to their customers whenever possible.

    Amazon.com is focused on building more local warehouses and is also investing in its own delivery fleet. Other retailers have made merchandise available to eBay to sell in select cities with its same-day delivery service, eBay Now. Shipping merchandise from locations close to where customers reside allows retailers to save on shipping costs, which are set based on the distances shipments travel.

    Customers are expecting ever higher levels of service. Same-day delivery to a growing number of customers helps retailers provide customers something close to the immediate gratification of an in-store purchase. So far, however, this service has been limited to customers in cities where a decentralized network can serve them.

    While lower shipping costs is good for the retailer and its customers, the shipping giants are likely to feel the pinch. One retailer’s reduction in shipping costs is a courier company’s reduction in revenue. Ultimately though, these e-commerce shipping strategies should improve the online shopping experience and accelerate its growth, which will boost the number of packages sent. That’s a boon for all package delivery companies, including the Postal Service.

    With its reliable delivery network that serves every address in the United States, the Postal Service should be well-positioned for this shift toward fast, local delivery of online purchases. However, some challenges in its network processing capabilities and delivery operations could hinder its ability to capture a larger segment of the package delivery market. What ways could the Postal Service capitalize on these trends? What improvements does it need to make to position itself as the leader in shipping services?

  • on Aug 5th, 2013 in Delivery & Collection | 2 comments

    Global e-commerce sales topped $1 trillion for the first time in 2012 and they are expected to grow another 19 percent this year, according to data from research firm eMarketer.com. While North America leads the world in online sales, Asia is expected to take the mantle by the end of this year. China drives Asia’s growth and this year it should surpass Japan as the world’s second largest e-commerce behind the United States and its $385 billion in online sales.

    This global boom in e-commerce has helped to fuel growth in the package delivery market, prompting the shipping giants, including the U.S. Postal Service, to jostle for shares of this market. The global e-commerce surge has also benefited American companies, who are looking to foreign customers to expand sales and revenues. Surprisingly, a number of well-known retailers only began offering international shipping from their websites a few years ago, including Macy’s, Williams Sonoma, J. Crew, and Crate and Barrel. One reason for the late entry is that shipping beyond the United States is not so simple. As a New York Times article noted last year, the problems include customs, addressing, and postal and shipping fees. In some cases, the cost to ship the package could double the total cost of the order.

    Another hurdle is package returns. Even as retailers figure out how best to reach their overseas customers, they are discovering that customers find it difficult to return packages. The Postal Service recognized an opportunity to simplify that process for online retailers and later this month it will begin a market test of a new international e-commerce return service. International Merchandise Return Service will allow foreign consumers to return unwanted products purchased from American retailers’ websites back to the U.S. The service creates return labels with postage payment, allowing the buyer to print off a label and return the item through the post.

    Modeled after its domestic returns service, the Postal Service expects International Merchandise Return Service to simplify international returns for customers and improve their overall experience, which should encourage even more online shopping. The Postal Service will test the service for 2 years on online sales to Canada and Australia, negotiating prices and agreements with American companies that participate.

    What other ways could the Postal Service improve the international shipping experience for retailers and their customers? How else could the Postal Service tap into the global e-commerce market? Do any of its domestic services provide good templates or lend themselves to adoption for the international market?

  • on Nov 26th, 2012 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 18 comments
    This holiday season many of us will find ourselves rushing from one errand to the next, often visiting a variety of stores to accomplish all of our tasks. Wouldn’t “one-stop shopping” be easier? Wouldn’t it be nice to get everything from shopping to wrapping to shipping taken care of in a single trip? Locations offering a multitude of services potentially increase foot traffic because of the convenience they offer. They also create opportunities for the company to sell more products and services to its customers. In other countries, such as Sweden and Australia, the trend has been toward placing postal counters in grocery stores and pharmacies, often located in shopping malls. Customers can buy stamps or ship their packages while they are shopping for food and other staples. In the United States, grocery and other retail stores sell stamps at check-out counters, but do not offer shipping options. Office supply and other approved shipping stores offer a range of Postal Service mailing services including Priority and Express mail. Customers find that using these stores for their mailing needs saves time and effort because many of these retail outlets have longer hours than post offices and are conveniently located. E-commerce and mobile commerce have proven to be a popular choice for consumers who enjoy the convenience of shopping at home. Online retailers ship directly to the purchaser’s home, or wrap and ship gift purchases directly to their recipients. If customers want to wrap the package or gift themselves, the Postal Service’s Carrier Pick-up service will retrieve the package at their doorstep for shipping. While e-commerce and mobile commerce can offer purchasing, wrapping, and shipping from home, some people prefer physically browsing and purchasing items from brick-and-mortar retail outlets. This holiday season, a shopper might first visit a retail outlet to make your purchases, go home and wrap the gifts, and then go back out to ship the item. That's at least three trips and two lines, just to send one package! Does shopping, purchasing, wrapping, and sending your item in one stop sound better? With postal counters in strategic locations, all of your needs could be met in one stop. Would gift-wrapping services be an added bonus? If Post Office functions could be moved into retail spaces, what areas or types of stores best lend themselves to this effort? Share your ideas in the comment section below.

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