• on Jun 29th, 2015 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 1 comment

    You know you’ve made it when your company name becomes a verb. That’s where Uber is right now – as in, I’m going to Uber over – following in the footsteps of other companies-as-verbs, such as FedEx and Xerox.

    Uber, the technology company that matches car service to rider, has successfully disrupted the entrenched taxi industry. And now pundits are wondering what might be next for the successful upstart. Recent news articles in Marketwatch and Forbes say it could be the package delivery industry.

    The Forbes opinion piece lays out an intriguing scenario: “Imagine you’re about to leave your office for the day and your phone vibrates with a text from Uber: ‘Your next door neighbor Stella has ordered a dozen cupcakes from the Courageous Cupcakes shop next to your office. Would you mind dropping them off at her house? We’ll credit your account $7.50.’” The author goes on to suggest this type of transaction could be repeated millions of times a day and for any and all types of purchases/goods – the hardware store, the automotive store, the department store, and so on.

    The Forbes piece then asks, “Imagine what would happen if a large ecommerce company used local distribution coupled with Uber rather than centralized distribution and FedEx?”

    Imagine indeed. It’s certainly intriguing and altogether feasible. But Uber, and companies based on a similar model, first have to address some issues that could hinder long-term success. First is a tightening labor market. As the economy expands and better-paying jobs are created, Uber may find it hard to staff drivers. And courts are likely to consider cases asking whether drivers are employees or independent contractors. Also, Uber will have to do a better job addressing passenger privacy and safety concerns. Recent press reports suggest female passengers, in particular, are uncomfortable with Uber having so much information about them.

    Even if this Uber scenario is just a notion, it reminds us that package delivery has become an attractive and competitive business. As consumers do more of their shopping online, everything from groceries to pharmaceuticals to clothing is being delivered to homes and businesses. Traditional package delivery companies find themselves competing with new entrants such as Deliv (sometimes called the Uber of the retail world) and Postmates, a company that operates a network of local couriers. And, don’t take your eye off Amazon.com. It is reportedly testing an Uber-like app that would let it use regular people to deliver packages.

    So, does Uber-like delivery sound like a feasible idea? What impact do you think the service could have on traditional delivery companies? As a consumer, do you see benefits from this service? How else could sellers and traditional package delivery companies serve the growing consumer demands of same day and even same hour delivery?

  • on Apr 27th, 2015 in Delivery & Collection | 12 comments

    The Midwest is the nation’s “breadbasket.” New England has its Patriots. Appalachia loves its bluegrass music. And it never rains in Southern California. We all associate certain things with different regions of the country. Now, it seems, one of those things is mail volume. 

    The decline in mail volume may be more nuanced than some realized, data in our new white paper suggests. Take the drop in First-Class Mail (FCM), for instance. The math clearly shows that from fiscal years 1995 to 2013, FCM single-piece volume fell by a total 61 percent nationally. But a close look into the geographic details reveals the rate of FCM decline varies widely by location. So widely, in fact, that the U.S. Postal Service should keep it in mind as it right-sizes its network and considers new products and services. 

    Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? In Dallas, the percent of FCM volume lost was far greater than 61 percent, while in other areas – like Charleston, WV – it was close to zero. Moreover, the rate of decline is slowing or has even stopped in many of the areas that have lost the most mail volume. The details are all in Declines in U.S. Postal Service Mail Volume Vary Widely Across the United States.

    We know from the most recent Postal Service Household Diary Study that college graduates consistently send about twice as much mail as people without high school diplomas, and mail use in general increases substantially with income and age. However, the rates of mail decline are very similar across these demographic groups. We’ll need to look elsewhere for a good explanation of why mail use varies so much by region.

    As the Postal Service continues to adjust its network and its strategy for the future, it must be mindful that the needs of its customers vary at least as widely as these differences in mail volumes. Simply put, there is no average or typical postal customer. Strategic planning designed around average mail volume data will inevitably result in inefficient solutions. The Postal Service would therefore do well to try gaining a better understanding of why these varying rates of FCM decline are occurring.

    Tell us your thoughts: Why do you think mail volume declines vary by region? Do you see an opportunity to launch “regional” strategies of any kind?  

  • on Apr 20th, 2015 in Delivery & Collection | 1 comment

    Are all mailboxes equal? Not when it comes to advertising mail, which seems to invoke three critical factors normally associated with real estate – location, location, location.

    It costs the U.S. Postal Service less to deliver mail to curbside mailboxes or neighborhood cluster boxes than to your door. That’s why there’s been talk of possibly eliminating door-to-door delivery as Canada Post has recently announced. But the move could cut more than costs; it could also cut the effectiveness of ad mail, which provides about $16 billion of revenue annually to the Postal Service.

    We worked with the market research firm InfoTrends in surveying 5,000 households across the country to determine how much people engage with advertising mail. What we found was intriguing: People with to-the-door delivery had a much higher “read-and-response” rate to ad mail than people with curbside or cluster box delivery. A related trend: People with to-the-door delivery are less likely to throw their ad mail away than those who collect their mail at the curb or cluster box.

    It’s all detailed in our new white paper, Modes of Delivery and Customer Engagement with Advertising Mail, in which we suggest that the Postal Service and ad mailers work together to understand these delivery trends, which could have a critical impact on how much mail advertisers continue to send.

    In the meantime, tell us your experience: Do you have to-the-door, curbside, or cluster box delivery, and how much time would you say you spend with ad mail? If you have experienced a change from one type of delivery receptacle to another, did your behavior change? If so, how?

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