• 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 Feb 24th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 5 comments
    [dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] H [/dropcap]ow has the digital age changed your life? Do you still shop in a store or buy online? Get the newspaper delivered or have an online subscription? Read hard copy books or use an e-reader? If you chose the digital options, you are not alone. You may be a digital native, one of those who are most comfortable working in a digital environment. The Internet and the digital economy are fundamentally changing communications, transportation, and commerce. This “digital revolution,” in combination with the great recession of 2008 to 2009 has affected postal operators all over the world causing a steep decline in the volumes of personal, business, and advertising mail. This shift from the physical will only accelerate as digital natives become more prominent in the workforce. In a white paper released today, the Office of Inspector General analyzed the changing digital landscape as the first in a series of papers on the Postal Service role in the digital age; here is a sample of the key trends: 1.There is a progressive shift from the physical to the digital by business, government, and consumers. 2.Control has shifted from the sender to the receiver. 3.The Internet has evolved from mass broadcast media to personalized conversations. 4.Explosive growth of mobile devices increases consumption of content “on the go”. 5.E-commerce is growing rapidly but has not reached its full potential. 6.Mobile commerce is positioned to grow significantly in the U.S. market. 7.Digital technologies have facilitated global commerce. Though there has been a rapid shift of communications and commerce from the physical world to the digital, there are shortcomings and fundamental gaps that prevent all U.S. consumers from migrating into the digital world. They include: •The Internet and all of its functionality is not available to all citizens to reap its economic benefits. There is a lengthening tail of digital refugees, which will only increase as the digital revolution progresses; •There is a potential threat to the principle of “network neutrality,” nondiscrimination in access to communications networks; •There is still a lack of an adequate level of privacy, confidentiality, dependability, and security in digital communications and transactions as desired by citizens, with the potential of involuntary profiling of consumers; •The digital infrastructure has limitations in connectivity and bandwidth, provided by companies that could go out of business at any time; •There are inadequate personal information management tools to effectively deal with the increasing volume of electronic communications and applications; •There is still insufficient availability of affordable digital currency and secure and convenient financial tools to transact online; and •There are limits of choice, even withdrawal of the physical option as companies push consumers into digital-only communications. Given the Postal Service’s role as a trusted intermediary in the physical world, what role do you believe it should take in digital world, if any? Give your comments below. To learn more, click here to read the paper. [retweet] This topic is hosted by the [tooltip text="The Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC) conducts research on economic, business, and policy issues related to the Postal Service. RARC's staff includes experts in economics, operations research, and data analysis."] OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC). [/tooltip]

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