It’s that time of year again. Our annual list of the top 10 stories from the postal and logistics world. And who doesn’t love a list?
As always, we had no shortage of stories. In fact, the hardest part every year is narrowing the list down to 10. (Now we appreciate how difficult it is for the Football Bowl Series to rank college football programs for the annual four-team playoff!)
The OIG staff sifted through the postal-related news of 2017 and put together a top 10 list of stories. In reverse order of importance, here they are:
10. Digital Advertising Backlash — Bots driving fake traffic and objectionable content on the YouTube platform concerned corporate advertisers enough to prompt some to scale back their digital advertising spend. Will direct mail and other media benefit? Stay tuned…
9. Fund Opens, Cash Climbs — After building the Retiree Health Benefits Fund in response to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, the Postal Service is allowed to use it to pay its retiree health premiums. This move, along with nonpayment of the 2017 pension and retirement health care fund expenses, helped yield a strong cash position of $10.5 billion at the end of fiscal year 2017.
8. Shop ‘til You Drop — The shift to online commerce had a major ripple effect. Yes, Amazon has established itself as a go-to shopping destination. But, a huge number of shoppers buy elsewhere — about 22 million U.S. households didn’t purchase a single item off Amazon’s site in 2016, going either to other online options or stores. China, with a wealth of online sellers, is now seen as a rising dragon on the buyer side, too. About 25 percent of the Chinese population — or 325 million people — are expected to purchase goods from abroad in 2020, up from 15 percent in 2016.
7. Stamps Get Some Love — An announced slate of five new semipostal stamps over the next 10 years — starting with an Alzheimer’s research stamp — and the summer release of an eclipse stamp with “thermochromic ink” helped gin up interest in stamps even among non-philatelists. The cool technology behind the eclipse stamp didn’t hurt either, letting you place a finger on it to show the eclipse transforming into an image of the moon and then back again once it cooled.
6. Rethinking Delivery — Drones, and robots, and autonomous vehicles, oh my. With demand and expectations around delivery of packages growing, innovators and the traditional delivery service providers are rethinking how packages arrive on doorsteps (or in lockers, or inside your home, or in car trunks). One constant remains, however: reliable service. Whether the packages arrive by drone or driver, customers want them to arrive when expected.
5. Cyber Slammed — A bigger-than-expected surge in ecommerce sales on Cyber Monday (or, really, Cyber Weekend) taxed an already-stressed network, causing an initial backlog in delivery for at least one of the major carriers and long hours for drivers. Despite months of planning for peak season, delivery companies still face hiccups when surges or bad weather strike.
4. Informed Citizenry — What started as an early step in a digital strategy a few years ago with a pilot test in two cities has rolled out nationally and gained steam this past year. Informed Delivery, which provides customers with a digital preview of their household's incoming mail scheduled to arrive soon, has over 6 million users. And now companies are using Informed Delivery to market their brands, adding colorful images to the scanned mailpiece images to engage customers. Just added in late December is a feature that lets users see the delivery status of their packages.
3. Fire and Rain (and Floods) — It was a historic year for natural disasters and weather events, and the Postal Service rose to all occasions. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria hit in quick succession and with devastating ferocity. Right on their heels, Northern California battled deadly wildfires that forced major evacuations. And through it all, the Postal Service kept delivering.
2. Opioid Crisis Hits Hard — It has been called an epidemic that doesn’t discriminate, hitting every part of the nation, even reaching into the postal system. Problems with the international shipment of opioids prompted Congress to take a hard look, holding hearings and drafting legislation.
1. Pass or Fail? —The current system for setting market-dominant postage rates (primarily for monopoly products and services) has failed to meet the law’s objectives, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) found in its 10-year review of the rate-setting process as established under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. The commission recommended an adjustment to the inflation-based price cap, among other changes, of which few, if any, are popular with major mailer groups.
Tell us what you think: Did we miss any? Which news story was important to you?