• on Jul 7th, 2014 in Products & Services | 6 comments

    It’s no secret what the advent of digital technology has done to mail volume, particularly First-Class Mail. But there’s an emerging digital technology catching hold that could be a boon to the U.S. Postal Service. It’s called 3D printing, and it’s expected to increase the number of lightweight parcels, a segment of the parcel market where the Postal Service excels.

    3D printers build solid objects usually one razor-thin layer at a time using plastics, powders, metals, polymers, or other materials. Examples include one-of-a-kind jewelry, custom-fit dental implants or hearing aids, unique iPhone cases, and the like. Mostly small-size things, at least so far. But one of the big advantages of 3D printing is the ability to customize just about anything to anyone’s taste or whim, and people increasingly like custom-made products.

    Retailers are already using 3D printers to make these kinds of goods, which consumers are buying and having shipped to them. The total 3D printing industry was valued at around $3 billion in 2013 but is expected to grow to $16.2 billion by 2018. And as it grows, 3D printing could lead to more single-item parcels being shipped to consumers over shorter distances, instead of hundreds of thousands of identical items sent by containerized cargo over vast distances.

    In our new white paper, If It Prints, It Ships: 3D Printing and the Postal Service, we explore how 3D printing could lead to an increase in packages delivered by the Postal Service representing $485 million in new annual revenue. Emerging 3D printing businesses could take advantage of the Postal Service’s unique and ubiquitous first- and last-mile network: Carriers already delivering mail every day, making the addition of lightweight parcels easy and cost-effective. And the Postal Service could partner with 3D printing businesses, perhaps using excess space in postal facilities, to help streamline the fast delivery of 3D printed goods.

    Tell us what you think:

    • How much experience have you had with 3D printing?
    • In what areas do you think 3D printing will have the most impact?
    • How could the Postal Service adapt its business strategy to handle a rise of 3D-printed goods?
  • on Jun 30th, 2014 in Products & Services | 7 comments

    Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard the term “collaborative consumption,” but even if it’s not, chances are you’ll be hearing it a lot more. It refers to an economic model based on renting, lending, and sharing goods instead of buying them. In fact, not long ago, Time magazine listed it as one of “10 Ideas That Will Change the World.”

    Collaborative consumption is very popular among Millennials, who increasingly constitute a culture that likes to rent just about everything from clothing to tools. For one thing, rental prices are lower than purchase prices, which not only is nice on the wallet but also significantly increases the number of items from which to choose.

    Rental culture is not entirely new – remember DVDs from Netflix? – but it is growing. In 2013, Forbes estimated the revenue from the sharing economy will exceed $3.5 billion, representing more than 25 percent growth over the previous year.

    While people certainly do still buy things, especially online, the ownership culture primarily involves one-way shipping except for the occasional returns. Rental culture guarantees two-way shipping every time, or double the revenue, for carriers like the U.S. Postal Service.

    Some think the Postal Service is already well-positioned to be a major player in rental culture shipping. It delivers to rural or remote areas at the same prices as urban addresses while other carriers charge more to deliver to rural areas. Moreover, the Postal Service’s roughly 30,000 post offices across the country mean renters wouldn’t have to look far for a shipping point when return time comes, or just put it in the mailbox for the mail carrier to take. And flat rate boxes mean renters immediately know the cost of shipping without having to weigh anything.

    Tell us what you think: Do you use these kinds of rental services? How should the Postal Service actively pursue the rental-shipping market? Or do you think rental culture is really just a fad? 

  • 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?

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