The parcel delivery value chain is in flux. Once operations-driven and predictable, today’s value chain is dynamic, complex, and multi-faceted in response to technology, evolving customer preferences, and booming e-commerce. This changed dynamic means that if postal operators wish to remain competitive in the parcel space, they must understand these changes and adapt.
The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General held an international roundtable on March 9, 2015, to discuss the new parcel value chain and strategic implications for posts. During the event, two trends emerged as particularly transformative:
- Increased Customer Power. The Internet, social media, and mobile devices have empowered customers with more information, choice, and forums to air their opinions, express their preferences, and compare their buying options. As a result, the power to influence the customer experience has shifted from supplier to recipient. Moreover, both senders and recipients increasingly expect a fast, customized, diversified, and low-cost experience in a “personal logistics network.”
- Technology-Driven Business Models. New software enables nimble, innovative asset-free start-ups to create flexible business models that can anticipate and quickly respond to emerging customer needs. For instance, Roadie and Shyp, two start-ups, seek to do the same in crowdsourced delivery services as Uber did in crowdsourced passenger transport. Such algorithm-based business models significantly lower barriers to entry and align with emerging customer preferences; a low start-up cost allows these firms to selectively compete with postal operators in the most promising markets.
The trends are threats and opportunities for the Postal Service, which will need to proactively monitor their development. Moreover, appropriate response strategies will be critical if the Postal Service is to remain competitive in a changing marketplace.
The success of these strategies will depend on the ability of postal operators to redesign the parcel value chain in a way that is customer-centric and information-rich. This will involve a multipronged approach: defend and strengthen the last mile, expand along the parcel delivery value chain through strategic partnerships and diversification into complementary business lines, and leverage new technologies and data. Such an approach would help reposition posts at the center of the value chain.