Universal Postal Union approval to drive global ecommerce business – Logistics Business ReviewBy
This is an accurate beginning of a picture of what is being approved now in Bern at the UPU. There was incredibly fast agreement on a new project called “EcomPro”, a vast array of activities and projects focusing on the parcel value chain from online-order to pick-up, payment, Customs treatment, delivery, track and trace, and return. The entire program takes direct aim at the competition, the private sector parcel services. In fact, it may take the posts perhaps a bit beyond, as it will include codes and treatment of parcels depending on the status of the shipper with respect to the Customs authorities. It’s an aggressive and multi-part program of work that will impact all posts regardless of their state of development. Scroll down to the bottom for a graphic of the key ecommerce work elements, the list of subjects that are being addressed and an itemization of the work structure!
There is no question about the focus of attention at the UPU this session. It’s parcels and ecommerce all the time. Letter volumes continue to deteriorate while small packets increase in numbers that are close to replacing the lost letter volumes. However, these are very heavy-duty “letters”, weighing up to 2 kilos. They only look like letters. They can weigh up to 2.2 pounds, which doesn’t match any definition that I know of a letter, but the postal system long ago decided they could be categorized as such. It’s not clear to this observer whether they are profitable to the posts, or not. Were they “too smart by half” in not putting a weight limit on “letter”? But who could imagine a letter weighing more than two pounds, other than in the occasional case of a very smitten lover?
What a change for this observer who has come here since 1997. The institution and the industry, or at least the developed world’s part of it, is focused on those pesky and annoying boxes which the designated operators grudgingly accepted and, sooner or later, delivered. They come from all over the world and go to all sorts of addresses where people aren’t at home during the day. And the parcel delivery business bears little resemblance to the postal “every day every door” process. It’s a route to different doors every day, or maybe no route at all. And it usually requires handing the parcel to a human being or placing it in a designed secure place.
They will not openly acknowledge it, but with the growth in e-commerce and the cascade of parcels, the posts and the other delivery companies are beginning to realize that power has shifted. They have to deliver, increasingly to a customer and on behalf of a shipper who expect the carrier to do just that: deliver it, no excuses, no “come down to the facility”, no “sorry you weren’t at home” notes. Deliver it to the address when the addressee is there, or find an alternative which is Acceptable To The Addressee. ATTA. Like maybe a parcel locker, or Saturday at 10AM after Dad takes the kids to football practice.
ATTA! A Victory Cheer!
The power has shifted. The “customer” is now someone the posts have rarely bothered to pay much attention to – the addressee. Now, the delivery isn’t accomplished until that box gets to her. All of a sudden, where she is at delivery time is not her problem, but the post’s. Lots of ideas and solutions are being examined at the UPU, as they have been at postal conferences around the globe for the last few years.
For years we have been saying that with respect to international mail and parcel deliveries, the two posts are also two of the three customers in the transaction, the third being the addressee. E-commerce transactions resulting in a shipment involve two customer posts – sending and receiver. GADA has been saying this publicly for four years. Postal people used to roll their eyes.
Well, with the addition of the possibility of many, many e-commerce parcels coming with a “right of return” to the seller, there we are. And there we have been for years when the parcel is undeliverable or refused. It has to go back, and all of a sudden the despatching post is the “delivery” post. We hope the return-to address is deliverable. Who knows? Neither post in the transaction has bothered to determine deliverability at any point in the transaction. There is a project outlined in “EcomPro” to provide for address validation of both sender and receiver through the Address Group PostCode database at the UPU. This is a good step forward, as it will increase the urgency of countries’ providing their addresses to the UPU, and the UPU will have to upgrade its data management capabilities.
This transaction can not be economically and efficiently executed unless both addresses, buyer’s and sellers’, are accurate.
So, this is one-time parcel specific validation only. We are at last approaching an awareness that we need a global address verification system. There is acceptance that both posts in any parcel shipment have an interest in both addresses being accurate. With time, perhaps we can extend this to letters, and everything else that travels across borders, and even to something as outrageous as sharing accurate data with shippers. (Images (c) UPU). To see either image full size, click on it. It will open in a new page.