Postal operators should prepare for ‘new normal’ of permanent peak volumes
Postal operators need to gear up for a ‘new normal’ of permanent peak parcel volumes, rapid operational responses and better crisis management planning after successfully dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months, top managers said in a panel discussion at this week’s Parcel + Post-Expo online conference.
Alex Alexander, global business development director of Stamps.com, explained how the US company had responded quickly to the e-commerce boom sparked by the pandemic. “We had 200,000 new customers in one quarter! We were able to get them shipping within days, if not weeks.”
The main challenge had been whether retailers’ own supply chains could keep up with the sudden demand. “Every day was a new peak,” he said. Fortunately, Stamps.com’s ability to capture a large amount of real-time shipping data meant it could monitor delivery operations and advise merchants about potential problems, he pointed out.
Describing this year’s dramatic sudden growth in parcel volumes, Alexander said that in the US alone there are about five million new online shoppers who had “tried and enjoyed” e-commerce, and they would not go away.
“We will have a new normal. The peaks of 2018, 2017 and 2019 will be an everyday phenomenon going forward. We don’t see that all the new customers who came online over the last six months will just disappear overnight,” he commented.
‘Incredible’ postal sector response
Jack Hamande, Belgian postal regulator and a UPU board member, said postal operators had responded and adapted “incredibly” to the sudden crisis, including border closures and widespread flight cancellations, in the spring. The “impressive” postal sector had proven itself to be agile, innovative and essential for society, he said.
Commenting on a possible large-scale second wave of the pandemic this autumn, he emphasised: “What we learned from the first wave we can potentially leverage in a second crisis.”
Looking ahead, Hamande predicted that in the ‘new normal’, postal operators will work hard on crisis management, will ensure their ability to adapt operations to sudden volumes surges and will introduce new services, such as for local-to-local deliveries.
More crisis management needed
These comments were underlined by Thierry Lafon, a strategic intelligence analyst with France’s La Poste. He described the COVID-19 pandemic as “a wake-up call” for the postal industry that proved the need for careful crisis management planning. “Posts are the most resilient companies in the world. But we need to adapt again and again,” he told conference participants.