Disruption in Sight for Postal Services and Beyond

July 21, 2015 Scott Winkoff

The postal services industry has been largely tested by new mobile technology and the impact it’s had on consumer expectations. As an industry that’s been deeply reliant on traditional practices, current digital demands are pushing postal providers out of their comfort zone. It’s clear that current technological advancements have been steadily disrupting postal services, but no industry can remain complacent.

Digital Disruption is Reality for Many

With management continuously looking to gain a competitive edge and consumer demands increasing, digital disruption is an inevitable fate for most industries. The question is whether industry players will take on the disruption as an opportunity to reposition or fall victim to it. As the postal services industry collides head-first with mobile, it exposes prime examples of both outcomes.

Several British parcel couriers, such as City Link, Yodel and UK Mail Group, are noticeably struggling in reaction to today’s digital environment. These couriers are collapsing due to their inability to adapt, digitally, thus failing to meet consumer demands. Those who are thriving have done so by effectively reacting to market trends and catering to the evolving expectations of the consumer.

Consumer Expectations

Mobile leaders in postal are providing best-in-class applications, but trailing brands must first focus on basic consumer expectations before attempting to compete. Currently, the most significant consumer expectation is the ability to track deliveries in real-time through a mobile application. 

New delivery options to alter delivery details (date, time and location) has become a basic capability of leading brands in the industry and is soon to become a consumer expectation.  

Mobile Trends Transcending Industry

The leading postal brands that have successfully used mobile to compete have done so by capitalizing on several mobile trends that are impacting most industries:

  • Increased need for an engaging UX. In postal services, leading brands are fostering engagement on mobile by creating value through convenience. USPS has done this effectively by providing several convenience-oriented mobile capabilities, such as pick-up scheduling and hold mail services.
  • Innovations in communication. With capabilities such as real-time delivery tracking, there is now complete transparency between the customer and their postal provider. FedEx has implemented a delivery alert system, which effectively communicates real-time status updates to customers. Using a mobile app, their customers can decide if they want to be alerted by email, SMS text or automated call.
  • Growth of online transactions. Postal providers have introduced mobile commerce to sell stamps and shipping labels. By allowing customers to create labels and buy stamps, USPS’s “Click-N-Ship” and mobile shopping options have increased sales dramatically. In 2013, an average of $2.9 million in stamps and retail sales was spent per day on usps.com.   
  • New ways of developing relationships. Early mobile adopters are going beyond basic functionality of mobile to find ways to deeply engage customers. FedEx adds personalization to their mobile app by allowing customers to nickname shipments and create personal watch lists. Attaching sentimental value to each shipment and listing them encourages users to engage regularly.

What’s to Come?

Early mobile adopters in postal services continue to innovate with:

  • Augmented reality mail. USPS is experimenting with physical mail that, when viewed through a mobile device, launches a website, video or interactive experience.
  • Daily digital notification system. USPS is building a platform to bring physical mail content onto the same screen as the digital content. 
  • Crowd-based pickup and delivery. DHL is aiming to cut last-mile delivery costs by allowing users to accept and deliver pre-selected delivery assignments through a mobile app. Their app “MyWays” is currently being trialed in Sweden.


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