Royal Mail will suffer from lack of innovation, not strikes

by Alexander Baxevanis on 29 October 2009

The message in the recent weeks is clear: after repeated strikes more and more businesses, especially online retailers, are prepared to desert Royal Mail for alternative suppliers. However, I think it’s not just the strikes that will drive businesses away from Royal Mail. It’s also that Royal Mail has failed to come up with innovative services that match the needs of ecommercebusinesses and their customers.

At Ecommerce Expo last week, I saw a number of delivery companies trying to attract retailers. But what they were advertising wasn’t their lack of strikes – it was services that make life a bit easier for both retailers and customers.

DPD, a parcel delivery company, was advertising their “Interactive SMS delivery notification” system. When a retailer provides them with the parcel recipient’s mobile phone number, they send a text message to the recipient to confirm the delivery day. If recipients aren’t available to sign for the package on that day, they can reply by text message to arrange an alternative date. For customers, this means greater transparency and less of the disappointment of receiving the usual Royal Mail “Sorry, you were out” card.

Home Delivery Network, another parcel courier, have partnered with PayPoint to create Collect+, a network of neighbourhood convenience stores that can accept parcel deliveries. As many of these shops are open until late in the evening, customers can collect their parcels when they come home after work, and avoid a trip to the local Royal Mail delivery office. Some major online retailers, such as Littlewoodsand Woolworths have already signed up to offer this delivery method to their customers. Royal Mail could have found a way to use their Post Office network in a similar way, instead of closing down Post Office branches.

With delivery often being one of the biggest customer concerns in an ecommerce transaction, retailers are likely to be looking for advanced delivery services that will differentiate them from their competition. If Royal Mail can’t keep up, retailers may not return to use its services even after the strikes are over.

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