ELECTION-RELATED REVENUE BOLSTERING POSTAL FINANCES
Election mail is becoming a major source of income for postal operators around the world and appears to be improving voter participation rates. Voting by mail is gaining popularity in the United States. In California, for example, half of the ballots in the 2012 general election were cast by mail, compared to only 18 percent in 1990. Oregon and Washington conduct elections entirely by mail, forgoing traditional polling places altogether. Average turnout was 10 percent higher in these two states than elsewhere in the 2012 general election.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the U.S. Postal Service has been paid $17.5 million so far this election cycle for delivering political direct-mail pieces.
Governments all over the world are also promoting voting by mail. In Germany, as many as 30 percent of voters in cities prefer to cast their ballots by mail. In Scotland, 16 percent of the 4.2 million people eligible to vote in the independence referendum registered to vote by mail, up 20 percent since March. In the 2010 United Kingdom general election, 83.2 percent of those with a postal ballot returned it; only 62.6 percent of those required to vote in person went to the polls.
National posts are seeing the impact of election-related mail on their bottom line. Canada Post recorded a profit for the first time in four years, in part due to election mail. The post had expected a decrease in mail volume when it raised its prices, but that decline was mitigated by the amount of political mail generated by elections. Deutsche Post’s mail division partially credits a 5 percent increase in revenue to the mail generated by parliamentary elections.
NATIONAL POSTS INVEST BILLIONS IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Postal organizations will spend more than $27 billion globally on information technology in 2015. According to new research from international market research and consulting firm Pierre Audoin Consultants, most of these funds will go toward renovating branch infrastructure and expanding service.
Postal operators are trying to use technology to diversify their service offerings and decrease dependence on traditional mail, which is in decline. The number of letter items sent within the European Union dropped 10 percent between 2007 and 2011, to 82 billion.
Canada Post reports spending $1.5 billion on its “modernization program” since 2008, including $246 million in 2013. The post touts annual benefits of $185 million and annual savings north of $223 million. In addition to upgrading package and container sorting systems in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg, Canada Post now operates 140 high-speed letter-sorting machines and 22 automated flat sorting machines.
Poste Italiane has been among the leaders in diversification. It operates its own mobile virtual network and offers services beyond simple voice, including bill payment, gaming, and internet access. Poste Italiane has also developed a “Postal Identity Platform” that has increased the level of trust that consumers have in online transactions — and thus increased the number of e-commerce parcels the post delivers.
Royal Mail is investing $3.2 billion in transforming its business, with $1 billion going towards the modernization of 8,000 branches. Many branches of the Post Office UK feature biometric data capture booths that foreign nationals applying for residency can use.
La Poste in France has recently installed 5,000 computerized self-service kiosks, including the Wincor Nixdorf ProPostal 2000xe.
Australia Post is converting 4,500 retail outlets into superstores offering services such as banking, passport applications, identity services transactions, and motor vehicle registration. The post also offers “video stamps,” which allow mailers to record videos that recipients can access by scanning the stamp once they receive their package.
GERMANY LAUNCHES NEW PARCEL DELIVERY SERVICES
Deutsch Telekom and Dynamic Parcel Distribution (DPD) Germany are both launching new parcel delivery programs. In partnership with DHL and e-commerce company Zalando, Deutsch Telekom will pilot a new temporary package container that will allow couriers to leave packages securely when the recipient is not home. PackageButler is a foldable container that the recipient leaves on his or her front step when expecting a delivery. The courier then leaves the parcel inside the container and locks it. The recipient can unlock it after returning home. The project will begin testing in Berlin in 2015.
DPD Germany, a competitor of Deutsche Post majority-owned by a subsidiary of France’s La Poste, is launching a new online platform called “Parcel Navigator” that will act as a “digital remote control” where customers can manage their parcel deliveries. Customers will be able to pick a particular delivery day, designate an alternative delivery location, or redirect their package to a DPD shop. DPD hopes that Parcel Navigator will help it double its share of the German consumer parcel market to 15 percent by 2018.
AUSTRALIA POST TURNS TO DIGITAL MAILBOX, TWO-TIERED SERVICE
Australia Post hopes that two new services — a digital mailbox for government communications and two-tiered letter delivery — will stem record losses. Its letter business lost $297.4 million in the past year. Ahmed Fahour, Australia Post’s chief executive, called the post’s financial results “a stark illustration of the urgent need for changes to the regulations governing our letter service.”
Australia Post has made its MyPost Digital Mailbox a strategic priority. It’s partnered with the Australian Department of Human Services to launch the e-mailbox. Through this online portal, citizens receive electronic government communication about health care, child support, taxes, and social services.
Australia is not the first national post to partner with government to offer digital services. Switzerland’s Post SuisseID has been around since 2010 and provides citizens and companies with an official digital Swiss identity. SuisseID is looking to expand into digital VAT statements, E-Voting, and tax returns. In Ireland, An Post is working to expand its offerings to include digital ID and e-communication services.
To cut costs, Australia Post is also proposing two-tiered letter delivery service. The Post is promising that mail would still be delivered five days a week. Regular service would take one to two days longer than priority service. The price of the priority stamp is yet to be determined. “What we’re asking for is the regulatory change to enable us to put in place product choices,” said Fahour.
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