Contrary to popular belief, size is not necessarily everything.
That might sound strange coming from a firm working with leading e-commerce brands.
After all, some commentators have predicted that the value of all online retail this year will exceed $5 trillion (https://www.emarketer.com/content/global-ecommerce-forecast-2022).
It is worth remembering, however, that the focus of all that trade should always be the individual consumer.
Shoppers have their own preferences about how, where and when they receive the goods which they buy online.
Any company – big or small – wishing to increase its customer base needs to take those choices into account in order to generate initial sales and repeat orders.
The delivery partners of e-commerce firms also need to be able to demonstrate flexibility across many different territories – and, therefore, meet the varied delivery wishes of consumers.
I’ve been telling delegates to the World Mail and Express: Americas conference in Miami (https://www.wmxamericas.com/speakers/) how that scenario illustrates that a ‘one size fits all’ approach cannot work.
Such a conclusion is not just due to the span of operations for carriers such as PostPlus.
We deliver goods on behalf of our clients to more than 100 different countries, including European Union’s 27 member states, Baltic countries and Eastern Europe.
The scale of our workload is also reflected in the fact that despite only launching in late 2019, we shipped more than 25 million packages during 2021.
It becomes more complex when we take into account how the needs of consumers have changed in that time alone.
The need for social distancing during the Covid pandemic has seen parcel lockers preferred by shoppers in certain territories over home deliveries or even ‘pick-up, drop-off’ (PUDO) locations.
Those facilities, of course, must be capable of handling the significant extra volumes of items bought online – including purchases from sellers in other countries – since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
For example, one study has concluded that cross-border sales increased by 82 per cent during 2020 (https://econsultancy.com/stats-roundup-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-ecommerce/).
Shippers have faced more than growing consumer demand over the last year or so, with both Brexit and new EU rules on how VAT and duties are applied to cross-border buys (https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_3098) taking effect since January 2021.
Just like the consumers whom they serve, sellers too have their own preferences.
Some, including many brands based in the United States, expect carriers to handle every aspect of the delivery process themselves – managing pick-ups, expectations and fast, first-time deliveries.
Contrast that with their Chinese competitors, who are keen to contribute to ensuring that every link in the delivery chain functions efficiently and effectively.
It makes the business of handling deliveries – and, let’s not forget, the ever-increasing number of returned products – more complex.
Which is why it makes sense to apply a local perspective to solve a global issue.
Although that might sound counter-intuitive, in my opinion it is the recipe for success.
Establishing a comprehensive network of local delivery partners is a way of providing local consumers with what they want, wherever they may be.
In some cases, the best route uses national postal operators who have an infrastructure developed and refined over many decades.
In others, it makes more sense to rely on smaller, younger and more agile players who add the flexibility and speed so popular with many consumers today.
Having that ability to switch is an important ingredient of success for ourselves and for the shippers who we work with.
The final mile can often determine how a retailer is perceived by shoppers. Making it more individual and more local only increases the prospect of the customer experience being a positive one.