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Innovations in the postal sector. Episode 3: new delivery options

Here is episode 3 already of our series on innovations launched by postal operators. You can access the first episodes of the series here (episode 1, episode 2).

The innovation we’ll be dealing with today is driven by societal and behavioral changes. E-commerce rise can’t be stopped anymore. We are about to witness some dramatic changes industry-wide and the supply-chain providers will be put under pressure for the next decade to come.

Episode 3: in search of new ways to deliver parcels and mail

New locations for delivering mail and parcels

This is a really big trend and the next episode, which will be dedicated to automatic lockers, falls into this category too.

Let’s first look at Network Rail which tries to set up parcel service at mainline rail stations. Passengers would be able to use the service to collect and deliver parcels as bpost did in the past in a partnership with the SCNB / NMBS.

The peculiarity of the Network Rail initiative is that those shops will be reserved to parcels, objects that can’t be delivered in your absence normally. Those shops will open at three major stations as part of the trial, allowing passengers to collect and post items. The shops will be staffed and service will include proposals around postage options. The opening hours will be adapted to the locations, i.e. from early until late at night and 7/7. Delivery notifications will be sent to customers using a multi-channel approach : email, text message (sms) and a smartphone mobile app. The trial phase will be opened exclusively to Rail Network employees and once passed, customers will be able to opt for a free membership to take advantage of this service. The first shop will be at Milton Keynes station, then London Paddington and Woking station. A total of 4000 jobs are expected from this initiative.


This initiative, in the middle of a railway station, will probably remind you something similar that was tested in Belgium a few years ago. The Delhaize supermarkets were inspired by Tesco’s initiative in South Korea and launched The Cube in several railway and metro stations in Brussels. The aim was to attract new customers into their stores by allowing them to shop online through a dedicated app while waiting on their train or metro.

The Network Rail initiative obviously answers the growing trend of e-commerce and the upcoming rise of parcel traffic. Deutsche Post intends also to profit from this societal trend by extending its network of parcel stations. Furthermore, the German postal operator tests in the city of Bonn the “parcel box” which can be described as a small pack station suited for every house, a more secure letterbox for parcels, according to CFO Lawrence Rosen. The aim here is to deliver parcels in the absence of the addressee, hence not forcing him/her to go to the post office, thus reducing the workload on personnel in the offices. It’s a Win-Win scenario where consumers will get their goods directly, without losing time to go to the post office and contributing to the improvement of operations.

As a further step towards decreasing pressure on postal offices, Deutsche Post is also seeking by the end of 2014 to expend into another 20,000 retail shops, bakeries and petrol stations that accept parcels. CFO Rosen has referred to the booming parcel business and the further shrinking letter business in Germany where the number of letters is expected to fall by nearly 3% in 2013.

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Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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