Release Date: 01 June 2007
Release ID: 483
Last week saw hundreds of leading postal executives from all over Europe and the rest of the world come together for three days to debate the major issues they face in the next ten years. The annual World Mail & Express Europe conference, this year hosted in London, provided the platform for postal operators to publicly air their agendas, their concerns and listen to solutions from those who have experienced new competition.
In two years time the EU could propose unrestricted competition and many of the European postal and express organisations are rapidly attempting to reposition themselves in preparation to compete for the first time. Whilst many of the operators have their own unique issues, in areas such as infrastructure, resources, unequal competition and ability to fulfill the universal service, one international post summed up their shared position; 'the reality of competition is leading to a change in the way we do things around here'.
Over the course of the conference delegates heard from more than 40 senior executives from differing postal backgrounds including Adam Crozier from Royal Mail Group, Juergen Hoefling from DHL Global Mail, John Allen from New Zealand Post, Milhály Jambrik from Hungary Post and Luis Jiminez from Pitney Bowes.
Neil Jackson, Chief Executive of Triangle, stated, "This was very open and frank exchange of key issues from both public and private sectors. I would like to think that all of the delegates took something pertinent away from these three days that will have an impact on the future of their businesses."
John Allen, Chief Executive, New Zealand Post commented "The conference debated issues that really matter to postal businesses - such as how to respond to market liberalisation and on-line substitution. And should posts diversify? If so, how? The debate was direct but collegial. It was well worth travelling 19,000 kilometres to attend."
Many of the presentations and discussions focused on the opportunities that new markets would open up and the creation of new roles for the posts.
There was a common emphasis on the need to see digital technologies not merely as a threat to traditional postal products, but also an opportunity for posts to offer a wider choice of communications mechanisms to both senders and receivers. The increasing sophistication of many operators own technology is allowing them to offer value added services such as 'more information about where mail is in the system'.
The discussions also covered other examples of creating increasing value in the changing landscape such as the broader diversification into financial services by many of the postal network operators. Royal Mail's recent announcement that it leads the independent travel insurance sector for the UK, suggests this could be a sustainable source of alternative revenues for Europe's posts.
Balance of power shifts
Another interesting agreement to surface in the conference was that there appears to be a shift in the balance of power between senders and receivers, particularly in the area of direct marketing. It is generally acknowledged that DM companies are improving their targeting to create ever more relevant and personal offers for their potential customers. But digital technology is creating an information-on-demand society where, instead of senders determining content on a 'mass' basis, it is believed that recipients will increasingly specify 'what they want to receive, in what format, and when'.
Major pressure points
Environmental issues are becoming a major pressure point and are now high on postal agendas. Postal Operators have a precarious balance to achieve – ensuring the expediency of delivery and collections at an affordable price whilst containing fuel consumption and reducing emissions from their vehicles.
On top of this, the world's postal network handles a huge portion of the world's paper and further pressures are being exerted to reduce the 'waste' from 'junk mail'. All of these environmental issues will heavily influence postal strategies in the future.
Optimism on future volumes
Luis Jimenez, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Pitney Bowes presented the suppliers viewpoint on how the postal world was shaping up. In the US the rapid growth of electronics communications have resulted in some declines in first-class mail, though lower-cost advertising mail continues to increase. He concluded that 'far from destroying mail volumes, the Internet was providing alternative opportunities and the evidence shows some mail sectors increasing'. Online retailers are increasingly using the mail to steer people to their sites and generally people prefer to receive bills on paper through the mail.
This optimism about the future of mail and the ability to continue to keep letters as an important element of the communications mix was echoed by the six CEO's and senior directors 'In the hot seat' session at the close of the conference. They were all confident that volumes would rise when asked whether they believed there would be more or less mail in 2012, although a number emphasised it would be a lower proportion of their total revenue mix.
The World Mail & Express Europe 2007 conference was organised by Triangle and host sponsored by Royal Mail. Next year's event will be held on 20-21 May 2008 in Budapest, Hungary.
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