The UPU’s Postal Operations Council (POC) last Friday approved specifications for a service covering items up to 30 kg. It also features track-and-trace options and a five-business-day delivery standard from the moment an item arrives in the destination country.
With online sales expected to reach 1.5 trillion USD this year alone, the service is part of a global integrated e-commerce solution the UPU developed in record time after adopting a resolution last April to speed up its work on meeting the needs of stakeholders in this bustling market.
Items delivered under the new service will not require a signature on delivery. Starting in 2016, Posts will have to provide pre-advice data of package contents to customs authorities, a measure expected to improve customs clearance of items.
Eventually, customers will also be able to choose their preferred delivery location.
The POC also validated a merchandise-return service, which will make it easier for customers to return unwanted goods to e-tailers abroad.
New way of doing business "E-commerce is changing the way we do business," said Brazil’s Vantuyl Barbosa, vice-chairman of the POC, who was charged with overseeing the UPU’s work on an e-commerce framework. "Posts must adapt to the market and provide both e-tailers and customers services they want."
Indeed, the latest UPU statistics show letter volumes continuing to go down, while packets and parcels traffic is going up.
Posts processed 6.7 billion domestic parcels in 2013, or 3.7% more than in 2012. Traffic of international packages, including small packets – which travel in the letter-post stream – and parcels, was about 300 million items, an increase of more than 5% on the previous year.
"There is a significant shift in mail composition, a clear sign of the rise of international e-commerce," says UPU Economist José Ansón.
At a major UPU e-commerce forum last March, market representatives pleaded for simpler, reliable and cost-effective postal services to expand an already booming domestic business beyond national borders.
The UPU will now develop pay-for-performance targets for Posts offering the optional service, as well as an Internet-based inquiry system for customers.
The UPU body dealing with operational issues also gave the green light to a new e-commerce guide outlining practical recommendations for Posts as they develop their e-commerce capabilities and services for domestic, regional and cross-border markets.
About the UPU
Created in 1874, the UPU, based in Berne (Switzerland), is an intergovernmental organization and the primary forum for cooperation between governments, Posts and other stakeholders of the worldwide postal sector. In addition to maintaining a genuinely universal network that provides modern products and services, it establishes the rules for international mail exchanges among its 192 members and makes recommendations to stimulate mail volume growth and to improve the quality of service for customers. In 2013, 5.4 million employees processed and delivered almost 340 billion domestic and international letter-post items and over 6.7 billion parcels. Many postal services also offer expedited mail, financial and electronic services. Some 663,000 postal establishments make the postal network the largest physical distribution network in the world. The UPU is a specialized agency of the United Nations since 1948.