Why checkouts are key for CTT’s locker expansion

CTT has created a carrier-agnostic locker network, with plans to roll out 1,000 units in Spain and Portugal by 2023.

Although the postal company has made some critical partnerships for this rollout, including Zongteng Group, these lockers are majority-owned by CTT, and will be produced specifically for the partnership, unlike typical arrangements which see posts and carriers purchasing lockers manufactured by specialist providers.

By building the lockers themselves, CTT has created these lockers at a 50% lower cost than the market average, as revealed at the Leaders in Logistics summit. As well as being a cost-saving achievement for CTT, this locker advancement is an exciting development for its out-of-home delivery network, adding to 2,000 existing CTT Pick-up Points. The lockers should also play a key part in reducing carbon emissions per parcel, further to CTT’s sustainability goals.

However, building the hardware is only part of the solution. Now, CTT must make this development viable by driving volume into its new lockers. That’s where software comes in.

Why has CTT invested in lockers?

CTT has invested in lockers to expand its Delivery Points network, the largest national PUDO network, with more than 2,000 points where customers can collect their orders.  

Adding 1,000 more lockers by the end of 2022 increases CTT’s coverage and provides its customers with more pickup options closer to them. In addition, lockers can be accessed 24/7, providing more convenience and a better customer experience.

Although driven by customer experience, CTT has also emphasised the environmental aspect of the new lockers.

“The CTT locker solution is also important in terms of environmental sustainability. The final distribution to lockers has a consolidating effect that reduces the dispersion of delivery vehicles in an urban environment; that is, since a single locker allows delivery to several recipients, travel to different households is avoided. Thus, the more deliveries are destined for lockers, the greater the reduction in travel, generating fewer carbon emissions associated with the last mile.”

CTT [Translated].

By consolidating deliveries into lockers, CTT drivers can deliver more parcels per mile driven, reducing emissions per parcel and becoming more sustainable.

How can CTT Correios drive locker volume? 

There are two key components to increasing volume into parcel lockers:

  1. Make sure your consumers know that the lockers exist and understand their benefits
  2. Make the lockers easy and convenient for consumers to use

It’s a relatively simple concept, but it involves a combination of both hardware and software to get it right.

CTT has increased awareness of the lockers through an initial promotion offering consumers to use the lockers free of charge until March 31st, no matter which carrier is used. CTT allows consumers to book and collect parcels from any carrier with its carrier-agnostic design.

A carrier-agnostic network is a great option to increase OOH coverage within a region and generate extra income for CTT once it has built the lockers. However, using a locker for a parcel carried by another service is not as easy and convenient as it could be.

If consumers want to use the locker, they must register as a CTT customer on the ctt24h.pt website. Once that’s done, they’ll be assigned a virtual address corresponding to a locker. During the checkout, consumers will then enter this virtual address as their home address to receive the parcel at checkout.

This is a somewhat convoluted and time-consuming process, particularly for first-time users. However, it does have the advantage of not requiring the merchant checkout to connect to CTT’s locker location data, so theoretically any shopper ordering any parcel can have it delivered to the locker.

Greater locker volume begins at the checkout

Unfortunately, creating a virtual address on the CTT website and then entering it at the checkout is not the most convenient customer journey. To encourage more consumers to use parcel lockers, there needs to be an easy option to select their locker of choice without leaving the checkout.

CTT do have a small number of merchant partners who currently offer a CTT locker option at checkout. However, we tested a few of them, only to find the option missing and automatically defaulting to home delivery instead, meaning most customers must use the virtual address system. At that point, it might be more convenient to accept a home delivery. Changing behaviour away from home delivery will require more than making the option theoretically available. It needs to be integrated into the shopping journey to become habitual with shoppers.

Image from the Portugal Store checkout, with only a standard home delivery option available.

To drive locker volume, consumers need to be presented with a clear option at checkout, allowing users to select this delivery method and chosen locker in the quickest time possible. At Doddle, we’ve worked with Australia Post to bring this to life.

We created a fully branded checkout integration for their retailers that allows users to search for and select a pickup location in two or three clicks.  They enter their address, then choose a locker, PUDO location or post office from the map. It’s intuitive and easy for consumers to use, and crucially it’s simple for retailers to integrate.

Clear and consistent branding is also vital here. The more consumers see and interact with carrier branding on checkouts, the more they’ll recall and select the option across different retailers. A great example of this in action is InPost, which has achieved a dominant position in Poland through its ubiquitous ‘Paczkomat’ lockers and branding across retail checkouts. It is now making inroads in the highly competitive UK market, signing deals with some of the UK’s biggest brands like Missguided, boohoo and more, deploying over 2,000 locker banks in 2021 alone.

InPost has ensured its brand appears on these checkouts and returns pages as widely as possible, encouraging more consumers to think of InPost’s lockers as the solution to returns. CTT has the opportunity to make the same play in Portugal and become synonymous with modern and convenient delivery and returns.

InPost branding on the Schuh website

Lockers need both hardware and software

At Doddle, we’re big believers in out-of-home delivery and returns. But to make them a viable and sustainable option, carriers need to drive volume into these networks.

The keys are a) ensuring your consumers are reminded of your locker network at the time when they need to decide whether they will use it, i.e. on the checkout, and b) making it easy to use. Alongside the physical hardware of your lockers, there needs to be software integrating your locker network to retail checkouts, to drive user adoption and retention from the very start of the journey.

Want to know more about driving volume into your locker network? Get in touch with our team today.

3 key takeaways from Leaders in Logistics 2022

In-person events are back with a bang. Just a few short weeks after WMX Miami, our team spent a few crisp, sunny days in wonderful Copenhagen for the return of Leaders in Logistics. With over 300 attendees and 60 speakers from 40 countries, these two days were full of the most innovative thinkers and cutting-edge discussions in the industry.

Amongst the speaker line-up were two members of the Doddle team. Our CEO Tim Robinson shared his insights on ‘Designing the ultimate flexible delivery experience’, joined by an excellent panel showcasing global insight and expertise:

  • Thomas Roggendorf, CEO and Postmaster General of CPost
  • Peter Hesslin, Chief Business Development and Partnership Officer at Airmee
  • Alberto Pimenta, Director of E-commerce at CTT Correios de Portugal
  • Markus Wimmer Head of Customer Solutions, Self-service at Austrian Post.

Tim weighed in on how carriers can adapt to consumer behaviours and solve the returns challenge while keeping costs low with this impressive team.

Our Chief Commercial Officer, Mike Richmond, also took to the stage, delivering his talk ‘Convenient and sustainable: developing an out-of-home delivery strategy’. You can discover the highlights from this presentation here.

But that’s enough about us. Let’s talk about the biggest lessons we learned from Leaders in Logistics 2022.

Sustainability efforts are championed – but we’re just getting started  

One of the recurring themes at Leaders in Logistics was sustainability. Many carriers shared their sustainability goals or steps they have taken to become greener, such as:

  • PostNord, which aim to be fossil fuel-free by 2030. It’s also championing a ‘Green by PostNord’ strategy to lead Nordic logistics into the fossil-free economy.
  • Singapore Post, which aims to have a 35% reduction in emissions by 2030
  • Posti celebrated decreasing emissions by 60% from 2011 and targets net zero emissions from the company and its subcontractors by 2025.
  • Aramex achieved a 44% emission cut by 2019 by introducing solar energy and a new vehicle standard. It plans to achieve carbon zero by 2030 and switch all vehicles worldwide to electric or hydrogen in three years. 
  • An Post commits to becoming carbon net-zero by 2030 with a 50% reduction by 2025. Currently, all urban deliveries are 100% electric.

This progress was great to hear, but it didn’t translate to all markets. In the Middle East, sustainability is moving a lot slower. Emirates Post has just renewed their entire fleet – but not a single vehicle was electric. 

Peter Somers, CEO of Emirates Post, expanded on the strategy for Emirates Post and the current last-mile situation in his talk ‘Tapping into the global opportunity: strategies for success’. Having an incredibly high service culture among their consumers, home delivery reigns supreme. With consumers also using Uber subsidiary Karim to request drivers to buy and deliver shopping for them, like DoorDash in the US, out-of-home (OOH) adoption rates look low.  

To make big sustainability changes in the Middle East, as elsewhere, it’s not just carriers who need to act – consumer behaviour will need to shift.

This sentiment was echoed by David McRedmond, CEO of An Post. During his talk, ‘Today, not tomorrow: placing sustainability at the core of business’, David made some great points about the need to reduce volume and consumption as an industry. Carriers cannot continue to deliver ever-growing volumes and hope to be sustainable. In short, more volume = more miles = more emissions, even if carriers are slightly reducing emissions on a per-parcel basis.

If carriers and postal companies are to become genuinely sustainable, we need to see more change to help break down the chain of more parcels = more miles = more emissions. We spoke about some of these critical themes ourselves: if you missed it, find the highlights of Mike’s talk here.

Lockers continue to grow ­ – driven by convenience

Investment into lockers and OOH networks continues to rise. For example, PostNord CEO Annemarie Gardshol outlined how they are focused on rapidly growing their locker network. Currently at 6k lockers, the company plan to double this to 12k by the end of the year and reach an impressive 20k lockers by 2025.

Although some talks did cover the sustainability benefits of OOH – more consolidated delivery means fewer miles driven, increased efficiency and fewer emissions – the majority of locker growth was powered by convenience. Lockers are available to consumers 24/7, usually within a short walking distance. In the ‘Last mile innovation’ panel, our CEO Tim Robinson shared that 95% of the residents of Tokyo can reach a Yamato locker within a 5-minute walk.

Surprisingly, 60% of the Yamato locker volume is from C2C. Customers adore the convenience of being able to resell preloved items by dropping them off to a locker. We predicted at the start of the year that recommerce will grow, and it seems that lockers will play a vital role in this growth. 

Lockers and PUDO are also needed to adapt to the return of more flexible lives for consumers after an extended time at home. By using these networks, carriers can also reduce the amount of failed deliveries – a key element needed to sustain carrier growth.

Also on the theme of lockers, CTT provided an excellent case study of their forthcoming locker network. By choosing to build their own lockers, they achieved a 50% lower cost than the market average, thus allowing them to expand their OOH network at a lower price.

Posts are being edged out of cross border volume

The past two years have seen record ecommerce growth and parcel volume across the globe. Even the Middle East, which has traditionally lagged in terms of ecommerce growth, has seen a massive spike in sales. Peter Sommers, Emirates Post CEO, accounts for some of this growth to increased trust in websites, payments and logistics.

When it came to cross-border volume, Andre Pharand, Global Managing Director of Accenture, highlighted that cross-border commerce was growing for many carriers. However, for postal channels, this cross-border volume was declining, implying that posts are being pushed out from this space.

Jan Van Roey, Vice President, Operations and Client Services at bpost, reinforced this in his talk ‘The case of Brexit: a post-covid analysis’, detailing the total exports from the UK have decreased by 20% and their share of world trade had fallen by 15%.

In Gilad Tirosh’s keynote address ‘Assessing today’s international postal landscape’, the CFO/CCO of International Post Corporation also shared that the postal share of cross border e-comm has fallen from 50% to 43%. There are multiple factors that could have contributed to this, Gilad continued, including:

  • Increased customs charges and regulations, such as Brexit.
  • Increased competition from local companies
  • A drive towards ‘local’ purchasing, which had a considerable boost during the COVID pandemic
  • Growing sustainability demands from consumers who want to reduce their carbon footprint
  • Lack of capacity in the global supply chain, driven from pandemic related supply chain issues
  • Increase in heavier and bulkier ecommerce buying – which is too costly for cross border purchases

For postal companies to reclaim cross-border volume as a growth space, they need to invest more into their proposition and make it easier for SMEs to navigate through increased customs rules and regulations.

Want more information?

Our team provide strategic advice and market leading solutions for first and last mile delivery. To find out more, get in touch with us today.

Convenient and sustainable: developing an out-of-home delivery strategy

This article is adapted from a presentation given at Leaders in Logistics Summit 2022 in Copenhagen. Click here to watch the talk in full.

Last mile sustainability is getting worse, not better. While carbon emissions per parcel are creeping downwards for many carriers thanks to their good work, the growth in parcel volume is enormous and completely overwhelms the positive impact of any increased carbon efficiency. As a result the industry overall is still emitting much more carbon than ever before, and those emissions are likely to increase.

Currently, parcel volume growth inevitably leads to higher emissions. In a home-delivery-first model, increased parcel volumes translate directly into more miles being driven. More miles being driven means more emissions.

We have to change these equations to make a difference. Firstly, there’s lots of ambition to decarbonise transport and parcel delivery, but there’s a long way to go and electrification, usually touted as the key puzzle piece, is still far from a panacea. The timeline to fully electric fleets remains long-term and there’s a huge carbon cost to creating and deploying these new vehicles, plus additional electricity consumption does still have a carbon cost associated with it thanks to the nature of most national power grids.

Using current delivery options to reduce miles per delivery

We can more directly reduce miles driven per parcel by increasing drop density. We have ways of doing that which exist in the market today – consolidating deliveries in a many-to-one delivery model, i.e. out-of-home deliveries.

By increasing the number of parcels delivered at single locations, and reducing the proportion of failed deliveries, out-of-home deliveries significantly reduce the number of miles drivers need to cover to deliver the same volume of parcels.

InPost CEO Rafał Brzoska says that an average delivery driver manages to drop 70-80 parcels per shift, where an InPost driver can achieve 1,000 parcels delivered. DHL ran a simulation where using their Service Points, drivers delivered the same volume of parcels having driven 38% of the distance as home delivery drop-offs would have required.“The average parcel home-delivery driver will maybe deliver 70-80 parcels during a daily shift… ours will do 1,000 parcels a day.”

How access makes the difference

How consumers use the out-of-home network is fundamental to success. Data from a nationwide study of Belgian pickup point usage gives great insight into when OOH is truly beneficial for emissions reduction.

In short, if customers drive to the pickup point, especially as a journey they wouldn’t otherwise make, out-of-home delivery is less sustainable than home delivery – delivery drivers are using carefully planned routes and delivering many parcels on that route, so have a higher parcels per km than a customer picking up one or two items from a pickup point.

However, the majority of the time, this is not how pickup points were used in the study – a clear majority of consumers trip-chained or used low-emissions transport methods or both, resulting in massive emissions reductions versus home delivery.

Actions to take

Carriers need to:

  • Continue their investment in out-of-home delivery networks
  • Understand how access to those networks happens
  • Collect and display sustainability data for their OOH networks
  • Make OOH easily available on every checkout

For carriers to become more sustainable, they first need to understand how parcel recipients access their networks, by tracking behaviour across location types and regions. When this data is in place, they can analyse their own routing and measure GHG emissions saved through OOH deliveries.

Combining both sets of data gives the most accurate picture of OOH sustainability, and allows carriers to start promoting OOH delivery with sustainability messaging that is compelling for consumers and useful for merchants, who are keen to offer measurably sustainable delivery options at the checkout.

Overall, increasing the proportion of deliveries happening through OOH networks will enable carriers to deliver the same volumes in fewer miles driven, which directly reduces GHG emissions and buys time for initiatives like electrification to become more realistic widespread options for green delivery.

Ready to develop your OOH strategy?

We help carriers develop out-of-home networks and strategies that can achieve greater sustainability and delivery cost reduction. Talk to our team today to get started.

Should carriers build or buy their digital returns portal?

57% of retailers say returns are a significant problem for their business, our returns report has uncovered.

There are many aspects to this, but one of the primary reasons is that current returns solutions are outdated and not fit for purpose. 64% of merchants don’t use an integrated platform, meaning all returns are treated the same regardless of the item, size, or value.

“25 years into eCommerce, it’s staggering how inefficient returns are and how little innovation there has been in this area.”

Mike Richmond, Doddle CRO, via the returns quandary webinar

Our research shows that 94% of retailers see making returns better as a priority for their business. However, most merchants won’t have the ability to develop their own returns solutions in-house.

That’s where carriers can come in. By solving this problem for merchants, they can deepen their relationships, win additional new business thanks to a more complete ecommerce proposition, and enable their merchant customers to succeed in ecommerce, driving long-term parcel volume increases. 

The market is there, and 74% of merchants who don’t currently use them are interested in carrier-provided solutions. The only question now is how carriers meet this demand. Should they build their own digital returns portal from the ground up, or leverage existing solutions?

What makes a great digital returns portal?

An excellent digital returns portal needs to be easy to use and give merchants greater control over their returns. Functionally, this means an “integrated” portal that uses customers’ order data from the merchant to display items available to be returned at the start of the journey.

This allows merchants to create specific rules and procedures based on the particular items sold. For example, they could refuse returns for specific item types like swimwear, and set returns windows to prevent returns from occurring after more than a 30-day limit.

Returns solutions need this rules-based customisation capability, because no two merchants operate identically. For example, where merchants have more than one location where they can process returns, they should be able to set rules about when returns are shipped to one location, and when they’re shipped to another. These rules could be aiming at reducing transport emissions, or direct certain types of items to specific locations to reduce processing time.

Integrated solutions don’t just provide merchants with better control and a more efficient, customer-friendly process. They also offer space for promotional material and messaging to increase loyalty and repeat purchases from their customers, turning returns into recovered revenue. If carriers can make ecommerce returns a more profitable area for merchants, their merchants will be able to grow and provide more outbound volume to the carrier in turn.

Building a returns portal in-house

Building your own digital returns portal from the ground up will give you complete control over your portal’s design, features, and functionality. You can tailor it absolutely to the requirements of your organisation and ways of working, and you can take full responsibility for the development and operation of the platform, which can be reassuring to have completely in-house.

However, this control comes at the cost of time, money, and technical resources – often in high demand for multiple projects. It’s not just the build phase which requires technical capacity. Once you’ve created, tested and launched a portal, there are the constant requirements of maintenance, support and updates to account for.

What’s more, the timeline for building from scratch will mean that merchants might be tempted to adopt alternative solutions in the interim, from third-party providers, or even other carriers. One way to address this is to get out a minimum viable product (MVP) as soon as possible, but this can leave a sour taste for shoppers who are used to seamless digital experiences – as a result, MVP solutions can be a hard sell to merchants.

Why ready-made solutions benefit carriers

Ready-made returns portals are already built, battle-tested and designed to be easy to implement, saving you months of work and technical investment which can be used to deliver value in other areas of your business. Buying a returns portal allows you to offer a complete solution to merchants right away, ensuring you maximise adoption and coverage before other carriers or third-party providers gain market share that’s rightfully yours.

While you won’t have total control over design and development, existing returns portal solutions provide deep customisation for you and your merchants, ensuring that it fits both branding and functional requirements to sync up with your business. In some ways, not having total design control could even be a blessing – as it eliminates the temptation to design a solution optimised for your business, rather than balancing the needs of merchants and shoppers too. Pre-built returns portals have been designed to ensure every stakeholder benefits in the returns journey, which in turn means merchants are more likely to adopt and more volume will flow through the solution for the carrier. 

In addition, ready-made portals have already been tried, tested and iterated upon to guarantee a great customer experience. Similarly, they’ll be maintained and updated for you, for added peace of mind that you’re always offering a top-quality experience guided by global user research and market testing.

Should you build or buy?

There are pros and cons to building and buying. Ultimately, it depends on your needs and capabilities to decide which option is best for you.

To help put it into perspective, we’ve rounded up the key points to consider.

Solving digital returns with Doddle

Used by over 550 merchants and major carriers worldwide, our digital returns platform is ready-made to enable you to offer market-leading returns solutions to your customers and new business prospects.

Built by experts with years of industry experience, our digital returns solution is a fully integrated, customisable platform with automatic communications and powerful analytics to make returns more efficient, profitable and simple.

Want to know more? Get in touch with the Doddle team today.

Our 9 key takeaways from WMX Miami 2022

We recently attended the World Mail & Express (WMX) Americas Conference, which brought together industry leaders from the Americas and around the world – there are worse place to go than Miami in February!

Lots of focus fell on the pandemic and its influence on the post and parcel world, but there was also plenty of discussion on facilitating crossborder trade and how to become a truly sustainable industry. If you didn’t make it over to Miami, or if you did and just didn’t catch all of the 30+ speakers within the two days of the event, here’s our top takeaways from this year’s event.

1. USPS investing billions in EVs and post offices

Firstly, we heard from Mary P. Anderson, Executive Director, International Postal Affairs of USPS. Her talk, ‘USPS What’s Next?’ outlined the ‘Delivering for America’ transformation plan that USPS is carrying out.

What stood out most from this plan was the vast $19 billion investment in new delivery vehicles and post office upgrades. 10% of the current order of vehicles will be electric, in line with aims to reduce USPS’s carbon footprint.

The investment into their post offices and retail spaces is equally eye-catching. If post offices can become attractive locations for consumers to collect and send parcels, out-of-home delivery and returns could massively accelerate in the US. USPS has by far the largest American network of staffed parcel and mail service locations through its Post Offices – over 30,000 locations. Investing in this crucial point of difference makes strategic sense.

2. PUDOs and lockers are still on the rise

Afterwards, we heard from Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto, Correios’ President. In his talk ‘Thriving in challenging times’, Floriano noted that the Brazilian post was now handling over 14 million items daily, including 2 million parcels.

Notably, in order to handle expanding parcel volumes and become more sustainable, Correios are planning to significantly invest in parcel lockers and pickup and drop-off (PUDO) locations. Expanding out-of-home (OOH) networks like this has several advantages for parcel carriers, allowing for increased drop density, fewer failed deliveries a lower carbon footprint for each parcel.

It also gives more choice to their customers, in line with Correios’ goal of keeping ‘customers as our focus’.

3. Australian ecommerce has been growing insanely fast

Michael Cope, General Manager International Services at Australia Post, gave a great talk on the staggering rate of ecommerce growth in Australia. In his speech, Michael shared some incredible stats, for instance highlighting that ecommerce has grown more than 73% in just two years from 2019 to 2021.

Interestingly, despite some gloomier outlooks from markets like the UK and US seeing ecommerce growth fall back to pre-pandemic levels or below, there’s optimism that thanks to its slightly later adoption of ecommerce, Australia may well have some real headroom still to grow into.

In addition, Michael shared how important the international carrier lines are to Australia Post, fuelling growth through ‘lanes’ of New Zealand, the USA, the UK and Canada.

4. Community mailboxes cut delivery vehicles by 80% for CPost  

Thomas Roggendorf, CEO of CPost International, gave a brilliant case study of delivery in the Caribbean Island of Curacao. His talk ‘Community mailboxes: challenges and opportunities’ detailed how CPost had revolutionised the delivery model in Curacao to a Community Mailbox model, similar to the approach used in some regions by Canada Post.

These community mailboxes are a set of lockable mailboxes in an accessible outdoor location near to residents’ homes. Every household in the community has their own box and a key to this mailbox. The upshot is that delivery is now to one set of mailboxes rather than to hundreds of doors, enabling consolidation on a huge scale.

To prove the point, CPost has taken its delivery points from 80,000 addresses to just 150 locations by implementing community mailboxes in Curacao. What’s more, this decrease has reduced the need for delivery vehicles by 80% on the island, massively improving the company’s carbon footprint and sustainability.

5. Technology underpins post and carrier growth

Escher CEO Brody Buhler gave an excellent presentation on ‘The new postal reality’, discussing how the role has changed and is now underpinned by the parcel business. For posts to succeed, they need to follow the four key strategies to meet evolving consumer needs.

  1. Realise delivery and retail network synergies, as a large, more integrated retail network enable posts to delivery more parcels and sustain growth.
  2. Invest in ecommerce as the primary driver of parcel volume.
  3. Automate and optimise delivery processes and journeys, using technology to increase efficiency.
  4. Reimagine the delivery depot and move towards micro fulfilment.

We’ve been talking for years about how posts should be maximising their retail estates as a key point of difference to specialist CEP carriers, and about the role of posts and carriers in enabling ecommerce, so it was gratifying to hear someone else talking about it for a change!

Investing in ecommerce can look like many things, but one way for carriers and posts to focus their efforts is by looking at the challenges their ecommerce merchant clients have and aiming to address them. For example, rising return rates can affect carrier volume – carriers who implement digital returns solutions will be better able to sustain ecommerce growth for their customer and themselves.

6.  UAE aims to be a gateway to the Middle East for crossborder ecommerce

Peter Somers, Chief Executive Officer of Emirates Post, shared some fascinating stats in his talk ‘Transforming Emirates Post for the ecommerce market’.

  • 91% of residents in the Middle East are “digital converts”
  • eCommerce spend per capita in the Middle East is £1,649
  • eCommerce CAGR is 32.9%

Peter’s talk also discussed Emirates Post’s desire to become a gateway to the Middle East, reaching this online population via Dubai and other Emirati ports of entry.

7. We need to do more to be sustainable

As sustainability was one of the critical themes of the events, there were many great talks on building a sustainable future in ecommerce. Some of the highlight speakers in this area include Emily Phillips, VP of Advanced Solutions at XPO Logistics, Infinium Logistics CEO Paul McCormack and Elena Fernandez-Rodríguez, the Deputy Director for International Affairs and Sustainability at Correos.

A commonality among these talks was how hard it was to be genuinely sustainable in ecommerce. As Elena put it, we need to do less self-congratulatory backslapping and instead look long and hard at how our industry is not doing enough. This is especially true when Transport emissions are now the largest contributor of US GHG emissions at 29%, as Emily noted.

This is a point we’ve raised in our annual predictions – reducing carbon emissions per parcel by ~6% is good, but if the market grows by 40% in two years (as it has done for much of the world since 2019), we’re still emitting a lot more carbon than we were two years ago.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. As well as the reality check, Elena also shared some interesting stats on the number of deliveries made on foot by Correos. As part of their last-mile sustainability model, their 11,000 ‘on foot’ employees have travelled a total of 12.4 million km. This once again highlights the ability of a post with excellent infrastructure coverage to stand out on sustainability and types of service other carriers may not be able to directly replicate.

8.  Parcel continues to grow as mail declines

Many talks at WMX explored global ecommerce and parcel growth among carriers and posts. But the ‘Innovation to transform’ talk by Andre Pharand, Managing Director at Accenture, highlighted how the pandemic accelerated the decline of mail within the postal sector.

With mail in long-term structural decline, postal operators are transitioning their businesses to focus more on parcels. An under-represented aspect to this transition is that posts have unique advantages in the battle for a share of ecommerce parcel volume.

We’ve previously explored how Parcel Collect can turn Royal Mail into a returns leader, and this talk was a great reminder of how postal companies can leverage their position to offer unique propositions to consumers and merchants, which can help them take the lead in an ecommerce-first landscape.

Andre also noted how much the pandemic accelerated the long-term trends of mail decline and parcel growth, as illustrated here.

9. Carriers have a lot to consider amidst the post-pandemic ecommerce boom

And finally, I got the chance to get on the soapbox, to talk about how some of the key trends we’ve seen happening during COVID-19. In the talk, I focused on how we’re seeing competitive threats and opportunities for carriers in 3 key stages of the online buying experience – the checkout, the post-purchase experience and in returns.

In the checkout, we’re seeing a mass of activity from payments businesses, platforms and aggregators, and our feeling is that carriers are being left behind. One of the key trends we’ve noticed is how payment is increasingly prioritised over delivery. One-click payment methods such as PayPal Checkout or Apple Pay often effectively default to home delivery, taking consumers’ options and agency away. Carriers need take a lesson from the payments industry to focus on innovative checkout solutions which drive consumers into their networks and create better experiences from the start.

Secondly, there’s the world of communication, or ‘post-purchase experience’ as the sector of the industry has christened itself. Technology businesses are active in this space, offering to aggregate carrier events and tracking information, and present a seamless communication experience to online consumers. This is a threat to carriers – I believe that communication with the customer is a key part of the value chain for carriers, and they need to make those communications clear and direct for a better experience, and to avoid disintermediation.  

Finally, we spoke about rising rates of returns and the knock-on effect this has on carriers. We’ve talked about why carriers need to act on returns before. The bottom line is that carriers need to partner with merchants to deliver smart returns solutions that limit costs by pre-approving returns before they’re sent and enabling intelligent returns management, not the one-size-fits-all approach we have today.

Want more information on these topics?

Our team are always happy to help. Get in touch with us today.

Can carriers sustain record growth?

The challenges unique to scaling during a pandemic have not stopped many carriers worldwide from reporting record-breaking net profits for 2021, with incredible volume growth over the past two years outweighing operational pains.

But the question now has to be asked: what will happen as the pandemic’s influence on ecommerce recedes? Can parcel carriers and posts sustain their success?

The boom years

There’s been one consistent driving factor in carrier growth: the ecommerce boom. The pandemic drove many people to do much more online shopping, increasing ecommerce sales and generating more parcel volume for carriers.

In the UK alone, carriers shipped  4.1 billion parcels in 2020-2021, increasing over 1.3 billion from the previous year. La Poste’s carrier brands (DPD and Chronopost) sent 2.8 billion packages in 2021, up 10.7% on its already record-breaking 2020.

There’s now some evidence that the increased ecommerce participation that has driven these vast increases in volume is now falling back. According to ONS data, UK ecommerce sales in January 2022 are 20% down from the previous year, where a lockdown was in force. As pandemic restrictions continue to ease worldwide, we could see ecommerce sales losing steam against rejuvenated store retail and a challenging macro-economic climate. Some of the effects are already visible in the share prices of former ecommerce high-flyers, such as Boohoo, who are suffering because the market does not believe in their continued growth.

Whether ecommerce growth rates stabilise or sink to pre-pandemic levels, one fact remains true. Parcel carriers must look for ways to become more than passive riders of market forces. They need to actively secure their growth by providing competitive ecommerce solutions as the landscape changes around them again.

Return to offices to increase failed deliveries

Our latest consumer behaviour report revealed that 58% of consumers are returning to pre-pandemic behaviours or are busier than ever before.

As consumers spend more time out of their homes, the number of failed deliveries will logically increase. Last year, just 6% of all online orders in the UK resulted in a failed delivery, but this is set to rise dramatically with a return to more time in the office. With each failed delivery costing an average of £11.60 per order which largely falls on the Carrier,  this is a significant profitability challenge.

So how can Carriers tackle this?

The need for more flexible delivery options

If consumers are out of their homes more, they need access to more flexible delivery options and greater control of when and how their parcel is delivered. This presents a few possible solutions.

Firstly, more next-day delivery slots could be offered so that consumers can order to the address they know for sure they’ll be at, whether that’s at home or the office. However, this option is more difficult and costly to fulfil, and some consumers will prefer slower, less certain delivery slots if they are cheaper.

Secondly, carriers need to prioritise clear communication with consumers about when their parcel will be delivered and offer redirect/safe place options if they are not at home. DPD have shown that this can work well, but inflight redirects require enough time to implement the change of delivery destination, leaving consumers with relatively short windows to request changes and making routing more challenging for carriers.

Lastly, carriers can drive more traffic into their Out-of-home (OOH) networks for consumers to pick up at their leisure, whether at a parcel shop, a counter in a third-party store or from a locker. Increasing OOH volume also has major benefits for cost reduction and lower emissions. Most importantly for newly-busy shoppers in places with no pandemic restrictions, it’s ‘unattended’, meaning the consumer doesn’t need to be at home to accept delivery. They can pick up as and when they choose, giving them freedom over their order and reducing failed delivery rates.

As our research has uncovered, 74% of shoppers plan to use Out-of-home in the future. The demand is there – but sadly, a huge number of checkout pages don’t offer OOH. Of those that do, the option is often buried until after the consumer has entered their home delivery information. Take Select as an example here. When a consumer clicks checkout, the first screen they’re presented with is a shipping address field. Collection in store is a shipping option for this retailer (and costs less than home delivery). But this option is located underneath the home address form, with no information above the fold that the form can be skipped in favour of collection.

If you compare that to the way the plethora of current payment options are surfaced, it’s chalk and cheese.

Rising returns also threaten ecommerce

Another area that could present a profitability challenge to Carriers is the growing levels of e-commerce returns. Returns are a major retail challenge. In our latest report, we discovered that 57% of merchants say returns are a significant problem – and that 94% of retailers are making better returns a priority for their business.

Returns are costing merchants, and current returns solutions aren’t doing enough to help. Regardless of the size, cost, or product type, most returns are all handled the same. This results in a heavy price for retailers, particularly when items cannot be resold.

When merchants suffer, carriers suffer. Without intelligent returns solutions, merchants will be more price-sensitive in contract negotiation and they’ll be limited in their growth.

Merchants need integrated solutions that look at what’s being returned at the start of the process. This way, the merchant can block returns outside the return window or for products that cannot be resold, meaning fewer resources are used manually checking and processing returns in warehouses.

By providing this software to merchants, carriers won’t just strengthen their merchant relationships. They’ll also help protect profitability, sustain growth and maintain their market share, particularly amongst a rise of 3rd party returns solution providers.

Carrier growth needs to be sustained through action

The tidal wave of growth that has swept carriers to success in ecommerce can’t last forever. Those who stay afloat in the long term will be those working closely with ecommerce merchants to help them succeed in ecommerce and harness mutual growth even in tougher market conditions. Succeeding in a more challenging market will differentiate winners, and they’ll be primed to capture the lion’s share of future ecommerce growth, as and when that comes.

Want to talk to our team about your strategy for Out-of-home or Returns? Get in touch today.

Celebrating working in tech on International Women’s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements.

The day has been in place for over a century, since the first International Women’s Day gathering in 1911 across Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. On that day, more than one million people attended rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote and hold public office.

They won those fights, but International Women’s Day is still held every year in celebration of the achievements we’ve earned so far, but also as a reminder of continuing movement to combat bias, discrimination and achieve gender parity.

Although it’s been declining slowly over time, the UK gender pay gap in 2021 sits at 15.4%. Tech Nation revealed that only 19% of the tech workforce are women.

We take great pride in our people at Doddle. In honour of International Women’s Day, we handed the mic to a few members of our brilliant team, to ask about what working in tech means to them and the advice they would give to anyone looking to start a career in tech. This is what they had to say.

How did you get into tech?

There’s no one single way to get into the tech industry. To highlight this, we started by asking how our team got into tech.

For some, it came down to chance, like Product Lead Rebecca Riiser.

“It wasn’t planned. I saw a job advertised at eBay. And I was a bit of an avid user back then. I wasn’t from a techie background, but I remember thinking about how I could apply my experience to this particular role.”  

The same was true of Product Strategy Lead Sandy Ferez, who previously worked for Amazon before joining the Doddle team. Starting within the Amazon marketplace team, she would talk to sellers to help them grow their business. Through the tools she and her sellers used, Sandy began to see the technical aspects of the company. As her curiosity grew, she took on new roles and started her journey to Doddle.

For People Advisor Theresa McGregor and Developer Talia Glantz, technology was a sector they knew they wanted to work with. Theresa started following companies in the industry to learn more and complete her research before applying. For Talia, this journey was a little more intensive and began with trying online coding courses while furloughed during the COVID pandemic.

“I did some foundation coding courses. And I couldn’t really stop; I absolutely loved it. [After], I realised that if I wasn’t going to make the career jump now, then I don’t know when I will.”

After this decision, Talia enrolled herself in an intensive coding boot camp at General Assembly before coming to Doddle.

Katie Langley, Global Sales Director, came from an entirely different background. Working in the fashion industry, Katie felt like she wasn’t making an impact. Speaking to a friend in recruitment, she was then introduced to the world of technology.

“I really liked the fact that working in sales, you get to be in control of your own universe. And, you know, the more effort you put in, the more you get to sell and the more customers you get to meet. I went for a few interviews for a few tech companies and realised that this was a really interesting sector to be in. There’s lots of change and lots of growth.”

What do you like most about working in tech?

“What I enjoy most is the fast-paced environment, the innovation and just the culture that often comes with a tech company.”

Theresa McGregor.

So, why work in tech? We asked our team to reflect on what they love the most about working in the tech industry to answer this one. 

A common answer was the fast-paced nature of the industry. Rebecca expanded by saying that because the landscape is ever-changing, there are “always new challenges to tackle and different opportunities springing up all over the place”. With new changes around every corner, you’ll never get bored working in tech.

Changes in the technology industry aren’t just passive. Sandy explains that being in this sector provides a fantastic opportunity also to influence growth and change:

“The thing I do love the most is that you can build almost anything you want. So I said with a lot of imagination and data points, you can merge those two and you can create really cool things.”

For Talia, part of the allure of technology is the people, and the process of working together to create smarter products and solutions. Speaking very highly of her coworkers, Talia remarked that “as soon as I walked through the doors at Doddle, I felt like I was with like-minded people that were on the same wavelength. It’s exciting, it’s really fun, a really cool environment to be in and atmosphere to be around”.

“Technology is involved in everything. And no matter what you do, or what you’re interested in, technology plays a part in so many journeys in people’s lives, you know, from the phone you use to social media, to having your parcel delivered. Technology is behind everything.”

Katie Langley

What advice do you have for people wanting to work in tech?

Lastly, we asked what advice and tips our team has for working in tech.

Rebecca leads with some advice: “if you want to move into tech, I would recommend that you just dive in”.

It may seem rather simplistic, but it’s echoed across the board. Sandy adds to this by saying you should jump straight in and “do your research, so you know what tech means. Match it with your skills and see where you get the best fit, and leverage those to make sure you focus on those areas to grow into. Also, be very curious. If there’s something you don’t know, try to connect with people that do know it”.

“Just remember”, Rebecca adds, “you don’t have to be technical to work in tech. There’s a vast range of skill sets needed by all tech companies. And always remember that your skills are cross transferable”.

“I think especially for women, there are so many courses that are so desperate to get women into tech. It’s amazing. And it’s so motivating knowing that there are people that really want you and need you in the industry”

Talia Glantz.

Reflecting on International Women’s Day, Katie also emphasises the importance of women taking up roles in tech. “There aren’t many women in the technology industry. And, you know, we need women to come in and bring a diverse opinion and bring a different perspective. So, go and talk to people. And keep interviewing”.

Finally, Sandy leaves us with one of her favourite quotes:

 “Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It is about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”

G.D. Anderson.

Want to work in tech?

Doddle is a leading tech company making ecommerce more delightful, profitable and sustainable for shoppers, retailers and parcel carriers.

To make that happen, we’re on the lookout for talented people just like you.

See if any of our openings are a match here.

Why carriers need to care about returns: An infographic

Returns have always been a part of ecommerce. But after 25 years of impressive growth, rising return rates and narrowing profit margins threaten to pop the ecommerce bubble, affecting carriers and merchants alike.

That doesn’t need to be the case though.

Returns aren’t a problem to be ignored; they pose an incredible opportunity for carriers to strengthen merchant relationships, capture volume, and drive growth. 

We commissioned this research to shine a light on merchant returns experiences and highlight where carriers can do more to meet the needs of their customers. Surveying retailers of all sizes across UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, this is what we discovered:

Read our full report here.

The Returns Quandary: The 3 Key Lessons on Returns

Recently, our CRO Mike Richmond joined forces with Quadient and Last Mile Prophets on the webinar ‘The ecommerce returns quandary and how to solve it’.

We discussed the current state of ecommerce returns, how different international markets are handling them and how carriers can enable merchants to deliver a better returns solution. If you missed out, the webinar is available for on-demand catchup here

Returns, and why carriers need to act on them, have been a hot topic here at Doddle. After all, carrier volume growth will always be dependent on merchant success. Merchants who are struggling to manage returns risk becoming unprofitable and are much less likely to grow to their potential. They’re also more likely to look for ways to lower their logistics costs, putting more pressure on rates for carriers.

In a nutshell, merchants without a great returns solution won’t contribute as much volume to carriers, and will be more price-sensitive when it comes to contract negotiation. Carriers have been accustomed to growing alongside the ecommerce boom, without needing to actively step in and enable merchants’ growth by offering solutions to their problems – but that is not a long-term strategy.

We’re not here to bang the same drum today. Returns are an increasingly complex and growing issue, and we need to shed as much light on the situation as possible. That’s why we’re here to share three key lessons of the webinar, lessons learned from our research and experience in returns, looking at key challenges and how they can be solved.

Lesson 1: The state of returns is in dire need of change

Getting returns right brings a range of benefits, including better customer experience, increased loyalty, and higher profits.

Unfortunately, this isn’t happening for most merchants. Customer experience is a top priority for the purchase journey, but once the product is in the shopper’s hands, CX often feels like an afterthought. Returns processes are stuck in the past, as Doddle research shows that contacting customer support is the most common returns initiation method, used by 29% of retailers. The second most common, pre-printed labels, follows at 18%.

“25 years into eCommerce, it’s staggering how inefficient returns are and how little innovation there has been in this area”

Mike Richmond, Doddle CRO

This can’t be sustainable, with return rates estimated at 23.44% across European markets in our latest research report ‘Returns 2022: why carriers have to care’. This means that nearly 1 in 4 ecommerce purchases are being returned.

Even among 100 leading UK ecommerce merchants, our research discovered that 61% still use non-integrated solutions such as:

  • DIY returns, where a customer finds a returns address and pays postage to send their purchase back
  • Customer service, where a customer must contact the merchant for a returns address, then pay for postage
  • Pre-paid label, where a customer uses a label in the packaging to send items back for free
  • A non-integrated carrier portal, where a customer is directed to a carrier site to generate a postage label

These are “non-integrated” because they do not sync directly to merchants’ order data, limiting merchants’ ability to control returns, enforce their policies and analyse returns data to understand and improve the process and reduce return rates; or make returns more profitable.

The prepaid label offers greater customer convenience from these options, as all shoppers have to do is attach the label to the package and drop it off. However, this method offers the merchant no control over what’s being sent back or when, as a customer can use the label outside of a 30-day return window, for example. Printing labels for every outbound package means, on average, over 75% will never be used and end up in the bin, generating unnecessary expense and unsustainable waste.

The carrier portal solution is excellent for carriers – they can generate labels and charge them to the consumer or the retailer. However, for both customers and retailers, these solutions are sub-par. The customer experience is disjointed, as the retailer they’ve bought the item from directs them to someone else to deal with the return. They must re-enter information about their order to generate the label. Once more, the merchant has limited insight about the return and no chance to enforce their returns policies.

These returns solutions aren’t smart. They’re stuck in the past and desperately need to be updated if merchants are to stand a chance of tackling rising return rates.

Lesson 2: One size does not fit all

Returns are stuck in the past. Regardless of the size, cost or type of product that’s being returned, the vast majority of merchants treat all returns the same. Whether a customer has bought a £5 pair of socks or a £500 coat; whether they’re a life-long brand advocate who spends thousands with the merchant or a first-time shopper, they and their purchase are going through the same returns process, and everything is treated the same.  

“Given the prevalence and the amount of data we have about items and value and customer, the technology and the digital expectations of the consumer, and environmental consciousness, we should be thinking more closely and intelligently [about returns]. Different treatments should be applied to different returns based on the data available.”

Mike Richmond, Doddle CRO

Not all returns are equal, and they shouldn’t be treated equally. This is where integrated returns solutions come in.

Integrated returns solutions match customer and order data at the start of a returns process through a digital interface. This means that rather than sending every customer down the same path, merchants can configure different methods for different items, customers and regions – without a customer having to get in touch with the customer service team.

Amazon is an excellent example of this. As mentioned in the webinar, their integrated solution looks at several factors to determine the best path for the product. If the item is less than £5 in value, the customer will be issued a return without sending back the product, saving shipping costs and waste.

A customer sending an item back because they changed their mind is charged £3.99 to cover the shipping costs. Those who have received a wrong or faulty item can send it back for free. Each action is calculated from the automated returns portal on their website, giving shoppers a quick and easy experience.

Although most merchants don’t have the budget and technical capabilities of Amazon, they don’t need to develop their integrated solutions – the technology already exists and can allow them to put controls on their returns, such as not allowing returns for items past the policy window, or preventing certain products such as sale items from being returned. They can also direct different items to alternative warehouses or issue refunds without the customer sending the item back in situations where the merchant can’t profitably resell the product.

Lesson 3: Execution plays a crucial role in returns

Lesson 2 taught us all about the importance of integrated returns solutions – but this is only part of the entire returns process.

Once the return is initiated properly, customers still need to get their item back to the retailer. A quick survey in the middle of the webinar showed that 59% of participants think this execution aspect of a return is the most important part of a return solution.

Our webinar panel also went into a debate on out-of-home (OOH) options for returns, particularly lockers, which offer a fully automated solution available 24/7 – provided there’s enough of them. Developing a network of return locations close to consumers and easy to use is essential to returns success.

That network needs to be multi-modal, though – lockers and PUDO locations aren’t ideal for some types of returns, such as larger items. As before, not all returns are the same, so consumers need different options to send them back, which relies on the suitable returns initiation process to ensure shoppers know what their options are and can pick what’s right for them and their needs.

“Lockers are great – when you have them and when they’re proximate. The reality is lockers are a fixed elemental cost and it’s not so easy to stretch them. Because of the way ecommerce works in peaks, I believe that you need a mixed network”

Marek Różycki, Last Mile Prophets.

74% of merchants are interested in a carrier digital returns solution

The biggest lesson of the webinar and our research is that returns need to change. Merchants need integrated solutions that offer flexibility and control over returns while giving customers an easy experience.

According to our research, 74% of merchants who don’t already have a returns solution from their carrier would be interested in using one provided by their carrier. However, with few carriers currently providing integrated solutions, merchants are left to build their own or partner with third-party providers. As our data showed, the majority have not yet taken either path. That’s a massive opportunity for carriers.

Discover more information on the returns and the role carriers can play, by downloading our report here.

Video: The ecommerce returns quandary and how to solve it

Over the past decade, returns volumes have grown faster than ecommerce parcel volumes, according to data from delivery intelligence start-up UPIDO. 

Doddle teamed up with Last Mile Prophets, Ian Kerr and Marek Różycki, and global parcel locker specialists, Quadient, to discuss all things e-commerce returns in a recent webinar.

Watch it back to find out:

  • What’s currently happening in ecommerce returns and how different international markets are approaching the issue
  • Crucial considerations for carriers, ecommerce merchants, and customers
  • How one major carrier revolutionised the returns process for their merchants