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Thinking out of the box.
Chris Hall, managing director of Hallmark Consumer Services, says recent Royal Mail changes in price present an opportunity for businesses to think smart on multi-channel marketing and distribution.
From April, Royal Mail was no longer regulated and free to adjust postage weight bandings and charging. These adjustments were introduced fairly speedily with changes to first and second class postage on letters, and to how parcels are classified by weight.
Previously, the bands were based on packages weighing less than 250gm, between 250gm and 500gm, and those over 750gm. These bandings have been replaced by just two weight categories – parcels weighing less than or more than 750gm.
Under these bandings, the cost of posting a 250gm parcel has risen and a large letter is now classified as a packet. So for retailers sending this type of 'light' item, they now pay proportionally more for postage than under the previous weight bandings, and at the same time potentially lose any environmental incentive to keep packaging ultra light.
For those companies in the business of mailing and distribution, now is the ideal opportunity to think outside of the box by exploring new packaging and delivery options and strategies, and embracing the changes as a chance to explore a new approach and initiatives.
Smart thinking businesses are already developing strategies to overcome one of the most frustrating aspects of online shopping – the delivery itself, and the dreaded card through the letterbox, which jars with the lifestyle convenience of internet shopping.
And these new strategies are excellent news for consumers; more often nowadays they are given the option to select a timed delivery, and opt for delivery at work rather than home to make receiving the items that bit easier. Railway stations around London are developing systems for commuters whereby parcels can be deposited in a specified secure numbered box, so that the purchaser can collect at a convenient time, such as to coincide with their daily commute. Whilst one particularly forward-thinking high street grocer that is open from 7am to 11pm, is rolling-out a service to accept deliveries and returns to fit in with consumers' working lives. Royal Mail themselves are trialing a "Delivery to Neighbour" service; whilst other delivery companies have offered to leave your parcel with a neighbour, or in your porch for a while now, Royal Mail is the only major delivery company which as standard practice does not deliver to a neighbouring address those items that will not fit through a letterbox.
It will be interesting to see how online retailers adapt to the new weight and cost bandings for postage and delivery and how, if at all, these changes will reach the consumer.
Let's hope retailers and ecommerce businesses continue to build on the last few years' positive steps to reduce the amount of packaging on parcels and deliveries, in the interests of the environment and sustainability. For many this approach has scored a big hit with consumers frustrated by seemingly excessive packaging, with retailers focusing on minimising a parcel's impact on the environment.