Royal Mail has acquired NetDespatch, a cloud-based shipping and parcel data management platform. The acquisition enforces Royal Mail's strategy to provide customers with integrated e-commerce services for post and parcel services, but more importantly it shows how postal services across the world are addressing the rise of digital services.
Many governments have singled out e-commerce as an engine for economic growth. But growth is dependent on the efficient delivery of parcels, especially across borders. Traditionally the preserve of national postal services, parcel delivery markets have become increasingly competitive as barriers to competition have been steadily removed, providing opportunities for vendors such as the UK-based NetDespatch, which can provide a single access point to a range of couriers.
NetDespatch offers retailers and couriers a set of services via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. For retailers, NetDespatch provides access to a set of parcel data management tools, including bar-coded shipping labels, customer manifests, and integration tools to automate bookings through preferred carriers.
For parcel delivery providers, NetDespatch provides shipping, labeling, tracking, and pre-advice information. This information can be taken directly from order management warehouse systems. Data can be uploaded either through a secure file transfer service or via APIs. The platform allows carriers to make their tracking data available from the point of dispatch to final delivery.
For Royal Mail, the acquisition makes sense. Its core business is under pressure due to online services, an increasing trend to move away from public operations to commercial operations, and the need to rationalize operations to improve performance. To counter these threats the Royal Mail has been investing in front-office solutions and dispatch and order management services specifically for e-commerce.
The importance of the sector is underlined by the fact that the EU views enhancing the quality and affordability of cross-border parcel delivery as a priority if the region is to develop a strong digital economy. Transformation to cloud-based services that support digitally enabled services will be vital for the Royal Mail and will also act as a pointer to the wider survival of national postal services.
Finding the Silver Lining to Government Cloud, IT0007-000857 (December 2015)
Chris Pennell, Practice Leader, Public Sector
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