Offering volume incentives is a common business practice in the U.S. and around the world. Although the U.S. Postal Service offers incentives to businesses that presort their mail, the agency does not offer incentives based strictly on the volume of packages shipped. One reason might be that offering volume incentives would lower the profit margin on each package shipped; yet, the potential volume increase of items shipped would make up for the smaller profit margins.
E-retail is a multibillion-dollar industry through which millions of transactions are made via clearinghouses, such as Amazon.com and eBay. The e-retail industry continues to grow and includes on-line sales in virtually every industry. In the U.S., online retail spending for the Q4 2010 reached a record $43.4 billion, up from $39.0 billion in Q4 2009. This accelerated growth rate represented the fifth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and second quarter of double-digit growth rates in the past year. This trend will likely continue as more online people turn to the internet for their shopping needs, and younger, digital-savvy generations increasingly flex their spending power. Companies like eBay, Amazon.com, and traditional retailers with strong web operations should continue to benefit from this growth.
Increases in e-shopping means an increase in the quantity of goods shipped is also increasing. Most vendors have their preferences, which are frequently based on cost. Should the Postal Service take advantage of the increased amount of shipping generated by e-retailers by offering incentives?
Yes or no, and why?
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It happens many times . . . a company invests time and money into training employees only to have them leave soon after the training is complete. Some industries and companies now have contractual agreements requiring employees to repay training costs to their employers if they separate from employment before a specified period. Congress has also passed legislation requiring continued service agreements from government employees who have received extensive training.
These contracts obligate employees to continue working for the agency (or another government agency, depending on their employer’s policy) for a period at least equal to three times the length of the training. If the employee leaves government service before the agreed-upon service time, the agency has the right to require repayment for the amount of time not served.
Private sector industries such as information technology, airline, and trucking are also requiring employees to sign these types of agreements. One company requires employees to sign contracts for training programs that are considered expensive and time intensive. The company uses a formula that equates one month of labor for every $1,000 of costs; for example, a $7,000 course would require a seven month commitment.
While many posts, including the U.S. Postal Service, are downsizing due to shrinking domestic markets, China Post is aggressively expanding. By the end of 2015, the China Post Group plans to extend universal service to all villages, increase urban residential letterboxes, and add 300,000 jobs. This development presents an opportunity for the Postal Service to partner with China Post to expand the reach of both posts, as the demand for end-to-end solutions between the Chinese and U.S. markets grows.
The major factors that fuel expansion and justify development are an increasing residential delivery network, major growth in small-to-medium enterprises (SME) and exports, and a developing direct marketing industry. The Chinese government also fosters China Post’s growth by permitting non-postal activities like banking and shielding some profitable segments of the express mail market from competition. Although industry players question the legality in an international context, China Posts’ Express Mail unit has the exclusive rights to a profitable product segment.
Together these factors guarantee steady mail volume increases and help China Post secure a position in the burgeoning direct mail industry, e-commerce market, and other non-postal sectors. By tapping into its far-flung network of post offices to provide customers a wide range of services in one convenient location, new opportunities will emerge for China Post as well as the Postal Service.
The Postal Service is taking action to capitalize on these opportunities. Last year, the Postal Service introduced a new, small-packet product targeting China’s small, lightweight exports, such as electronics and apparel. The Postal Service also signed a memorandum of understanding with China Post and eBay to provide an end-to-end, e-commerce solution. Earlier this year the Postal Service hosted a 20-member China Post delegation to discuss the direct mail industry. As the demand for postal products and services grows with China Post’s expansion, the Postal Service is uniquely positioned to establish a partnership that connects and fosters Chinese and U.S. markets.
What other opportunities do you think the Postal Service should pursue with China Post?
This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).Read More
Although the digital option has grown as a channel for Americans to communicate, purchase, and store personal information, there are drawbacks that leave a significant portion of the population underserved. To meet the population’s needs and “bind the nation together” in a digital world, the Postal Service must modernize its role.
The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center has completed Part 2 of a series on the Postal Service’s role in the digital age. Building on the first white paper which explored the facts and trends impacting communications, The Postal Service Role in the Digital Age – Part 2: Expanding the Postal Platform, presents a strategic positioning framed by three guiding principles:
• Promoting solutions for the communications problems of the digital age
• Using the core competencies and assets of the Postal Service
• Considering the policy implications of the strategy based on the current legal and regulatory environment
Using an “eMailbox” that links a physical address to an electronic mailbox for every citizen and business, the Postal Service could build a digital platform that supports communications and commerce for postal, governmental, and commercial applications.
The paper provides six additional initial applications for consideration, including:
• An eGovernment application that promotes the expansion of government services throughout the postal platform and uses the eMailbox to send and receive secure and official communication with federal agencies.
• Tools for identity validation, privacy protection, and transaction security that allow users to verify the individuals and businesses they are communicating with, the safety of their personal information, and security of their purchases and financial transactions.Read More
Last Thursday the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) issued its advisory opinion on the U. S. Postal Service’s proposal to switch to five-day delivery. Following a year-long analysis, the PRC voiced concerns with the request, questioning the potential savings, the impact on service, and the effect on communities, especially in rural areas. However, the Commission was unable to reach a consensus and did not issue an opinion to endorse or reject the proposal to cut Saturday delivery.
The Postal Service responded with a statement from the Postmaster General, reiterating that five-day delivery is a core element of the Postal Service’s strategy for the future. The statement also said the Postal Service will continue to press its case before Congress, which has the authority to change delivery requirements.
Do you think the Postal Service has a case for five-day delivery? Although 5-day delivery is a key element of the Postal Service’s future plans, there are many other options under consideration at this point in time. In your mind, what do you think are the most important options? Give your comments below.
Note: The U.S. Governement Accountability office just released its own report on 5-day delivery.
This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).