A few weeks back, I was signing a couple of hundred letters to Congress urging members to review and enact legislation that would allow the United States Postal Service to improve efficiency, manage pre-funded healthcare, and streamline operations in order to function as a competitive business and continue to provide world-class postal services to the citizens of the United States. Alas, I digress; perhaps a column for another day.
Back to the letters. Halfway through my Friday marathon signing session, my favorite pen ran out of ink. Since this pen was given to me by my mother and, as such, is very dear to me, I needed to purchase a replacement cartridge as opposed to disposing of it. I went online to a couple of office supply websites for retailers and began searching for the cartridge my pen takes. After navigating through a few web pages and coming up blank, I decided to see if Amazon carried it. As one would suspect, there it was. I ordered this $11.59 refill and, as an Amazon Prime member, I was informed that my two-day delivery would arrive on Sunday.
Sure enough, on a Sunday, mid-morning, a USPS vehicle arrived at my mailbox to deliver my ballpoint pen refill. Shortly thereafter, I get a notification on my phone that the USPS has delivered my Amazon order to my mailbox.
This got me thinking about the state of shopping and shipping in our country. My first thought was that the “Amazonation” (copyrighted 10/11/16 by VJD) of shipping is the latest event to showcase the USPS as a world-class provider of shipping services.
A Boost to E-Commerce?
By now, we are all aware of the enhancements that the Postal Service has made to its shipping products and related infrastructure: enhanced visibility that gets as many as 11 scans per package on average, improvements to its transportation network, increases in service scores, its cost structure (which has an ounce-based service), and improvements to its website and mobile app to name a few. But the more I thought about it, I realized that the USPS could very well be fueling the growth we have seen in commerce. Has its role of universal service provider which, in part, mandates that it deliver to every household every day given a boost to the growing lower-value segment of the e-commerce industry? Does seeing a USPS truck pull up to your house on a Sunday enhance that consumer’s impression?
Recent studies have shown that if delivery preference was left to consumers, they would choose the Postal Service as their delivery service of choice over the other parcel delivery companies. The same study shows that this choice is given to the consumer less than 25% of the time.
Influencing Purchase Behavior
It is quite evident that the landscape of shopping is changing due to a myriad of reasons. Consumers are time-stressed. Ordering items online, once the domain for mail order, the hard-to-find, and bigger-ticket purchases, has moved down-market to everyday items that we choose to buy online and have delivered as opposed to stopping to pick up.
I recently reviewed my order history for the last year. It showed that 80% of my online purchases were for less than $20, and a majority of those were less than $10. For me, many of those purchases occurred on a Thursday or Friday. Knowing that the USPS would deliver me these nice-to-have-but-not-need-to-have items on a Saturday or Sunday influenced my purchase behavior.
A Strong Postal Service Is Critical
This brings me back to the need for the ballpoint pen refill. We have just emerged from a political season where the leaders of our country seemed to talk about everything besides what’s good for the country. A strong and vibrant United States Postal Service is as critical for the country today as it was when the Continental Congress appointed the country’s first Postmaster General in 1775.
If you support your family, as I do, by being part of this $1.4 trillion industry, I recommend that you put pen to paper and strongly encourage that those who represent you take the action needed that ensures a strong future for the Postal Service and our industry. Perhaps you can even hand it to the carrier when he or she is delivering a package on a Sunday.