France’s La Poste has had a busy year. Much of that has been spent transforming the business, helping it to achieve better profits and strong growth, fending off the competition and readying itself for further improvement. “Our aim is to reinvent the group,” confirms Nicolas Routier, deputy director general, corporate institutional strategy and regulation. “This is part of our plan, La Poste 2020: Conquering the Future.”
The group annual revenue increased by 4% to €23m (US$26m) in 2015, which was a 2.5% rise on a like-for-like basis. Operating profit rose by 21.6% to €875m (US$987m), which was an increase of 15%. Net profit rose by nearly 24% (15% like-for-like) to €635m (US$717m). In comparison, in 2014 operating profits fell by 8% and net profits by 18%, largely due to the declining mail business.
Much of the improvements are as a result of embracing the latest technology. “Online retail is booming,” says Routier. “Our parcels business is reinventing its delivery methods to match customer use, from mobile apps to an increasingly diverse range of pick-up points.” These developments extend to the delivery drivers. “The group’s strategic objective for 2020 is to make La Poste the universal operator for physical and digital exchange,” Routier continues. “All our mail carriers are now equipped with a Facteo smartphone, which has streamlined customer relations and delivery rounds management. Then counter clerks in 195 post offices are using Smarteo tablets, which are improving customer service.”
All potential customers have been considered as part of La Poste’s technology revolution. “We launched Ardoiz, a tablet designed for older people, encouraging the use of digital services in our post offices,” Routier explains. “And for parcels, La Poste created, thanks to an IoT solution, the Domino, which is a magnetic button placed inside the mailbox that communicates with an app on the user’s smartphone. Customers can drop something for sending inside, alert us that it is ready for collection, and we will pick it up and wrap it. The laposte.fr portal now has a large online shop window for all postal offerings, and customer accounts ensure the continuity of service and customer recognition between virtual and physical points of sale. The database, shared by all business units, provides each client with highly personalized services.”
Away from the new technology, there has been some restructuring in the company, with La Poste combining its postal, parcel and banking units – an unusual move for a European postal service. This has helped with some of the many challenges, allowing cost reductions in the face of rising prices. New areas of business have also found success. “We have positioned the group in the fresh produce delivery market with the rollout of Chronofresh, a service delivering fresh and frozen foods, operated by our subsidiary, Chronopost,” Routier explains. “This has a temperature-controlled supply chain, offering next-day delivery by 1:00pm to locations throughout mainland France, Monday to Saturday.”
Other developments have seen the introduction of a written driver’s exam administered at postal sites, the launch of evening deliveries in eight major French cities – Lille, Lyon, Rennes, Montpellier, Toulouse, Nantes, Bordeaux and Strasbourg – with customers able to select a two-hour arrival window, and getting a foothold in the aging economy market through the creation of La Poste Silver.
Despite all this expansion and profit, however, La Poste retains its responsibility to the environment. “The group has been working with its own energy transition for over 10 years now, experimenting with large-scale climate solutions to create innovative and useful products and services,” says Routier. “For example, we have one of the largest electrical fleets in the world, and offer eco-friendly driving courses and sustainable vehicle management solutions. We work with France’s 15 biggest cities to promote low-impact urban logistics, and since 2012 have offered carbon-neutral mail, parcels, express and digital services at no extra cost. Our clients can promote their commitment to their customers, with a range of solutions for local authorities and businesses.”
It looks as if environmental concerns will remain high on the agenda. “It’s a new general-interest mission,” Routier concludes. “La Poste is turning its 80,000 mail carriers into ambassadors of energy renovation – advising individuals on making their homes and businesses more eco-friendly. Trials have already been conducted in the Poitou-Charentes and Vendée regions, and the next step will be to work with local tradespeople, getting them to contribute.”
Service Provider of the Year Shortlist:
- Russian Post
- Australia Post
- La Poste