With the re-commerce market growing 20 times faster than broader retail, postal operators and carriers need to consider how they position themselves within the second-hand, pre-loved sector. This is a huge opportunity as re-commerce is predicted to account for almost 15% of the apparel, footwear and accessory industry by 2024, with low prices and sustainability driving consumer uptake.
Consumer-to-consumer (C2C) parcel volumes have grown massively in line with the increase in re-commerce. Yodel revealed that its C2C delivery service saw volumes increase by 132% between July and November 2022, with the carrier delivering almost 600,000 parcels per week by the end of the year. But more than simply increasing volume, the rise in re-commerce has created a new segment for carriers and posts to take advantage of: micro-shippers.
Most micro-shippers are SMEs or C2C sellers who typically send a few parcels daily, usually selling through re-commerce platforms like eBay or Vinted. Their volume is usually inconsistent, and insufficient to merit any warehousing investment or a carrier pickup, instead using post office counters or parcel shops to send their packages.
This means that micro-shippers don’t fit into current post services and there is a worry that the customer experience is at risk. Queues at post offices are usually able to accommodate customers with one or two parcels at a time, enabling staff to process transactions quickly. However, micro-shippers don’t always fit into this structure, arriving at the post office with multiple parcels, spending longer at the counter processing their deliveries, and increasing queue length and waiting time, which is detrimental to the overall customer experience – an issue that post offices are already sensitive to.
These delays could be a recurring experience for postal operators as micro-shippers will regularly use their local branch, resulting in consistent slowdowns for other customers and a potentially negative reputation for the post office. It’s also not a great experience for the micro-shippers, whose income from marketplaces depends on shipping quickly and reliably, and who often have primary jobs and other responsibilities taking up much of their time.
So, what can operators do to secure micro-shippers? Providing them with a dedicated solution is a great opportunity to avoid slowdowns in post offices/parcel shops and capitalize on a growing source of volume.
Rachel Winham, head of Parcel Collect at the Royal Mail, recently talked about targeting their Parcel Collect service toward the micro-shipper segment. However, multiple parcel functionality will need to be added to successfully target this segment, as the current collect service requires each package to be individually booked online.
Royal Mail could also implement a subscription-based service, where micro-shippers book routine weekly collections, encouraging loyalty and enabling posts to collect valuable data on how often and when micro-shippers commonly use the service.
Automation and self-service solutions could also help to service micro-shippers within post offices. Many operators are already looking at ways to automate various postal functions. Royal Mail has a self-service counter where users can weigh parcels and purchase labels, while Austrian Post is planning to roll out 16 new self-service branches to meet consumer demand after the success of their first two branches. These self-service options are designed to improve efficiency and customer experience.
However, some self-service solutions can only be installed in larger branches where there is space to host it. To capitalize on the micro-shipper opportunity, operators need adaptable services that fit into all available spaces. This is where products like drop-off kiosks shine. Whether they take the form of a traditional drop-off kiosk, a hole in the wall or a lightweight countertop kiosk, a variation will work with even the smallest spaces. Paired with a simple and intuitive user interface, where customers can drop parcels off in 60 seconds or less, they can reduce queue and wait times in-store while reducing staff demand and improving customer satisfaction.
Clearly, the demand for automated and self-service C2C sends for micro-shippers is real, and growing at speed. It’s up to postal operators and carriers to take advantage of this new market.