Emirates Post: Delivering the future to your doorstep.

Peter Somers, CEO of Emirates Post
Peter Somers, CEO of Emirates Post

With the surge of e-commerce and digitisation, every business has been disrupted, and the postal, courier, express and parcel (CEP) industry is no exception. Peter Somers, CEO of Emirates Post, speaks on how the official postal operator and leading express provider in the UAE has endeavoured to continuously reform and evolve with the changing needs of the industry

Published: Mon 24 May 2021, 1:14 PM

Last updated: Wed 26 May 2021, 3:15 PM

Please give us an overview of the CEP industry and Emirates Post.  

New technologies forced global letter volumes to decline and change the postal sector. It changed the way we communicated, the way we run businesses, as well as the needs and behaviours of consumers. The growing e-commerce business has also impacted the CEP industry forcing it to redefine how it interacts with customers and how to organise supply chains.  

Although the industry had already been going through a transformation to address these technological changes and the rise of an e-commerce society, Covid-19 created a need to accelerate the adoption of systems and processes. The pandemic challenged the 'normal' and will continue to affect the functioning and evolution of the industry, forcing it to constantly reinvent itself.  

The demand for 'safe shopping' has increased. Consumers' shopping preferences significantly shifted to online platforms to purchase their basic needs. Businesses have needed to innovate and find new ways to get their products and services to their customers. The move to 'digital' has become essential now to stay in the game.  

Customer expectations are constantly changing. They want their shipments delivered in a timely manner, at a competitive price, and an added convenience to them. They are demanding the right of choice and visibility when it comes to choosing delivery methods, locations, and timings. Businesses are under strain to meet these demands from operational efficiency, profitability, and performance standpoint. This is where logistics companies can bring added value to support with first-mile, last-mile, warehousing, and fulfilment capabilities - solutions that we provide at Emirates Post.   

Emirates Post is not only the official postal operator in the UAE but also a leading express provider offering flexible, cost-effective international and domestic courier and last-mile delivery solutions. We are the largest domestic service provider with more than 90 customer happiness centres and an extensive daily line-haul network across all seven emirates. With integrated and automated back-end solutions, we can fully support businesses with their shipment and e-commerce needs.  

What are the organisational and operational transformations that Emirates Post has gone through to support the logistics industry?  

Emirates Post is a company in the midst of a transformation towards digitisation and customer-centricity. Over the past two years, we listened to customer feedback, evaluated our role within the UAE community and rolled out measures to revive our position as a connector of people, delivering not just posts and parcels but on customer happiness and business potential; creating an organisation for the future.   

Our strategy focuses on capitalising on our strength as a leading postal and e-commerce logistics provider in the Middle East by enhancing our offerings, operational capabilities, and team structures. Our transformation journey entails adopting digitisation, embracing operational excellence, and building trust with our customers.   

One of the most significant ways in which we evolved was through the creation of three business units to manage the diverse aspects of our core business. The retail business unit objective is to develop the best retail offer for all UAE citizens for mail, parcels, financial and international services. The Parcel & Express (P&E) business unit objective is to develop the best last-mile solution in the UAE for delivery, pick-up, returns, and fulfilment of parcels and courier. The international business unit objective is to develop an international B2C Parcel Business leveraging UAE as a GCC hub.  

The integral part behind the success of a company's transformation journey is its employees. We implemented several engagement initiatives to make our company a great place to work, from roadshows and reward schemes to rolling out e-training courses and creating channels for them to share their ideas and feedback.   

The team at Emirates Post have worked hard over the past year to serve our existing and new customers in the best possible way. Their efforts during challenging circumstances are commendable and inspiring.  

How has Emirates Post supported the UAE community over the last year until the present, given the Covid-19 pandemic and its ramifications?  

Supporting the wellness of our employees, customers, and the communities we serve is of utmost importance to us at Emirates Post. In challenging times, being agile is paramount. The team continue to be resilient and committed to adapting our capacities, operations, and processes to deliver exceptional customer service.   

We were one of the first entities to activate 'contactless deliveries' by our couriers and 'contactless transactions' at our branches. We implemented a series of procedures to ensure the safety of our employees and customers including daily sterilisation protocols across all branches, sorting centres, vehicles, and shipments. We provided administrative employees with the online support needed to work remotely and ensure business continuity. These are all ongoing today.   

During the lockdown period, free delivery of mail items to PO Box subscribers that were more than 60 years of age and People of Determination was provided.   

We offered customers the chance to book pick-up and drop-off services for premium and express shipments online and have their mail items delivered to their doorstep. We enabled communities to stay connected through the 'e-postcard app' and our own retail webshop to easily purchase postage stamps online.   

To support our e-commerce partners with the surge in demand we increased our front-line workforce, recruited new drivers, and increased our fleet.   

It is also worth noting that Emirates Post is one of the first postal entities in the world to have all eligible customer-facing staff fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Not only do we ensure the wellbeing of our employees, but also provide our customers with the confidence and reassurance to use our services.  

What is the future of this industry after the giant leaps in digitisation in 2020?

The tipping point in e-commerce is here to stay and supply chain experts and delivery companies must be prepared for the rapid increase in volumes, shifts in business models, and drastic changes in consumer behaviour. Adoption of processes and digital innovations is key.   

A few trends that have been forecasted with regards to digitisation include the increased use of data analytics and machine learning to optimise delivery performance. External data feeds will be used to enhance business intelligence (BI) data within transportation management systems (TMS), which many retailers use to track and provide analytics on the delivery performance of parcel carriers.  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) allows companies in this industry to process historical trends to forecast and manage inventory, address variable demands across supply chain operations, and reduce human error.   

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) support retailers in selling the right things to the right people at the right place with complete transparency.   

Automation plays a part in bettering companies' planning, purchasing, and predicting of the behaviour of cargo in transit with automated warehouses, autonomous vehicles and drone technology for last-mile deliveries.    

Blockchain has also been gaining importance and can be used as a solution for traceability, execution of smart contracts and providing payment. It improves transparency as data is shared seamlessly throughout the supply chain to all parties, with sensitive information kept encrypted. Blockchain technology could also be used to help reduce inefficiencies during the overall delivery process.  

With 5G mobile broadband standards coming into the picture, we are on the verge of innovation by accommodating faster transfer speeds for more data and, in turn, increasing visibility throughout the supply chain. Logistics processes can be faster, safer, and more reliable.  

How is Emirates Post going to position itself as a leader in this scenario?

Focusing on digitisation is crucial for the industry as a whole, not just for Emirates Post.   

With the global rise of e-commerce and the accelerated growth of the industry within the UAE and GCC, we invested in new resources, adopted new digital innovations, and built up our workforce capabilities to make our last-mile delivery solutions seamless and more efficient.   

We are strengthening our courier business and operational network. Emirates Post's P&E network spans across the entire UAE. Recently, we set up a 33,475 sq ft facility at EZDubai, the fully dedicated e-commerce zone. It is our second largest sorting and delivery centre in the UAE and is expected to handle over 25 per cent of total P&E business volumes over the next three years. We have a total of thirteen delivery centres, thirteen hyperlocal locations, two main sorting centres, and two airport hubs. Emirates Post also increased courier capacity significantly over the past year.   

In parallel, we are working on improving our retail format, extending the footprint, introducing more pick up and drop off locations, reducing waiting times at branches, providing a more convenient and seamless experience, and using technologies to improve the overall ecosystem of our retail services.  

Emirates Post launched a new website and application to improve the user experience and to extend our digital services, which allows us to communicate more efficiently with our customers. We introduced smart services including the renting/renewing of PO Box subscriptions and launched epbox.ae, a virtual PO Box enabler to help customers digitally manage their mail and parcels, and registered communications, allowing customers to send communications by email, SMS, or any web-based service with full legal admissibility. Our objective is to connect all UAE residents to the epbox.ae app for seamless management and full visibility of all incoming deliveries and shipments.   

For SME's we introduced 'Smart Places', a digital product to help them connect with customers and be easily located across way-finding platforms.  

Focusing on improving the user experience is just as important. Customer expectations need to be met, and they are ever-changing. As mentioned, customers are demanding more delivery options and more visibility on their shipments (individuals and businesses alike). This is where Emirates Post taps into the unique advantage of its rich local expertise and network, and its global postal delivery network to provide various delivery options, competitive rates, transparency through track and trace options, simplified online management of shipment bookings, and reliable return services.  

Our aim is to build lasting relationships with our customers, understand their needs and deliver a better value proposition. This will be achieved by providing accessible and tailored solutions, hassle-free and secure interactions, and steadfast delivery services.   

With a new digital era on the horizon in the UAE, how has Emirates Post adapted itself? Are there any new strategic partnerships to aid in its transformation?  

I believe the UAE is already leading in the digital space, especially in this region, with more people looking for cashless and contact-less transactions. As one of the most digitally connected nations in the world, its digital, telecom, financial, and logistics infrastructure paves the way for businesses to thrive.

At Emirates Post, we have a responsibility to support the fast-growing logistics and e-commerce sector within the country and abroad. As such, our goal is to connect communities and businesses of the UAE, the Middle East, and the world with what matters to them through smart and reliable solutions.  

Our business transformation, in addition to the structural formation of dedicated business units, and the automating of our products, services, and processes, focus our efforts on growing our last-mile segment. By investing in new resources and sharpening efficiencies, we are moving beyond the traditional postal framework, expanding our product portfolio, and diversifying our service offering.  

One of our biggest success stories in last-mile delivery solutions is our partnership with the e-commerce giant Amazon. Within a year of being their main delivery provider in the UAE, we were recognised as the best performing last-mile partner in the Middle East and North Africa with over a million Amazon parcels delivered.  

We know that e-commerce and social commerce are here to stay. Consumers are increasingly looking online to purchase goods and services - both domestically and across borders. We also know that internationally-based businesses are looking at expanding their online offerings to capitalise on this trend. According to a study by Global-e, 61 per cent of online shoppers in the UAE shop from foreign websites and we anticipate that these numbers will increase in the coming years.   

Emirates Post can facilitate a seamless gateway and strategic logistics hub for cross-border e-commerce traffic. Last year, we opened a new international operations hub in Dubai International Airport (DXB), providing global e-commerce, parcel and logistics brands with a gateway to the UAE, KSA, and regional markets and vice-versa in a fast, consistent, and cost-effective way. By embracing online and mobile technologies, expanding our partnerships with key sectors within the UAE and internationally, we can offer convenient and tailored delivery, e-commerce, and cross-border services to both individuals and businesses.   

What new initiatives, projects and/or partnerships can we look forward to in the coming year?  

With the ever-expanding influence of technology, we are seeing our place and profitability increasingly link to other sectors as well. We are already working with players in finance and retail, as well as multiple corporate stakeholders. Our futures will be bolstered by laying foundations for constructive dialogue with brands and sectors, such as retail, healthcare, telecom, travel, and many others. We are also planning to launch a new cold chain logistics service.  

At Emirates Post, the future depends on paying heed to our customers, maintaining cost-efficiencies, increasing convenience, and diversifying our online and offline products and services.

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