Filed on September 1, 2021 | Last updated on September 12, 2021 at 08.49 am
Emirates Post’s partnership with Amazon, which just surpassed a landmark 1.5 million shipments, sets new benchmarks in the eCommerce sector, firmly establishing Emirates Post as much more than just a postal service.
Emirates Post, the official postal operator and leading express provider in the UAE, has been keeping people connected for over 50 years, now. With its innovative and reliable postal services, regionally and internationally, it is the country's largest domestic service provider with over 86 customer happiness centres and an extensive daily line-haul network, across all seven emirates. The company's international reach spans over 190 countries, thanks to their access to the global postal network supported by the Universal Postal Union (UPU).
Keeping time with evolving digital trends, Emirates Post's integrated and automated backend systems fully support the eCommerce market, with seamless first and last-mile deliveries. In a pandemic-stricken world economy, marked by an accelerated digital shift, this ability to support e-businesses takes on added significance. According to a recent report from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the UAE retail eCommerce market reached a record $3.9 billion in 2020, a 53% year-on-year increase, while eCommerce accounted for an 8% share of the retail market. From multinational giants, such as Amazon, to start-ups and small e-tailers, Emirates Post provides tailored solutions for any size of business. In fact, they recently crossed the benchmark of 1.5 million shipments delivered for Amazon.
In an interview with Khaleej Times, Steve Stanton, Chief Business Officer - Parcels & Express at Emirates Post, speaks about their journey towards success in the 'last-mile delivery' space. According to him, there are three primary factors driving the eCommerce industry today:
1. The Covid-19 pandemic : With the world being under lockdown, digital mediums to conduct business, as well as to meet the daily needs of people, have come to the fore. As a result, eCommerce has accelerated, globally, and is forecasted to bring in higher revenue growth than other streams that Emirates Post operates in.
2. Evolving customer demands : It is no longer enough for a standard domestic service delivery to take place in 24-48 hours. Next day or even same-day deliveries are becoming imperative and not just the norm. People want their items faster than ever! Being a customer-centric company, Emirates Post has been evolving with the changing needs and demands of the consumer, from timing, location, and type of delivery to communication on the status of parcels-everything is swiftly advancing.
3. Availability of a variety of products and services : The portfolio of fundamental services needs to fully align with customer demands. The nature of services available in the market, today, is much more varied and this evolution of service availability and capability will continue, from a competitive perspective.
Staying ahead of the curve
Around the time the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Emirates Post was already in the midst of a transformation-centered around digitization and last-mile delivery, driven by their customer-centric approach. This put them in a strong position to adapt to the emerging world order. "Our transformation naturally drew from the challenges the industry had been facing for a while, the decline of letter mail and the growth in parcel business," explains Stanton.
In 2018, Emirates Post began looking deeper into its customer base, analyzing where the customers were, from both, a pickup and a delivery perspective, and building further upon their existing network, reach and infrastructure. The idea was to better understand the community they were operating within and develop a hyperlocal strategy. "We're investing time, effort and money into technology, a mainstay of the logistics industry and what governs our last-mile delivery capability," says Stanton. "It takes us into the realm of big data analytics, which provides more insight into what we want to do going forward." In 2019, Emirates Post spread its operational model, from 11 to 26 'hyperlocal' operation centres, to ensure couriers and frontline service teams form the core of its business and are located closest to its customers.
"We foresaw this requirement to differentiate our products and services so as to remain relevant to customer needs," Stanton further elaborates. "Our growth strategy involved investing in our service capabilities, enhancing our digital footprint, and capitalizing on our already-strong network. This led us to develop the flexible Hyper-Local Network in 2019 and to partner with smart last-mile technology providers, which enabled us to better manage, track, and optimize our operations." To the same end, Emirates Post has been developing and expanding its facilities, with the most recent being at EZDubai, the dedicated eCommerce free zone in Dubai South's Logistics District. The 33,475 square-feet facility is the company's second-largest sorting and delivery centre in the UAE, and is expected to handle over 25% of its total parcels and express business volume.
One of the most significant internal transformations at Emirates Post was an organizational restructuring that led to the creation of three business units to manage the diverse aspects of their core business, with a focus on transforming in its specific areas and advancing customer offerings. These units are:
Retail business unit, whose objective is to develop the best retail offer, for all UAE citizens, via its network of 86 postal customer happiness centres, for mail, parcels and international services.
Parcel & Express business unit, whose objective is to provide the best courier and express delivery solutions and network across the UAE aimed at providing the highest quality of service via three customer-centric components: Simplicity, Convenience and Choice.
International business unit, whose objective is to develop an international B2C parcel business, leveraging UAE as a GCC hub.
More than post
UAE's official postal operator is not just a post office. It does much more than handle your mail. Emirates Post differentiates itself by listening to what the consumer wants and, since 2019, it has emerged a leader in UAE's parcel and express market via the newly formed Parcels & Express business unit. One of their biggest success stories is its partnership with eCommerce giant Amazon. "It's a learning curve for us, as Amazon was our first major eCommerce partner," reveals Stanton. "Being a transparent business partner has really proved valuable for us. Amazon has built a reputation for itself for customer service and satisfaction, so naturally, they are demanding as a customer." The ethos of transparency at Emirates Post has helped the company establish itself as a strategic partner to Amazon, and not just a service and logistics provider. "Being transparent has been a factor in driving further availability of data and helping us foresee future demands, helping us step up to meet them well in advance and take informed decisions," he says. "The alignment and visibility working with Amazon gives us, helps existing and future customers within the UAE to understand that Emirates Post is not just a post office."
At the beginning of the pandemic, last year, order volumes increased by 45 per cent overnight. "Even the most immaculate planning couldn't have prepared us for this, but Emirates Post was definitely ahead of the game, thanks to our investment in operations and technology," says Stanton. This was key to Emirates Post being recognized as Amazon's leading last mile partner in 2020. "Parcels & Express is a courier and express entity, and people will no longer see us as just post" he states.
From warehouse to your doorstep
When a customer buys from Amazon, the process appears to be as simple as click, pay, and wait. But on the logistics end, there is so much more that goes on before a parcel lands at your doorstep. Stanton explains how Emirates Post plans resources for each delivery with the help of previous delivery-mapping data. "Once an order is created, the process commences, with customers receiving updates at every step," he tells us. "After picking up the item at the warehouse, it is packaged and then moved on to the most crucial step - sorting. Shipments are distributed according to the emirate, from the centralised delivery centres; courier centres receive and sort them into areas within each emirate and then make the final delivery."
Stanton clarifies that while this is the standard operating procedure the company follows, daily challenges may need to be accommodated for a variety of reasons. "One of the biggest challenges is vetting address quality-understanding where the customer is and at what time," he reveals. "Behind the scenes, the company conducts address and delivery time validation to enhance delivery accuracy. Shipments have barcodes that are scanned from pickup, sorting, dispatch to arrival at destination, and even recording if a shipment is not delivered, ensuring full transparency. With this technology, Emirates Post can conduct retrospective analysis on delivery performance with an aim to continuously improve the experience customers receive."
Stanton credits Emirates Post's success to the team. A combination of experienced staff from several industries ensures longevity and dynamic decision making. Every department is aligned, be it customer service, frontliners, sales or marketing. Therefore, the investment in people has been a key factor to Emirates Post's progress. "Employees are continuously updated on the best practices with a learning and development programme that any employee can access anytime, anywhere, to take advantage of the power of micro-training and micro-learning," he tells us. "Additionally, Emirates Post was one of the first postal entities in the world to have 100 per cent of its eligible frontliners vaccinated against Covid-19."
At Emirates Post, the team matters. Creating a conducive environment, incentivizing tasks, and rewarding great performance are integral to the ethos of the organization. It is no surprise then, that Emirates Post is now part of 'Great Place to Work', the global authority on building, sustaining, and recognizing high-trust, high-performance culture at workplaces. "This adds strategic overall value to the team, customers, and organization," says Stanton.
Emirates Post's transformation journey focuses on continuous enhancement of its offerings, operational capabilities, and team structures. Its strategies entail adopting digitization, embracing operational excellence, and strengthening trust with its customers, building upon the numerous opportunities for growth that the future may present. "We are focused on developing the brand and boosting visibility, so people understand our capabilities," states Stanton. "We are diversifying our products and services - moving into pharmaceutical and grocery delivery and fulfillment solutions, which are key in the supply chain - all while maintaining cost efficiencies and driving profitability."
He also reveals two other upcoming innovations: a 'Parcel-Locker Network', and a Pick-Up and Drop-Off (PUDO) network, both of which will be rolled out in 2021, giving our customers the choice and convenience to collect their parcels from a dedicated range of parcel-lockers and partner locations across the UAE, rather than relying on delivery to their home or office.
With so much in hand, the UAE's official postal and courier service is excited about the future and the ability to continuously offer its customers unparalleled services for years to come.