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The recent announcement from eBay and Argos regarding their joined up delivery service looks to address one of the most visible obstacles in B2C commerce; The Last Leg.

Companies across Europe have invested millions in recent years developing integrated, multi-channel systems that make the purchasing of products a simple and instant task. This is great for customers, but the whole experience is let down by the final stage of the cycle, getting the product into the home.  Only the most sophisticated sites, like Amazon, offer guaranteed delivery times. The rest, and that is the large majority, leave you with the option of taking time off and hoping it arrives, asking neighbours to take them in or the dreaded “we have left your package somewhere in your garden”.

To counter this eBay and Argos are running a trial which will allow successful bidders to collect their item from a local Argos store. So, will being able to pick items up from Argos be a game changer? Maybe, maybe not, it certainly will be better than a hit and miss delivery, but in reality a large number of people simply allow the parcel to be un-delivered and then pick it up from the local sorting office, which has good opening hours and is likely to be more local than an Argos.

Which leads to a thought, what if the local Postal Service replaced Argos in this equation? It already provides most of the services and has some unique features:

  • Probably has the most comprehensive local physical presence of any institution, with even the most remote communities catered for;
  • Has the most advanced logistics and distribution network;
  • Has a Ready-made “to the door” delivery network.

Because of these features the Postal Services are also in pole position to address the second issue with some B2C logistics. For companies such as eBay or Amazon marketplace, one of the biggest headaches for the sellers is to get the products into the delivery stream.

For anyone other than an occasional seller, there is the prospect of constant trips to the Postal Collection point or expensive courier services, variable postage costs and limited options for delivery speed.

Imagine if when an item is purchased on eBay there is a widget on the page which calculates postage and package and allows a delivery slot to be chosen.  The buyer can be confident that the delivery will come at the specified time allowing them to carry on their normal activities.  At the other end of the chain the Postal Service collection service could be extended so that the seller can be notified, wherever they are, of the sale and offered a collection slot, either by standard pickup or a van for bulky items.

Looking further forward, imagine if the Postal Service offered warehousing to Ebay Power Sellers, thereby cutting delivery times, providing deliveries during holiday periods and freeing up space in seller’s homes.  Could this then provide a foundation for the Postal Service to use their Commerce platform to act as The Marketplace for non-auction sellers? Stock replacement would be direct to the Postal Service warehouse, meaning the seller would never have to handle the product.

This sector is growing, the faltering economy has led to a huge rise in home businesses, arts and crafts especially, and these new businesses do not have the experience or budget to have standalone sites and portals such as eBaY and Amazon marketplace offer a real solution. A fully integrated Postal Service solution could be the missing link in turning these pocket money enterprises into valuable businesses.

Given Postal Service’s strength in location, facilities and customer trust they are in a very good position to fill two small but highly frustrating holes in the Digital Supply Chain.  Investing and building on these unique strengths could be exactly what is required to take the Postal Service forward, repositioning themselves as the Social Store at the heart of every community, which in turn could act as a catalyst for the re-energising High Street across Europe.

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