COVID-19 brought huge changes to the parcel and shipping industry, and while demand has dropped since then, the innovations remain, says Jakki Krage Strako, chief commerce and business solutions officer with the U.S. Postal Service.
The shipping industry experienced “tremendous strain” during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it undertook dramatic growth to meet an explosion of demand. E-commerce took off, as many shoppers turned to online ordering for the first time. They came to expect rapid delivery along with visibility into the status of their pending orders, to the point of demanding to know precisely where a package was on its way to the doorstep. “Everybody had to react quickly,” Strako says, “and take their game up to create more capacity in the network."
When shoppers returned to the workplace, they took along their newfound service expectations, Strako says, with shipment visibility becoming even more important as a means of heading off theft by “porch pirates.”
More recently, demand has slackened somewhat, saddling service providers with the challenge of operating their expanded networks profitably. Now, the market is crowded with new players, including a number of regional carriers and even gig workers in the final-mile portion of delivery.
Strako sees these trends as intensifying over the next five years, as service providers adjust to ever-stricter customer requirements. The near future will also see an increasing emphasis on sustainability, in line with growing consumer awareness of the need for environmental responsibility.
Yet another service challenge arises in the area of returns, which e-commerce shoppers expect to be convenient and efficient, Strako says.
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