Digital transformation has exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 91 per cent of Posts worldwide now provide financial services, either directly or in partnership. These figures are likely to increase as e-commerce booms. It is estimated that e-retail revenues are likely to grow to 4.88 trillion USD in 2021, as the numbers of consumers continue to order goods online.These staggering figures provided the backdrop for a 13 October discussion on digital transformation at the Parcel and Parcel Expo 2021 held in Vienna, Austria. During a “question and answer” session held at the beginning of the panel session, Pascal Clivaz, the Deputy Director General of the Universal Postal Union told the audience he had witnessed a transformation in the international postal sector over his career.
Although posts were at different levels of development, Mr. Clivaz said the sector had reinvented the postal dimension. “Posts were a public enabler and we should not fear the future,” he said. He, however, went on to say that Posts must also be willing to negotiate and to enter into partnerships.
The UPU was also an essential strategic partner for the international postal sector. Mr. Clivaz said the UPU was a trusted partner that had great credibility across the sector. “The UPU can organize the dialogue, we have the independence, and we are not an e-commerce player.”
In describing the UPU’s role, the Deputy Director General told the audience that the UN specialized agency for postal matters was a “global motorway” for the industry. One that could help the entire sector on its digital journey. But, he cautioned, to achieve success there was a need for a pragmatic approach. Asked about how the postal sector could transform, Mr. Clivaz said, "It is a long journey to achieve economic growth. We have the tools, but there is a need for financing."
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the pace of embracing digital processes has accelerated. Prior to the global spread of the virus, digitization was merely a business choice; it is now a must as customers are likely to expect “contactless delivery” for the foreseeable future.
Delivery innovation, such as the use of parcel lockers and electronic signature capture are also being developed to provide flexible delivery options in this new environment. Given the global gaps in digitization, the UPU is now piloting projects to connect developing countries with the UPU’s digital networks through the Customs Declaration System, International Postal System, and other IT tools.
UPU’s goals when working with the international postal sector on digital transformation are to reinforce the national postal network; meet market needs and adapt the offer of postal services to new technologies; build an innovative and modern image of the Post in the eyes of stakeholders, particularly governments and the postal sector; and facilitate social and financial inclusion.
The Abidjan Business Strategy is the culmination of this thinking on digital transformation. It is the first fully data-driven strategy in the organization’s history, and also includes essential elements such as the Postal Vision 2030. This is the UPU’s advocacy message for the sector and is designed to inspire the different categories of stakeholders to take action in their respective fields.