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19 Dec 2013

Is Royal Mail suffering from an identity crisis?

Posted on December 19, 2013 by

Another parcel has just arrived at the office in the flurry of Christmas deliveries and I can hear colleagues talking about DPD and Hermes and discussing what they like and hate about them.

As an avid online shopper who has purchased almost all my Christmas presents via the internet, I’m interested to hear about this new breed of shopper I seem to be part of. Those who purchase goods online via their mobiles or tablets are now part of the ‘commuter commerce’ trend. And there are plenty of us, 89% of shoppers are now buying online while they’re on the move. If this is the case, surely it means more business for parcel services, so the race to get ahead begins.

I have praised DPD for sending me complimentary texts telling me exactly when my parcels will arrive (to the hour). It even gives me the opportunity to defer the package to a later date or leave it with a neighbour if I’m not in.

The DPD brand itself focuses on good service and its investment in technology and innovative products. Its Twitter account is used as an extra means of customer service in which it tracks parcels for followers. But the DPD Facebook page posts updates around its state-of-the-art technology, convenience of its services and inevitably boasts about the awards it has won. From this it manages to communicate and engage with customers.

Hermes has been criticised by colleagues for its lack of communication once a package has been despatched, so there is clearly work to be done in improving its service. However, in the market Hermes is seen as an expert, particularly on topics such as retail packaging, in which it has championed the concerns of consumers.

But what of newly-privatised Royal Mail? In its latest ad – the first in six years – Royal Mail focuses on parcel delivery as opposed to plugging the usual Christmas cards message which would be expected this time of year. But whilst its repositioning is reflected in the messaging, it’s hard to tell what the Royal Mail brand actually stands for. Royal Mail seems to have forgotten that its brand is its biggest asset, perhaps beyond the buildings and land it owns. And if it’s not clear what the brand is, it will only cause confusion amongst us as shoppers.

We often forget that Royal Mail is the original postal service. Perhaps this is something it could capitalise on to get our attention? And that’s not what we want in an era of commuter commerce. We don’t want to think ‘old’, we want to think ‘heritage’ and ‘superiority,’ something that the brand can play on more than any other in the market. Even though we don’t choose our postal service when receiving our purchases, the brand you’re ordering from does, so it’s important Royal Mail doesn’t get left behind.

And as part of this new breed of shopper I expect added value from a postal service in terms of little complimentary extras. As a Royal Mail customer, I appreciate good communication from placing an order online to receiving it in the post. And Royal Mail must play a big part in that, especially if DPD is already ahead in offering a text service. With Royal Mail we are expected to be at home until the parcel is delivered, and if we’re not we have to make a trip to the dreaded post office. So are there any USPs that can be added to Royal Mail’s offering, setting it apart from the other brands? Perhaps they could launch a special #RMtracking hashtag on Twitter in which people can check the whereabouts of their orders? Or even #RMquestions in which people can ask questions about the service.

It should also be acting as thought leaders on all matters concerning delivery and packaging. If the likes of Hermes are out there championing the thoughts of us consumers, why isn’t Royal Mail doing the same? It should take every opportunity it can to comment on relevant topics affecting the industry and us as consumers.

With the appointment of a public relations agency looming, it will be interesting to see what strategy it can come up with. But until then, the Royal Mail brand remains unclear.

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