Although the timeframe to European postal market liberalisation has slipped somewhat from original predictions, full market opening for most member states will occur from 1 January 2011. A further 11 selected countries have been given an additional two years to prepare.
Experience from those countries that have already undergone market opening reveals a steadily growing number of delivery services aimed at high volume mailers. Competition in the postal arena is providing businesses with more price choice when it comes to managing mail – particularly important in today’s economic climate where every single organisation has a tighter focus on slashing costs and driving efficiencies.
While there are advantages to be gained from an increased number of postal options, it is also the case that many organisations simply lack the time and resources to expertly manage this increasingly complex and sophisticated business function. Third-party expertise – whether outsourced, or in the shape of expert solutions support – is proving invaluable in helping businesses realise cost and workflow efficiencies.
Certainly technology is playing a vital role in enabling businesses to make swift and informed mail-management choices. The latest software solutions provide mailroom operators with an instant overview of all available service and delivery options from all available suppliers. Thus, if mail needs to be sent overseas, the most appropriate (not necessarily the most cost-efficient) supplier service can be selected and booked from a range of options. Similarly these solutions will track changes to pricing and keep operators aware of new delivery routes or services.
Importantly, mail-management solutions now enable organisations to monitor and track document production and postage spend. Evolution from a software perspective means that businesses now have visibility of local level print and mail activity that would previously have been unquantifiable. This ‘hidden’ document output often costs businesses a disproportionately high amount. Consider, for example, a bank with numerous branches – each branch producing its own printed output, with each employee given access to desktop printers and office copiers.
In the current economic climate it is little wonder that the concept of hybrid mail is capturing the attention of businesses and analysts alike. Hybrid mail tackles this inefficiency head-on by effectively centralising all printed output and enabling businesses to accurately track and monitor spend. Typically colour printing run through a centralised facility can be done at a tenth of the cost of the output from a desktop device. By using print management software, implementing controls, monitoring output and reorganising document production equipment to run this activity though a centralised facility, companies could cut overall costs in this area by 10 percent to 30 percent.
As a new report from Pitney Bowes, revealing the hidden cost of print and mail inefficiency, makes for quite staggering reading. The report, Counting the Cost of ‘Document Wastage’ in Europe, pulls together industry and corporate data from across Western Europe, including tele-research from European Top 1000 companies, and figures from EU and governmental organisations. The report finds that businesses in major European markets are costing themselves an estimated £11.6 billion each year by failing to adequately manage rising workplace printing costs. In the UK this equates to an estimated ‘wastage’ of £2 billion a year.
As the report emphasises, postal optimisation goes much deeper than merely selecting the right supplier for your mail. Businesses are reassessing the entire mail and messaging cycle – from message creation, through production to delivery.
Another route to postal efficiency that has recently captured the attention of marketers is TransPromo. By combining transactional documents with marketing messages businesses are able to become far more streamlined in the way that communications are delivered to key customer groups. Transactional documents such as statements and invoices and booking notices are compulsory and regular in nature. It therefore makes sense to make these mandatory messages work as hard as possible in order to gain maximum ROI from postage spend.
There is certainly room for improvement in this respect. Another Pitney Bowes report can be referenced here. Across Europe’s key markets some Euro 2.8 billion worth of advertising opportunity is not being used for cross-selling or monetised by selling the space to selected third parties. This is comparable to around 24 percent of the combined annual direct mail spend across these countries. Advertising on statements and bills is not a substitute for solus direct marketing campaigns, but it does represent a major resource for marketers in fulfilling their customer retention and development targets. This substantial value has been recognised by the major analyst organisations, which forecast growing take-up by statement-rich business sectors across Europe.
At a time when all aspects of business spending are under particular scrutiny postal optimisation represents an area of potential cost efficiency. But in reassessing mail and messaging practices, businesses should not become blinkered by slashing costs alone. Expert advice can encourage organisations to also look at dramatically improving the workflow that drives communications and to better manage the monitoring and reporting of spend associated with document production and delivery.
Today’s business climate demands that businesses are able to account for and justify every single amount spent. Technology and service provision can help businesses to achieve postal optimisation. While cost efficiencies may be one important benefit, savvy decision makers will also recognise the long-term advantages of solutions that ensure brand consistency and communications excellence in a crowded and competitive marketplace.