Medway Citizens Advice

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Citizens Advice Medway is a registered charity that offers free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to the whole of Medway on a range of issues including Housing, Welfare Benefits, Employment, Debt, Family Law and many others.

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Post in the Digital Age

8th March 2016

Post in the Digital Age

Post in the Digital Age - Research by national Citizens Advice into what it means for Consumers.

From drone deliveries, 3D printing to the sharing economy, the options for sending and receiving goods on the horizon seem endless, and the more unconventional the better. But what are the chances of your next online order being delivered through an app like Amazon Prime Now or by a part-time delivery driver?

Citizens Advice has been looking at what the future might bring as technology changes the way that consumers benefit from post and the service it provides. Our research into the impact of technology by postal sector experts WIK Consult explores the pace of change in areas like barcoding, GPS capabilities and internet based applications, and considers the risks and opportunities that these new technologies bring for consumers.

WIK Consultís research found that while online savvy urban consumers will have increasing choice for delivery options from parcel operators such as DPD and Collect +, and access to services such as same day or even one hour delivery services, some groups of consumers are being left out of these options.

Around one out of ten consumers still have never used a computer and internet access and connectivity can be a problem for a range of reasons. For consumers who canít access the internet or have limited digital skills, delivery to the door will remain their primary way of accessing postal services and they will need a reliable, cost effective way of doing so. But these groups could be excluded from the cost savings and greater choice that shopping online offers.

Consumers in rural and remote areas may also have limited delivery options compared to their urban counterparts, and rely more on delivery to the door, with potentially high surcharges and a lack of choice in delivery pick and drop off options. The research finds that there are positive signs of new solutions for consumers in outlying areas through shared delivery infrastructure, such as is the case in Scotland, where Menzies Distribution now offers delivery through several carriers. Parcel lockers can also provide 24/7 accessibility and experts expect that these types of services will become increasingly popular.

The study shows that crowdsourcing of deliveries Ė where items are delivered through a peer-to-peer network Ė such as Nimber, operating in the UK and Uber Rush, currently operating in the US, could also be a solution. But networks of on call couriers are needed to fulfill on demand delivery requests, and these could be harder to establish in rural and remote areas.

An increasingly digital postal service may also lead to data concerns for consumers. Data collection about location, delivery preferences, shopping habits built up through accessing internet applications and e-retailer websites means disclosing more personal information, such as emails and mobile numbers. This can potentially put sensitive data at risk, particularly if consumers donít understand how their information is being used.

The benefits of e-commerce and digital solutions have limitless potential to empower consumers with new ways of accessing postal services beyond traditional models. Yet it will remain important for Citizens Advice to monitor differences in location, confidence and access to digital services, so that all postal consumers can feel confident when snapping up that online deal.

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