每日跟讀#578: Post Offices Reinvent Themselves
When a German lingerie brand wanted to sell bras online in Malaysia, it turned to Singapore’s nearly 200-year-old national postal service.
Singapore Post built a website, developed a marketing strategy and now delivers packages for the company, Triumph International. The customer service team even answers questions about sizing. In South Korea, SingPost is helping to sell Levi’s jeans. In Singapore, it is stocking Toshiba laptops. In Malaysia, it is delivering Adidas sneakers.
With traditional mail services in decline, post offices around the world are scrambling to reinvent themselves. Japan Post is buying the largest private package and freight delivery company in Australia, Toll Holdings, in a bid to create a rival to UPS and FedEx. The United States Postal Service, which lost $5.5 billion last year, is providing Sunday deliveries for Amazon. Australia Post is working with the Chinese Internet giant Alibaba to help local businesses connect with consumers in China.
“There are at least two business trends unfolding before us,” said Frank Lavin of the e-commerce consultancy Export Now. “One is the death of mail. The second is this boom in e-commerce.”
Besides its regular postal duties, SingPost offers a basket of services for companies, including website development, online marketing, customer service and, of course, package delivery. Following the Amazon model, it is building a network of 24 warehouses in 12 countries to stockpile goods for companies.
Singapore’s central location, said Wolfgang Baier, the chief executive of SingPost, makes it a natural hub for e-commerce in Asia. He recited numbers to demonstrate the scale of the opportunity: Over 600 million consumers live in the region around Singapore, and 2.2 billion people are within a five-hour flight. “We want to be the gateway to the East,” he said.
The shift has been stark for the postal service, once a state-owned company that went public in 2003. Four years ago, e-commerce barely figured into its bottom line. Today, it accounts for more than a quarter of the group’s revenues, which have grown by 60 percent during that same period.
SingPost began using the Internet as a laboratory in the early 2000s. It dabbled in various parts of the supply chain. Then, two years ago, it created SP eCommerce to tap into the Internet retail boom in Asia. Today, it counts nearly 1,000 companies as clients, including Philips, Uniqlo, Deckers and Muji.
SP eCommerce’s chief executive, Marcelo Wesseler, created his first e-commerce website in 1997 and worked in Silicon Valley before moving to Singapore. Other employees have come from technology stalwarts like Amazon and Hewlett-Packard.
The company also created a customer-care department. At its Singapore offices, 30 or so employees handle the phones, answering questions or addressing complaints. An additional 200 agents work elsewhere.
Last year, Alibaba paid $250 million for a 10 percent stake in SingPost. They are now in discussions to form a joint venture focused on e-commerce logistics in Southeast Asia. As part of the e-commerce expansion, SingPost upgraded its core delivery services. It has bolstered its network of warehouses and fulfillment centers, which handle freight and customs clearance so goods can move faster through the region. With its swelling population of young, mobile consumers with newly disposable incomes, the region offers new opportunities.
The Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi last year opened a regional headquarters in Singapore, using it as a launching pad to move into Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. Next, it is targeting Vietnam and Thailand. It teamed up with SingPost for support on logistics for e-commerce, which accounts for 80 percent of Xiaomi’s sales in Southeast Asia.
SingPost is helping the Chinese telecom company ZTE to offer its products regionally through a website that will go live in Malaysia in a few weeks. ZTE is trying to sell its smartphones directly to consumers in new markets like Malaysia, Indonesia and India.
Triumph International, the lingerie company, had been eyeing Southeast Asia for years, waiting for online consumers to reach a critical mass. Then, last year, Triumph approached SingPost to get started. “Using Singapore as a base, you can reach 680 million people in the region,” said Teo Doy, managing director of Triumph in Singapore. “That is practically half of China.”
Next, Triumph is planning to expand into Indonesia, once again with the help of SingPost.
“They have completely evolved,” Ms. Teo said. “I mean, who sends letters anymore?”
Source article: https://paper.udn.com/udnpaper/POH0067/279790/web/#2L-5983240L
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