The change is coming

Paper based mail has been very successful for a long time by providing a multitude of satisfactory services for senders and recipients. Transactional mailings, certified mail, return receipt, direct mail, personal messages and many other services are so far been well taken care of within the traditional paper based mail systems. Paper based mail has been, and still is, a major backbone supporting worldwide economies.

However, over the last couple years we witnessed the beginning of paperless mail services. The main drivers for these changes are cost savings, new technology acceptance by the up-growing generation and maybe increased awareness of sustainable green technologies. And by now we see major national postal providers embracing these technologies and securing their market share of the upcoming paperless mail services. Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post, said in an interview with Cicero: “ I only see one option: We will introduce our own internet based products – even if we cannibalize ourselves with it”.

Declines in mail volumes are progressing worldwide and have been attributed to the internet rather than the bad economy. Someone in the postal industry told us: “Our (grand) children will look back in history and be puzzled by the amounts of resources and time we wasted on transmitting paper based information”. We concur.

The right tool for the right job

The question we now rise is: “How will paperless mail services replicate the success of paper based mail?” The answer is simple:  Mimic the services and mail properties of paper based mail. This should provide a good start and solid foundation for later refinements. To achieve this goal a multitude of software solutions, or service providers, is needed. In other words: The right tool for the right job.

For example take a look at Iceland Post (Islandspostur). They have just licensed the Canada Post ePost technology in order to provide paperless services for transactional mail to consumers. But Iceland Post is also launching technology licensed from RPost, targeting various services for business related mail. Deutsche Post, on the other hand, is currently developing its own suite of tools, addressing consumer and business needs alike.

Another point of consideration is that each country has different laws. In a given country a paperless service provider may not only be subjected to national legislation pertaining to postal law, but additionally to data privacy and telecommunication laws. This situation pretty much demands a country specific customization of paperless mail “tools”.  Click here to view a summary table of existing paperless mail service providers.

As a side note, we like to add that UPU has now allocated a new internet top level domain, called .POST (dot post), with the likely goal to establish secure and trusted communication channels for the emerging paperless mail services.

Licensing the right technology is not an easy task

Providers of paperless mail services are seeking to expand their business beyond their country of origin by licensing their technologies to foreign postal services. Any national postal service, willing to license paperless mail technologies, does have multiple choices. Sufficient experience and resources help to ensure that the licensed technology can be adapted for legal compliance within their own country, whilst providing ease of use for their customer base. During 2010 we will likely witness some interesting licensing agreements between various parties.

To finish this entry we present a table, containing our basic considerations, for transferring some mail types and services into the digital realm. It more or less reflects considerations which are valid for paper-based mail.

Table:  Considerations for paperless mail implementation V1.0

(Copyright PostalSanity 2009)

Mail type/service Sent from/to Requirement for consumer acceptance Safety concerns for recipient due to phishing, hacking, etc. Potential impact of long-term service outages
Bills X2C Easy to use Identity theft Bills cannot be paid if not received. (2)
Casual private mail (letters, post cards, etc.) C2C Easy to use Very low Low – Other communication channels are available (e-mail, etc)
-Certified mail

-Registered

-EPM

X2C Easy to use Depending on content Impact on a smaller amount of users needing paperwork asap (2)
Direct mail B2C Easy to use Low  (1) Loss of sales for advertiser (2)
e-Government G2C Easy to use Identity theft Impact on a smaller amount of users needing paperwork asap (2)
Financial statements X2C Easy to use Identity theft Impact on a smaller amount of users needing paperwork asap (2)

asap = as soon as possible

EPM = Electronic Postmark (or comparable technologies)

(1)     Unauthorized access to credit card offers has been known to cause problems with identity theft.

(2)     Impact will depend on the availability of alternate communication channels. If none are available, impact can be big.

Column 1: The mail type or mail service

Column 2: Sender and recipient
B = Business, C = Consumer, G = Government, X = anybody
For example: G2C = Government to Consumer

Column 3: To incite consumer acceptance, new paperless mail technologies must be easy to use.

Column 4: Possible safety concerns like identity theft. These problems are not new since paper based mail has also been abused for fraud by evildoers.

Column 5: Possible impacts of longer term service outage.