COVID19 has brought interesting times to many companies and organizations, including Canada Post. It was not that long ago when people might have viewed this longstanding organization as having a waning future, as society became increasingly mobile and digital in nature; then, 2020 came along.
With Canadians confined to their homes on an ongoing basis, the need to procure goods was, and continues to be, of heightened interest, while efficient movement of money and information has also been in need. This situation has presented both opportunities and challenges for Canada Post, a topic I recently discussed with CBC News. This story is of significant interest, as the Holiday Season approaches, appearing in print and also on CBC Cross Canada Syndicated Audio (great to chat with radio in major markets, from coast to coast to coast!).
There is much that can be said about business model evolution. One of the interesting things about this particular example is the notion of “everything old being new again”. Some viewers will remember the old days of home delivery, be it milk, department store trucks, or other household items being sold door-to-door (yes, people actually earned a living this way). We waited by the mailbox for important letters, cards, and parcels; perhaps, if we were lucky, there was a cheque in the mail. Having a family member that worked at the downtown Eaton’s store meant that the delivery man was at the door, often. Why was this business model so popular at the time?
As recently as the 1970’s, many Canadians had limited mobility; think about the relative norms of women taking time off from the workforce to raise children and families having one vehicle, at most. This created a need for products and essential goods to be brought to the doorstep. Studies have shown that women have significant purchasing power, in terms of shopping decisions made by households, further supporting this business model of the past.
Increased mobility brought progress, where the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s meant that a lot of time was spent out and about. This new freedom included Canadians spending a significant amount of time in shopping malls and restaurants, as well as at events and attractions. As 2010 and beyond arrived, it is interesting to see how much this trend has changed.
In short: technology has provided a different type of mobility, one that we can hold in our hand. Be it by way of a smartphone or tablet, Canadians can order just about any type of item for delivery, as well as transmit information and money. Many businesses have capitalized on this trend, including major courier companies and financial institutions, as well as relative newcomers, such as Amazon and food delivery upstarts; this has also changed how businesses, in general, operate. The masses of envelopes that once included letters and payments can now be sent electronically, representing a decrease in traditional mail, while parcel traffic has increased (at the time of this writing, thousands of parcels are stuck across Canada, as a result of volume increases and COVID19 protocols, including one of mine).
What this means for Canada Post’s business model is actually not that different from the case of any business: know where the company can successfully compete and have the pieces in place to do it well. So, while traditional letter mail will continue to decline, there is an ongoing need to get goods to Canadians. Integral to doing so on a competitive basis are the logistics infrastructure and capability, within acceptable cost parameters. This includes continuing to invest in technology, for both Canada Post staff members and customers.
This brings the story full circle, where getting goods to Canadians (rather than going out to get them) is the priority. The reason, this time, is not due to a lack of mobility, but rather, it is a function of how mobility has changed (it is now digital, not physical), as well as the time constraints that have become a way of life for many. Think about this the next time a purchase is being contemplated, and ask: what is driving this decision?
Thank you for including me in your stories, CBC, and best of the Holiday Season, everyone!