Talking Point: Australia Post Talks E-Commerce Boom, Deliveries and Stage Four

Power Retail By Power Retail | 11 Aug 2020

We spoke to Ben Franzi, General Manager, Parcel & Express Services at Australia Post, to discuss e-commerce’s exponential growth, delivery restrictions and the future of online retail.

The acceleration in online shopping over the last few months has been unprecedented. Australia has seen three years’ worth of growth in a matter of months, and the recent Victorian Stage Four restrictions are expected to boost it even further.

How much growth has Australia Post seen in e-commerce deliveries since the WHO announced the pandemic? 

It happened almost overnight following the World Health Organisation declaring COVID-19 a pandemic. The first eight weeks saw year-on-year growth of 80 percent, and this upward trajectory continued before hitting a peak of 135 percent over Easter. Since April we’ve seen this decelerate slightly, holding steady up until June at around 72 percent growth nationally. 

The real stand out in recent weeks has been Victoria which saw growth of 118 percent in July, making it one of the biggest months for online shopping in the state’s history. 

The e-commerce boom has helped boost growth within the retail industry. What innovations has AusPost introduced to further develop this growth? 

In March we made parcel deliveries and over counter collections at Post Offices contactless by removing the need for signature on delivery for the majority of parcels. We’re also giving customers the choice of safe drop – where our posties and drivers leave parcels in a safe place if the receiver isn’t home – as much as we can and exploring Digital ID verification for those items that require identification to be sighted. 

Australia Post also has a range of collect and return options giving shoppers the ability to have their parcels sent directly to a 24/7 Parcel Locker or a nominated Post Office. We’re also working to expand our range of collect points through partnerships with supermarkets, pharmacies, department stores and other brick and mortar retailers with a large physical store network, to give our customers more choice and flexibility in how they receive their parcels. 

Have you noticed any changes in consumer behaviour with deliveries? Have there been more at-home deliveries, and has there been any indication of innovations such as curbside delivery? 

Unsurprisingly, as the vast majority of people are spending more of their time at home, there has been a significant increase in home deliveries. We have also seen increased use of our 24/7 Parcel Lockers, particularly those located outside of the nation’s CBDs, as people look for contactless delivery options closer to home. 

As restrictions continue to ease for the majority of the country, and people begin to split their time between their home and their physical workplace, we do expect people will be looking for more choice and flexibility. People will be increasingly seeking to align their deliveries with where they expect to be on any given day, so it is critical that online retailers are thinking carefully about the choices they provide their customers at the checkout. 

Have there been specific trends in each state for e-commerce?

E-Commerce has been growing strongly in all states and territories since April. In terms of trends, most states went through an initial surge in March/April driven by the ‘panic buying’ of specialty foods, alcohol, health products, office goods and toilet paper. 

Following this, toys, games, puzzles and other recreational goods got a boost as people needed to entertain themselves and their families at home. During this phase, we also saw some fashion categories like at athleisure, sleepwear and streetwear spike as people shopped for comfortable clothing as they settled in at home. 

Recently, the state that has differed from the rest is Victoria, as unlike the other parts of the country it is going through a second phase of restrictions. Growth for July was 35 percent higher than June and it was the only state to achieve double-digit, month-on-month growth. 

Do you think that Australia will bounce back to regular e-commerce consumption after the restrictions have lifted, or will we continue to embrace online retail? 

It’s very clear that the global pandemic has irrevocably altered the trajectory of the e-commerce industry, bringing years’ worth of change in just a few months. We are expecting that by the end of 2020 online will account for around 18 percent of total retail spend, a figure we didn’t expect to see for another two or three years at least. 

Social distancing is going to be a prevalent part of our lives for some time, so I believe we will continue to see people choosing to buy online over visiting busy shopping centres and stores, particularly as we approach the festive season. 

The new restrictions of Stage Four sound very similar to New Zealand. How may this impact e-commerce and online retailers? 

In Victoria, all discretionary retail has had to close for six weeks so retailers and shoppers alike have been left with no choice but to sell and shop online. Given this, it’s reasonable to assume we will see an increase in purchases, as well as more retailers establishing an online presence for the first time. 

In many ways, we have been here before. In April with the first round of lockdowns, we saw a spike in online shopping and we are seeing this again now, particularly in Victoria.

If non-essential items are unable to be delivered during Stage Four, how can Australia Post handle the backlog of deliveries? 

We have worked with the Victorian Government to ensure that our post offices remain open and that our deliveries – our posties and drivers across Victoria – remain on the road.

For our delivery and parcel facilities in metropolitan Melbourne only, we will have a ten percent daily workforce reduction, coupled with split shifts in a COVID-safe environment, ensuring cleaning between shifts and a COVID Safe Plan.

Our people continue to work tirelessly under difficult circumstances and although there may be some delays, we’re asking for our customers to be patient and trust that we’re doing everything we can to deliver as safely and quickly as possible.

How are Australia Post posties and staff staying safe during the pandemic? 

The health and safety of our people, customers and the community is our priority and we have a number of measures in place across our network to keep people safe. 

This includes providing our people with personal protective equipment and implementing strict social distancing measures, including zoning and staggered shifts, in all our Post Offices and facilities. In Victoria, all of our delivery, processing, retail and essential office-based workers are also wearing face coverings in line with government advice. 

Introducing Talking Point, an exciting new series from Power Retail. Each month, we will cover a specific topic relevant to e-commerce. This month, we are showcasing and celebrating #Australian retailers. Watch out for this logo every month as we dive into new topics and investigate what it means to be an online retailer in Australia.

Power Retail is dedicated to providing critical and live e-commerce retailer benchmarking data and shopper insights for the online retail industry. Click here to find out more about Power Retail E-Commerce Intelligence or here to sign-up for the free weekly Pulse Newsletter for more essential online retail content.

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