Why was Local Express created?
“At PostNL, we’re good at managing large, complex processes. Nation-wide networks, with thousands of people working and with millions of items. With all kinds of procedures and agreements to guarantee quality. A mail and parcels company like PostNL should really be seen as an enormous, well-oiled and precisely set machine. It’s impressive to behold, but it doesn’t leave much room for improvisation and small-scale tests. That’s why we established Local Express.”
So what is it you do exactly?
“See Local Express as a little company that is part of PostNL, but is entirely separate from its daily operations. We look for new consumer or customer wishes – like same-day delivery – and then get to work on the question: how can PostNL come up with a solution for that? First, we test it out on a small scale.”
And what if the test comes out successful?
“If the test comes out successful, the service is included in the regular organisation so that we can offer it on a large scale. A great example is Return on Demand. We developed that concept with e-tailer Zalando. More and more, people order things online, but we knew that they thought returning items was such a hassle. Web retailers do their absolute best to meet their customers’ wishes, and make online ordering as accessible as possible. Return on Demand helps with that. Customers can then select a time on the website at which they want their return shipment picked up. In Amsterdam and Rotterdam, you can have your shipment picked up within an hour! One of our deliverers arrives within the selected time window to pick up the parcel. And we make sure the parcel is returned to the e-commerce client safe and sound.”
It sounds like you are playing into exactly the right trends.
“Yes, absolutely. Consumers want more control over the place and time of parcel reception or shipment. Return on Demand was a big success within a few months. We started small, in a few postcode areas in Amsterdam first. When that went well, we scaled up in Amsterdam, and later on we expanded to include Rotterdam. Now we pick up hundreds of parcels from people’s homes every day throughout the country, and we are already looking at new applications for on-demand collection.”
How are you able to shift so quickly?
“You could say we are lean and mean. We work with a flexible IT system and Local Express has no other resources than that. We hire people and transport: for instance PostNL deliverers, couriers from the PostNL subsidiary Valid Express or sometimes even external parties. And the people who work at Local Express – six in total now – are real entrepreneurs. You have to spot and quickly seize those opportunities in the market. Of course, not every project is successful, so you also have to be able to deal with disappointments. In any case, we have enough support from management: both support and trust. We get all the space we need to do our thing.”
What is your ambition?
“Our goal is to add one or two successful innovations to the PostNL portfolio every year. And we have plenty in the works. For example, for a major home improvement centre, we deliver to customers’ homes on the same day. We will also be doing that for shops on Beethovenstraat in Amsterdam. We have also launched a new dry cleaning concept, in which we pick up dirty laundry from customers’ homes and bring it back clean the next day. And we are thinking about transporting luggage to and from Schiphol. In other words, we have enough opportunities to choose from and lots to do!”