From mail delivery to e-commerce frontrunner

Over the last two decades PostNL has faced the challenge of evolving from their role as a mail carrier to becoming a fully digitised logistics services provider. We have been their trusted partner every step of the way.
postNL | iO

Client

PostNL

Challenge

User-friendly multichannel experience

Solution

UX, strategy & design, app & web development

Reinventing postal services

From stagecoaches to air mail, postal services have been adapting to the new times since forever. However, the rise of e-mail and e-commerce have seriously disrupted the sector, shifting the focus of postal services worldwide towards providing logistics services. PostNL, the national mail service of the Netherlands with a legacy of 220 years, quickly realised that these changes could hold infinite opportunity. So they set out to position their organisation at the core of European ecommerce - combining a seamless customer experience with a flawless digital service. In 2009, they asked us, their digital partner, to start building a system that would allow them to go fully digital within five years.

It all adds up to this

13+

years of partnership

123 millions

tracked shipments per year

2 millions

parcels daily

6 millions

customer accounts built

8

dedicated iO teams

Digital taking over from bricks and mortar

PostNL aimed to shut down its last bricks and mortar office in 2014, and focus entirely on e-commerce, with a fully digitised shipping service for both mail and parcels. This meant the delivery chain had to serve PostNL customers in a different way. In close collaboration with their marketing team, we developed a roadmap for the automation of all the mail carriers core processes.

Our approach

We needed to take future evolution into account from the get-go. Whatever we developed had to have the future potential to be integrated seamlessly into an ecosystem that would extend far beyond the creation of a webshop.

To smooth the transition towards becoming an e-logistic provider, we started by building an e-shop where customers could easily prepare their shipment, print a label and then drop their parcel off at a post office. Later, PostNL launched a new shipping service where the packages were not only delivered, but also picked from at the customer's location.

This meant a complete about face for PostNL and its systems with the implementation of new services, many of which were not even in development at the time.

We therefore designed an open and futureproof architecture that could support the addition of any new process, and that could disclose existing and new customer accounts to all clients in the ecosystem. Because the legacy backend system would take much longer to adapt, we disconnected the frontend from the backend and created a midlayer. This two-tier approach allowed us to develop the PostNL ecosystem at different speeds. On the midlayer, services could be added quickly at any time, and the database of 6 million customer accounts was available to whichever client in the ecosystem needed them. At the same time, another team could work simultaneously on the more complex adaptations in the backend of the ecosystem.

"In a way, PostNL, at its core, is an IT-driven logistic provider. As their digital partner, we ensure their ecosystem is able to seamless, swiftly and securely manage vast amounts of data. And we ensure PostNL delivers all their users the best omnichannel customer experience."

Robert Spork, Customer Solution Manager, iO

What we did/do

PostNL has a strong vision of what the future holds. To implement their roadmap for a new IT infrastructure, they surround themselves with strong partners offering the expertise they need for the next step. In the years that we have been working together, we have established mutual trust. We've over 8 dedicated SCRUM teams working in close collaboration with the PostNL IT teams, meeting every week to discuss current projects and offering operational and strategic support.

We designed and built an ecosystem that sustains the user-friendly multichannel experience in which the customer is central. In the course of our collaboration we have offered PostNL solutions based on a strong architectural vision.

  • The ultimate digital shipping experience. jouw.postnl.nl is a central place for sending or receiving mail. PostNL Checkout is a webshop integration in which you can immediately indicate when and where you want to receive the package when ordering. Change of address service where you can report your relocation in one go. Multiple business services, such as label creation and shipment data validation. We do the same for PostNL Belgium.

  • Integration of AI. To offer their customers 24/7 client service support while cutting down cost, PostNL wanted their site to handle as many customer questions as possible. We therefore created chatbots and speech bots with backend systems.

  • Automated cash registers: Individuals still need to have access to pick-up points where they could collect their parcels or buy stamps. So PostNL would also need to provide automated cash register systems and lockers from collection and drop-off points at retail points. such as supermarkets and drugstores like Albert Heijn and Gamma, or at transit locations such as Schiphol. These local systems communicate with the PostNL customer system and database.

  • Supporting rigorous cloud strategy. Early experiments with AWS encouraged PostNL to also look at the potential of cloud services. In 2013 PostNL chose to move into the cloud, opting for a full cloud approach as opposed to the more popular but less scalable hybrid approach. All IT systems that could legally be transferred to the cloud were moved to an AWS cloud solution.This decision turned PostNL into a cloud pioneer. Our DevOps teams offer continuous second-line support.

Offering a multichannel service? We're happy to help.

Do you need advice on moving your business fully online? Or do you want us to help you design and implement a multichannel customer experience? Contact us. We would love to discuss your opportunities.

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Results

Thanks to the successful switch of their services to ecommerce, PostNL was able to shut down its last bricks and mortar postal office without people really missing it. On the contrary, by offering customers the convenience of ordering and shipping parcels from home or the office, they have increased customer satisfaction and expanded their customer base to no less than 6 million active accounts.

Today PostNL is the major mail carrier in the Netherlands and has also been branching out its logistics operations across Europe. PostNL keeps on improving their digital services offering their visitors a seamless and stress-free multichannel experience.

As their trusted partner, we offer strategic advice, co-create innovative solutions as well as implement the technology that will keep PostNL a leading logistic organisation, such as the upcoming migration of their website to a headless CMS.

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