How does traditional postal services transform in the digital economy, and futureproof themselves in smart cities? SingPost shows the way.

With the rise of digital media, mail volume is dipping and eCommerce parcel volume is growing significantly. To keep Singapore’s postal service future-proof, SingPost is leveraging next-gen tech and automation, while building on 160 years of legacy.

Through a comprehensive digital strategy, SingPost has transformed from a traditional postal service provider to a modern-day eCommerce and logistics powerhouse.

Alex Tan, Group Chief Digital & Technology Officer at SingPost, talked about the company’s digital transformation and innovation strategy.

What is SingPost’s overarching strategy to digitally transform Singapore’s postal service, and how was this strategy developed?

Technology is transforming lives and businesses on a global scale, with digital innovations disrupting industries, including the postal and logistics sectors, at an ever increasing pace. While these dramatic changes may present challenges, they yield tremendous transformative opportunities for creating new customer experiences and building new capabilities.

What we are looking to achieve with this is to ensure SingPost continues to connect communities, in eCommerce and beyond, as has been over the past 160 years through the provision of reliable and affordable postal services.

SmartPost is a key initiative to digitalize our postal operations. Launched in November this year, SmartPost is as an integrated suite of solutions that harnesses mobile and digital technologies to improve customer experience, service quality and operational efficiency. We have equipped all of our 1,000 postmen and postwomen with a proprietary mobile app that works in conjunction with Near Field Communication tags installed at around 15,000 delivery points across the island.

Another important innovation is our Last Mile Platform (LaMP), a first-of-its-kind integrated last-mile delivery platform that brings together retailers and logistics providers to create open eCommerce ecosystems across Southeast Asia that will provide greater convenience, flexibility and control to customers.

Beyond the hardware and software, a key part of our digital strategy is the equipping and upskilling of our postal staff with new tools and technologies that elevate their efficiency and capabilities for the future.

Transformation is a journey, and so while we look to reaping the full benefits in the years ahead, we are much encouraged that our efforts are receiving international recognition. SmartPost was awarded the World Post and Parcel Award in the Technology category this year, while our Smart Post Office and POPStation smart lockers won in the Retail Customer Access category in prior years.

To keep postal service future-proofed, SingPost is leveraging next-gen technology while building on 160 years of postal service. What are some of these key areas where business users and consumers can see transformation?

We are rolling out several solutions to improve the last-mile delivery experience for our customers. To date, we have installed more than 160 POPStation parcel lockers across Singapore, which allow customers to collect, return and ship parcels at their convenience. We are growing this network of lockers, working with the government to roll them out into more housing estates, and developing new functionalities that enable eCommerce for services apart from online shopping.

Following the launch of our General Post Office at SingPost Centre last year, we are expanding our Smart Post Office network, which combines our physical branch network with our SAM omnichannel platform – comprising self-service kiosks, mobile app and web portal. Customers can look forward to more Smart Post Offices across the island and 24/7 retail access to postal and other essential services.

We are also enhancing the customer experience by making postal services more convenient and seamless. In the current phase, SmartPost enables better tracking of deliveries and electronic signing-over of registered mail. Looking ahead, we are working towards providing delivery alerts and status updates to users by SMS or email, as well as electronic notifications to collect missed deliveries, in place of physical delivery notes that are currently used.

Our LaMP technology will also augment the online shopping experience, giving customers greater choice of delivery options and collection locations, even allowing them to make changes while a delivery is underway. LaMP will also be harnessing artificial intelligence to provide customers with SMS updates of parcel arrival times.

With e-commerce booming, how is SingPost addressing this area of exponentially growing needs?

We are progressing on a three-year transformation strategy to shore up SingPost’s footprint in eCommerce logistics. Our vision is to be the regional last-mile delivery and urban logistics platform of choice for Southeast Asia. Today, our suite of eCommerce logistics solutions includes front-end web management, warehousing and fulfillment, last mile delivery and international freight forwarding.

In November this year, we unveiled our latest next-generation logistics platform LaMP, a first-of-its-kind technology that consolidates various last-mile delivery services, such as courier services, parcel lockers, brick-and-mortar collection points, onto a single platform. Being technology-agnostic, LaMP can integrate services from different providers, affording unprecedented convenience for consumers and eCommerce retailers.

LaMP is location-agnostic and can connect last-mile partner services across the Southeast Asia region. Through LaMP, retailers will be able to offer their customers the ability to receive their online purchases via any last-mile delivery node in the network, in any country within Southeast Asia. Consumers may even redirect en-route deliveries to an alternative delivery node on the platform if required.

Our Regional eCommerce Logistics Hub, which was opened in 2016, is fully automated, harnessing the latest warehouse fulfillment and parcel sorting technologies, and integrates warehousing and parcel sortation systems for greater efficiency.

We also continue to build on our partnerships with our major shareholders, Singtel and the Alibaba Group, working closely in the areas of cross-border eCommerce and digital innovation, particularly the application of technologies such as AI, warehouse robotics, big data, and cloud computing.

Other than cloud, mobile apps, NFC, smart kiosks and drones, what other technology applications is SingPost looking to employ (e.g. AI, advanced analytics, chatbots, cobots etc.)?

We are integrating artificial intelligence into LaMP, harnessing machine learning and AI route planning software from LogiNext to enable autonomously plotting of optimized courier delivery routes based on multiple factors such as parcel destinations, customer preferred delivery times, and real-time ground data including traffic and weather conditions.

LogiNext’s software is also able to analyze and proactively alert all stakeholders on courier movements. With this capability, customers will receive an alert half an hour before their parcel arrives, a significant improvement in terms of convenience.

This is especially so for dense cities such as Bangkok and Jakarta, where customers are generally provided vague parcel arrival times due to a myriad of reasons such as traffic jams and extreme weather conditions. All of these factors will be dealt with from a single screen called the control tower, providing end-to-end visibility connecting multiple GPS tracking systems and APIs.