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The future of consumer needs for postal services

11 August 2016

As part of representing the needs of postal consumers, Citizens Advice wants to ensure that evolving consumer needs for a postal service are fully taken into account in the future regulation of the sector.

The postal market in the UK is currently in a period of considerable and rapid change due to increasing digital communication, evidenced by the establishment of a broadband universal service obligation (USO), an ongoing programme of Post Office network transformation, changes to postal regulation and a rapidly growing ecommerce market as consumers increasingly buy and sell goods online.

In order to identify and assess the role of postal services for consumers in the context of changing needs, lifestyles and attitudes, we commissioned Breaking Blue to undertake a mixed-method approach of quantitative and qualitative research across Great Britain.

The research [ 2.6 mb] shows that consumers attach relatively high levels of importance to receiving formal communications in the post. While the relationship consumers have with receiving and sending letters and parcels is underpinned by their levels of digital engagement. Almost eight in ten consumers (79%) consider receiving bank statements or other financial documents in the post as very or quite important. While some recognise the ease and convenience of items such as bank statements and utility bills moving online, others value receiving paper copies of such correspondence for various reasons including confidentiality.

Certain types of communications tend to be of greater importance to certain groups to receive by post. Consumers from lower socio-economic grades, with lower household income, with a disability or who receive benefits generally attach more importance to formal communications that help them administer their day-to-day lives.

The qualitative phase found that consumers’ main needs when sending and receiving post are convenience and affordability. While these needs generally transcend different consumer groups, they are particularly pronounced for consumers in rural and remote areas. These consumers recognise that some companies either don’t deliver or charge high costs for sending to their address and this impacts on the purchasing decisions.

Looking into the future, most consumers want to see the postal market support and build on the distinct needs they currently have. They seek greater ease and convenience, such as additional services for tracking and collection, and more flexible opening times to pick up parcels as well as a clearer and more transparent pricing structure and higher standards around safety and reliability.