BY CYNTHIA REYNOLDS
AS President and CEO of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra has spearheaded the company’s transformation into the nation’s largest parcel company and a vital e-commerce enabler for retailers of all sizes. Here, he reveals the challenges of that journey, shares insights into the company’s relationships with retailers and offers a word of advice for the future.
Canadian Retailer: When you first started to pivot Canada Post toward an e-commerce and parcels future, what did you imagine the challenges would be?
Deepak Chopra: We certainly knew there would be challenges. First off, we didn’t know if retailers here in Canada would embrace e-commerce in the same way as the rest of the world. So, we asked ourselves what role we could play to innovate the marketplace and to help retailers seize the e-commerce opportunity. As e-commerce started to take off, we then knew there would be competition for what we do. We knew we would need to be sharper in our execution, particularly with our own customer experience. We have spent a lot of time and effort on that, which we are now benefitting from. It has been instrumental in us becoming Canada’s number one parcel company.
CR: You’ve placed a lot of focus on strengthening relationships with your retail customers. Why has that been important to you?
DC: Canada Post cannot pursue innovation with the assumption that we have all the answers. To me, it was critical to partner with a variety of stakeholders, including small businesses, e-commerce platforms and the very largest retailers so we could understand their challenges. The small businesses were saying, “Look, we want access to national and global markets. Can you give us products that are affordable and provide tracking so that we can sell across the country and the globe?” Whereas larger retailers were saying, “Our store traffic is down, people are shopping online from global websites—how can you help us so that we can also play and compete in this marketplace?”
For us, it was a matter of our future. And the only way we could reinvent ourselves was by talking to businesses of all sizes to understand their pain-points and the disruption they were facing, and help them win.
CR: Can you elaborate on one of the ways retailers benefit from working with Canada Post?
DC: The process of a store clerk handing the customer a beautiful bag after completing a sale has now moved to the final mile. On winning the online space, retailers typically focus on price, positioning, website experience, mobile, etc. But invariably, 90 per cent of them never think about the moment of truth—when the parcel is delivered. Yet, I think the final mile has the highest opportunity to delight or annoy the customer.
Forty percent of Canadians are not home during the day to receive their parcel, which can mean they’ll find a door knocker that says we missed your delivery. If you have to go out of your way and drive to the other side of town to retrieve that parcel, then the entire mail-moment is destroyed. That magic moment of your parcel arriving … it’s just gone.
This is where Canada Post has amazing strengths. We have the largest retail network, so people don’t have to go far to pick up their parcels. We also have access to alternate delivery methods, such as parcel lockers, enabling customer choice. Through our FlexDelivery, people can designate at checkout any of our post offices as their delivery address.
We knew we could offer retailers a competitive advantage because we can preserve the excitement of the mail moment in a way that none of our competitors can. And so, that’s where we felt we needed to educate retailers the most, that by working with us they can complete that magical experience.
CR: Let’s talk about your other line of business. In the midst of the digital revolution, you doubled down on direct mail. Why?
DC: Because it works. And it works not in spite of the digital age, but because of it. Our data tools help us target it better, and with the rise of digital clutter, an item received in the mail actually stands out. It can drive traffic to both your physical and digital store like no other channel—if you do it right.
We educate a lot of companies on how to do DM in the digital age. How to time it, how to integrate it with other channels, how to target and optimize design. The companies that do these well, can achieve immense returns.
CR: Speaking of competition… let’s talk about Amazon. Can Canada’s small and medium-sized businesses possibly compete?
DC: Absolutely. We are entering the age of micromultinationals and micro-brands, where consumers are drawn to products that are personalized. These brands are creating experiences, which extend well before and after the purchase. Smaller brands have so much more flexibility to do this.
But, there is also a wonderful opportunity to leverage Amazon as a platform, or any of the big platforms like Shopify, eBay or Magento. The trick is to use the best of both worlds, to create a great product and a great experience and then use a platform that does great fulfillment. You need to marry the two sides. The companies that can do that will be best positioned to succeed.
“WE KNEW WE COULD OFFER RETAILERS A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE BECAUSE WE CAN PRESERVE THE EXCITEMENT OF THE MAIL MOMENT IN A WAY THAT NONE OF OUR COMPETITORS CAN.”
CR: Now that we know Canadian retailers are embracing e-commerce, what do you think are the challenges that lie ahead? Do you have any advice?
DC: I think the focus will become how do we as an industry keep pace with the growth of online shopping, while still meeting high customer expectations. That’s one. The other is we need to remember that we are just one disruptor away from becoming obsolete. No matter what area of online retail you’re in, from delivery to logistics to sales, you have to be aware that the next big disruptor is just around the corner.