All across Europe, not just sisters but brothers, mums and dads, grandparents and the whole darn clan are doing it for themselves - setting up all kinds of start-ups and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) as digital continues to bring the high street into the home.

“We’re seeing major store chains like JC Penney in the USA closing their bricks and mortar outlets, and we’re expecting to see that trend continue over here,” says Des Travers, road transport expert and CEO of Ireland’s DPD parcel delivery service. “Internet changed everything. More and more people are buying online in the evenings, or on the move via their mobiles. And there’s been a huge influx of new companies setting up and selling digitally which need those products delivered to the end customer.

“Eight or 10 years ago, cost and service were of course key in delivery services, but people were still mainly shopping in the high street and parcel carriers delivered to the shops. Now the market is digital, it’s wherever your customer is.”


The entrepreneur, the ambassador and the customer


This means that if you’re a business owner, Travers points out, carriers are more and more part of the team, acting as de facto brand ambassadors for your customers because they are the immediate point of contact when your product arrives on the doorstop.

“If your carrier delivers your product to your customer perfectly, you’ve got your margin minus your delivery costs and there’s your profit. But, if delivery is inferior - if the end customer can’t track their parcel or there’s an issue and they start calling you - there’s the cost of managing the situation and the costs can spiral tenfold, eating into the margin. Worse, the end customer may return the delivered item.

“Customer satisfaction is key.”

Few would argue with that, especially small business owners with tight margins.


Riding the ecommerce wave


With ecommerce in Ireland set to rise to €13 billion by 2020, carriers are having to move fast and invest hard to keep pace, says Travers. “We’ve invested a total of over €31 million in a technologically advanced sortation hub, which processes more than 100,000 parcels on busy nights, routing them to one of 38 Irish depots, or an international depot in Great Britain or mainland Europe.”

Today’s entrepreneurs, running businesses that deliver goods, need their carrier to demonstrate that level of technical capacity, plus flexibility in terms of time/location of delivery, and the accountability that comes with automated scanning and tracking, says Travers.

“Let’s say the end customer orders a shirt from your company’s website on their mobile. We receive the customer’s data and send a message asking where they’d like the shirt to go - to the home or office, or maybe to a trusted neighbour; or they may want to collect it from one of our depots.

“If they don’t respond, that’s fine. Next day, the shirt arrives at our depot and is scanned, then we send the customer another message offering them our speciality - a one-hour delivery window.

“In other words, the customer is given two opportunities to route the parcel and choose exactly where/when to receive it. Both you as the retailer, and your end customer the purchaser can follow every step of the journey because of the automated scanning.

“That’s the kind of accountability, speed and flexibility that consumers expect now. It’s all about consumer choice - be that the end customer or the SMEs delivering to them.”



“Best of both worlds”


The blend of high tech and global reach with local, friendly service is also something entrepreneurs might want to take into account when choosing a delivery service, says Travers.

“We’re part of a group that delivers three million parcels every day in 230 countries. But, if one of our SME customers in Donegal can’t get along to collect, or needs to talk to us about a delivery to a rural address, they can call up and Mary at the Donegal depot will be there at the end of the line. Each depot will know all its customers, and how to deliver to all the out-of-the-way local addresses, which is what the end customers and our SME customers need.

“High-tech reliability plus local knowledge - it’s the best of both worlds.”

For entrepreneurs with deliveries to make across Europe, Travers says there are various options and you’ll probably want to use a mix depending on your needs.

“We’re very proud of our Classic road service, which customers use to make substantial savings while enjoying full tracking and notifications services. We’re back to the element of choice: we’ve found lots of our SME customers can wait a day or two for delivery to be made, so they like this service, with its journey trackability - they might go to a different carrier for a parcel needing immediate delivery.”

Most customers will use a mix of carriers for different situations, he says, and business owners will need to assess those needs for themselves on a case-by-case basis.

As for the upcoming challenges of Brexit, Travers takes a philosophical but action-packed approach: “Oh well, decimalisation was a big challenge and a lot of work in its day. We’re already working on regulations, customs, platforms and other aspects around Brexit to ensure a smooth transition for our customers. We will all have to prepare and adapt.

“It’s a challenge, yes. It’ll take hard work, yes. Will we be ready? Yes.”

Learn more

Operating since 1986, DPD is Ireland’s largest dedicated parcel carrier. With the country’s most technologically advanced parcel sortation hub, a new fulfilment centre located right next door and 38 depots throughout Ireland, the DPD fleet collects and delivers up to 100,000 parcels daily. DPD Ireland is part of DPD Group which operates Europe’s largest road delivery network delivering more than 4 million parcels each day. 

Dedicated to ensuring the customer journey runs smoothly, from dispatch to delivery, DPD has implemented communication solutions that engage with the customer throughout the delivery process. In transit messaging via email, SMS and App provide real time updates at all the important stages of delivery, giving peace of mind and control.