By Jennigay Coetzer – Business Day

The trend of purchasing goods on the internet will play an increasingly significant role in boosting the demand for express courier delivery. Aramex, a global express delivery and logistics company that recently acquired South African based Berco Express has invested in this area.

Aramex has created Shop and Ship, an e-commerce portal for the purchasing, shipping and delivery of various brands of consumer products from UK, US and China websites, ranging from books, to electronic goods, to clothes, to pet products, to vehicle parts.

Andy van der Velde, MD of Berco Express, says this opens up opportunities for Berco to use Aramex’s e-commerce technology to create a similar portal through which anyone in the world can purchase South African goods. Aramex originally created its e-commerce portal to give consumers in the Middle East easy access to US and UK products.

Graeme Lazarus, Joint MD of RAM Hand-to-Hand Couriers says e-commerce holds huge growth potential for suppliers to deal directly with end users, and courier companies are now playing a major role in making this possible. “We have seen a 10% to 12% increase in e-commerce business over the past year.”

However, he says, e-commerce business generates less revenue per delivery and at the same time requires a larger distribution network.  Ken Light, executive head of SkyNet Worldwide Express, says the volumes of courier deliveries for e-commerce fulfillment are growing daily, especially for goods ordered from the UK, China, India, and Pakistan.

“We handle, 7,000 to 10,000 e-commerce deliveries a month from China alone.” He says often when goods are purchased from UK or US websites, the products are actually shipped from China.

From the courier company’s perspective, the downside of e-commerce is that deliveries are widespread, which makes aggregation difficult, and consumers do not see the value in the delivery service and expect to pay as little as possible, says Light. At the same time they expect to get regular updates and be informed about when they can expect delivery.

He says although there is elaborate integration and interaction between online retailers and courier companies their systems do not generally allow for two-way electronic interaction with consumers, says Light. “Interaction with the end customer is still passive.”

Gary Marshall, CEO and chairman of the SA Express Parcel Association says there is a significant increase in the demand for the express delivery of goods purchased online, and for the delivery of chronic medicine. “This type of business did not exist 10 years ago.”

He says the delivery of these types of goods is synonymous with speed and reliability, which the courier industry is renowned for. However, it requires a large distribution network, and a fast and consistent level of service nationally.

“Consumers expect that orders be fulfilled no matter where you are situated in the country.” He says the same applies to the delivery of chronic medicine, which is time sensitive and needs to be kept at a certain temperature.
Other high demand goods for express delivery include electronic components, credit cards, and automotive components, with some vehicle manufacturers booking deliveries six or seven times a day. This is in line with the trend of not holding stock to save on expensive storage space, says Marshall.

Jennigay Coetzer is a freelance business and technology journalist with 25 years experience, and she writes regularly for Business Day. She also runs media training and writing skills workshops, and is the author of A Perfect Press Release – or Not?, a guide to writing and distributing effective press releases, an electronic version of which can be downloaded free from her website: www.jennigay.co.za.

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