Discussion Papers

Hilke Smit

Auswirkungen des e-Commerce auf den Postmarkt
Nr. 237 / Juni 2002


The general e-commerce development leads to expectations of a changing environment for postal markets. On the one hand, this refers to declining postal volumes due to substitution tendencies. In those cases where e-commerce transactions concern goods or services that can be send electronically, physical postal distribution processes become redundant. On the other hand, there are expectations of increasing postal volumes in response to B2B as well as B2C e-commerce development in those cases where physical goods are traded electronically. In these cases a physical distribution process remains necessary. The expected increased volumes are a consequence of the tendency among B2B and B2C e-commerce customers to buy the same quantities in smaller, more frequent portions. Moreover, B2C volumes profit from changes of the supply chain going along with the e-commerce development. In response to the e-commerce development supply chains become shorter. Thus, former B2B volumes are transformed into B2C volumes as the end customer now directly trades with the producer.

Against this background the present discussion paper analyses the changing position of postal service operators within the letter mail as well as the parcel market in response to the e-commerce development.

In order to attract these additional postal volumes postal service operators tend to extend their service portfolio along the e-commerce fulfilment chain. Furthermore, increasingly they start to offer services in the area of non fulfilment e-commerce services like IT consulting with respect to e-commerce strategies or the founding of internet market places. The discussion paper discusses this transformation from traditional postal service operators to e-commerce fulfilment operators. To illustrate the empirical evidence of this transformation trend, the e-commerce strategies of different postal operators are analysed. Against this background a positive impact of the e-commerce development on the innovation activities of postal operators can be stated.

In addition to this, it has been analysed whether the impact of the e-commerce development on the postal volumes of the letter mail and parcel market leads to a changing competitive situation within these markets. The starting point of this analysis is the hypothesis that increasing postal volumes result in diminishing competitive disadvantages of postal operators with respect to scale economies. Consequently, their competitiveness would be increased as a result of the e-commerce development. However, this analysis comes to the conclusion that this hypothesis does not hold as a general theses. The share of e-commerce induced postal volumes in total postal volumes is too small to have a substantive impact on scale economies. Moreover, despite of the positive impact of the e-commerce development remaining market entry barriers, like the reputation of the DPAG, advantages due to economies of scope of letter mail and parcel networks as well as the regulatory framework, are responsible for persistent competitive situation within the postal market. [full version only available in German]

Diskussion Paper is available for download.

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