UPS upends delivery strategy to grow e-commerce services

As one of the few delivery services tasked with bringing an unprecedented number of packages to the doorsteps of eager online shoppers, United Parcel Service has both struggled and prospered.


As one of the few national and international delivery services tasked with bringing an unprecedented number of packages to the doorsteps of eager online shoppers, the United Parcel Service has both struggled and prospered. 

The rapid rise of e-commerce meant UPS was in high demand for a service it knew well. But it also meant that the more than 100-year-old company needed to adapt to modern demands, where instantaneous, one-click shopping created a consumer culture expectant of instant gratification.

So UPS responded Wednesday with a few key moves. First, the company broadly expanded its preferred customer program called My Choice and the UPS Access Point network.

UPS first introduced My Choice, an online and mobile service where consumers can customize delivery preferences, in 2011, but it will now be available to consumers in 15 additional countries throughout North America and Europe.

The UPS Access Point network is a bit more creative. With the help of local businesses, such as convenient stores with evening hours, UPS is creating a literal network of locations where customers can have packages sent to for pickup. Drivers who are unable to successfully deliver packages to a customer's home address can also use the alternative pickup locations, which UPS says are designed to be 10 minutes or less from the customer's delivery address. 

And then there are the Amazon-style lockers, which UPS is launching as a trial run in Chicago. The premise of the lockers is pretty much the same as the with the local businesses – they give customers more options when it comes to delivery and pickup. The lockers are outfitted with an interactive touchscreen where users enter a PIN to retrieve their packages. Users can also scan a government-issued ID or an in-app barcode to open the locker.

What's interesting is that UPS is trying its hand at a tactic that's not really new or innovative. Amazon has been trying to build out its locker network over the years, as well as its relationship with local retailers and businesses, in a means to make same-day or next-day delivery available in more parts of the country. But Amazon struggles for a reason that UPS likely will not: unlike Amazon, UPS is not a direct competitor, which means local businesses will be more apt to share their physical footprint as a way to bring in more bodies.

But Amazon is hardly suffering from the UPS fete, because just as UPS is expanding its logistical footprint, Amazon, at least theoretically, is too.