UPS has a long history
of mobile innovation, but the demands of newly mobile-empowered customers are keeping the shipping giant on its toes. Speaking Tuesday at MediaPost’s OMMA Atlanta conference, Rob Russell,
director, social, mobile, and digital communications at UPS, explained that these “shifted” consumers expect “more information, all the time, always connected, and expecting that
information very rapidly.”
That describes about 22% of the population, with the proportion of among UPS customers about double that figure, according to Russell. He said every
brand has to figure out what consumers expect from its brand and assemble the appropriate technology appropriately.
To get a better handle on that for its own brand, UPS tapped its ad
agency T3 to research the topic, leading to what he called a Maslow-like hierarchy of needs among consumers.
At a base level, these needs included things like saving customers time
and money, offering rewards; at a higher level, it meant simplifying their interactions, remembering them when they come back, being entertaining, and providing some sort of status. “A lot of
“shifters,” first of all, are expecting brands to deliver in this second tier,” explained Russell.
But many companies aren’t meeting those needs, and when that
happens, it reduced brand loyalty. Russell noted simplifying transactions--given that shipping can involve complicated transactions--is probably important for companies like UPS or Delta rather than
To better meet the high expectations of its customers, UPS last year rolled out a new iPad app that lets people track packages in near real-time and a feature for heavy
users to monitor incoming shipments. The company separately launched a service called My Choice that allows people to better track shipments via options, like email and text alerts, as well as through
a Facebook application.
He conceded that enrollment in the My Choice program can be tedious given security measures built into the process. “We’re always balancing that
user experience with security and fraud [protection],” he said, noting UPS is working on improvements to make the sign-up procedure easier.
Russell also touched on other
technology trends, or “buzzwords” UPS is keeping an eye. These include “Big Data,” a term he admitted to disliking as over broad. “What it means to us is that we can mine
that data appropriately, with the proper privacy concerns, to make consumers lives simpler without them knowing about it,” he said.
When it comes to another hot area—3D
printing—UPS has begun providing 3D printing services for small-scale manufacturing in several stores for start-ups and small businesses. It provides the ability to produce items like
engineering parts, prototypes and architectural models. Considering much if the company’s shipping volume is business-to-business, it could to be a growing line of business for UPS.
What about delivery drones, in light of Amazon’s grand plan to fill the skies with thousands of tiny package-toting helicopters? “Yes, we’re looking at that,”
said Russell, noting that would be many technical and regulatory obstacles to overcome before the concept becomes a reality.