The Role of the Postal and Delivery Sector in a Digital Age
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The Role of the Postal and Delivery Sector in a Digital Age

Edited by Michael A. Crew and Timothy J. J. Brennan

This volume, the result of the 21st Conference on Postal and Delivery Economics (Ireland, 2013), describes the continuing problem of the decline of the postal sector in the face of electronic competition and offers strategies for the survival of mail services in a digital age.
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Chapter 18: Peer-to-peer digital commerce: implications and opportunities for the US Postal Service and other posts

Laraine Balk Hope, Virgil Ian Stanford and Bruce Marsh


The increasing adoption of digital channels for communication and commerce has forced postal operators (POs) around the world to explore ways to remain relevant and profitable. While this technological revolution has disrupted the markets for some traditional mailing services, it also presents an opportunity for POs. In fulfilling its role as a facilitator of communication and commerce and promoting secure messaging between sender and receiver, the United States Postal Service (USPS) can expand both physical and digital services to benefit commerce and encourage innovation. Retail e-commerce in the US is growing rapidly, as increasing numbers of individuals and households are finding and ordering goods and services on the Internet or via a mobile device. US retail e-commerce revenues were estimated by Forrester Research at $200 billion in 2011, with growth projected at 60 percent through 2016 (Mulpuru, 2012). Other third-party analysts (Comscore, 2012; Gartner, 2012, 2013) have similar or more aggressive projections. A subsegment of retail e-commerce, digital peer-to-peer (P2P) commerce, allows individuals to trade with each other in a ëvirtual bazaarí. P2P commerce requires trust among the parties involved, yet buyers and sellers are likely unknown to each other. Market participants, including buyers, sellers, and facilitators, face the challenges of balancing financial costs, convenience, privacy, and potentially their own financial and physical safety. P2P commerce offers new opportunities for efficient economic growth, both for the USPS and potentially for other outside entities. Many postal services are already used in P2P markets.

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