Online shopping surged in Benelux during 2020. More than a third of consumers said they made purchases more often due to COVID-191. Ensuring websites could cope with the uptick in consumer demand was just the start. 

Global retailers and organisations are facing the scale-up challenge. Apps had to be adapted. Marketing communications had to be expanded. And new delivery services had to be introduced to meet customer needs and expectations.

PostNL played a pivotal role in connecting retailers and manufacturers with consumers during the pandemic. It delivered a record 337 million parcels in 2020. Daily volumes hit 1.7 million during peak times. 

We’ve had to learn very fast and are using all kinds of data and algorithms. We now know how changes to COVID-19 lockdowns will affect deliveries.”

Marcel Krom, CIO for PostNL

The company also saw an increase in demand for greeting cards and other single-mail items during 2020. 


Providing a great omnichannel experience

Despite this sudden growth, PostNL was determined to meet customer needs on both physical and digital channels. According to a Salesforce survey, nearly 80% of consumers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. 

“We want people to see PostNL as their favourite delivery company and to feel delighted when we arrive at their door,” said Krom. “We try to embed this feeling not only into our deliveries but everything that we do, which includes digital interactions.” 


PostNL blazes a digital trail to meet customer needs

PostNL has been building up its digital capabilities since 2014 and has introduced a range of solutions to help it meet customer needs and expectations with more efficient and high-quality services. 

“It’s smart to think three or four years ahead of the game,” said Krom, who was named CIO of the Year in 2020 in the Netherlands.   

This forward-thinking approach has seen PostNL embrace everything from fulfilment robots and customer service chatbots to advanced analytics and mobile apps. For example, it has built an app on Salesforce that enables its mail teams to stay connected and access key services, such as booking a holiday or requesting a bike repair. 

The company, which derives around 60% of its revenue from ecommerce, uses Salesforce to:

  • Unify its customer support operation

  • Track its social footprint

  • Personalise customer communications

“With Salesforce, we can innovate faster, integrate smarter, and collaborate better,” said Krom. These digital foundations were key in enabling PostNL to respond quickly and flexibly during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Meeting customer needs with great experiences

Krom, however, is the first to admit that digital transformations are not easy. “You need to get the building blocks right and understand the connections in your infrastructure. If you pull the wrong string, then everything can fall apart.” 

He also advises ensuring that you establish good controls for managing digital pilots and be cautious when setting project deadlines. “Don’t underestimate the time needed for a digital transformation,” he added. 

For PostNL, the retirement of legacy systems was a big priority when embarking on its digital journey. “If you have old systems existing with new digital solutions, it’s hard to track intelligence about the customer experience. You need to have one truth,” explained Krom. 


Richer insights drive richer results

Achieving 360-degree visibility is particularly key for enriching customer communications and interactions. Two-thirds of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations while 52% expect offers to always be personalised. 

It’s crucial to have the best quality data. Empowering the right teams with the right insights has been a major focus of our transformation.”

Marcel Krom

With 74% of customers saying they use multiple channels to start and complete a transaction, it’s essential the organisations capture data from all touchpoints. As well as engaging with customers via its 4,200-plus retail outlets in the Benelux, PostNL also receives around 780 million visitors to its website and its app has attracted 6.2 million users. 

“Engagement channels are changing very fast, and you have to be active on the right ones at the right times to ensure an omni-channel experience,” said Krom. “The user experience can always be improved - especially from a digital perspective.” 


Making the world a better place

And PostNL has lots of improvements in the pipeline to keep meeting customer needs and expectations. From extending its personalised self-service options for business customers to developing new digital journeys. This will not only help it deliver more distinctive experiences but also cope with future peaks in demand. 

Enriching the customer experience, however, is just the beginning for Krom and PostNL. “We want to give back something to society by embracing purpose-led thinking. We all need to work together to find new ways to make our lives a little bit better.”


The State of the Connected Customer

Insights from 15,000+ global consumers and business buyers on a new era of customer engagement.