Electronic billing is not taking off nearly as fast as expected, says NZ Post.
The company started its eBill service in November 1999, but currently has only 7500 to 8000 individual users, says John Allen, head of Post’s enterprises group.
“We had anticipated seeing more users by this time than we have, but the level of growth is encouraging,” he says.
Despite the collapse of NZ Post’s contract to manage South African Post, that company is still interested in acquiring the eBill technology, “as are several other postal administrations”, Allen says. However, NZ Post still has no firm sales of the software.
The eBill development was “ahead of the curve”, Allen suggests. “It was a strategic positioning exercise”, he says, so perhaps slow response from the customer base should have been expected.
The other prime reason for eBill’s disappointing performance, he suggests, is the high level of customer satisfaction with existing services — physical mail and the ability to pay bills over the counter at a PostShop.
Post is readying itself for the next phase of broadening electronic service, with a proposed acquisition of email marketer MessageMedia. This is currently 80% owned by eVentures and 20% by Post.
The positioning with this is much as with bill presentment, he says. NZ Post sees itself assisting businesses with their marketing through use of technology, as it currently assists companies and individuals with their bills.
If the takeover goes through, Post will keep MessageMedia as a separate subsidiary, Allen says. MessageMedia — originally owned by a US company of the same name — has always proclaimed itself a strictly “opt-in” marketer; customers have to consent to join a list, and are not spammed. This policy will not change under NZ Post ownership, Allen says.
The third arm of assisting business is in the physical distribution of goods, and in that role, Post earlier this month took a 25% share in Sydney-based supply-chain specialist the Dawson Group.
The electronic ventures come against a background of declining volumes of physical mail.