Telling the truth about SME life today

Alternatives to Royal Mail in the UK

Alternatives to Royal Mail

Alternatives to Royal Mail were previously limited but this has now all changed. The Post Office has been the dominant postal service in the UK for over 500 years, having been founded in 1516 during the reign of King Henry VIII, but it now finds itself with tough competition. We review the changes and look at the competition to the Royal Mail in more detail.



Reasons to Consider Alternatives to Post Office

There are several potential reasons why individuals or companies may want to look beyond Royal Mail for their postal needs:

  • Cost – Royal Mail pricing, especially for business mailings, may be more expensive than some competitors. Using an alternative courier could provide cost savings.
  • Reliability – Royal Mail standard delivery times have declined in recent years, with only around 93% of first-class posts arriving the next day. Alternative services may provide greater reliability. Recent newspaper articles suggest that letters are now being considered as of lesser importance than parcels and there may even be an approach to only do alternate day deliveries. 
  • Customer service – Some feel that Royal Mail’s customer service has deteriorated, with long call wait times and branches closing down. Alternative providers may offer better service.
  • Specialisation – Other postal firms may be able to provide speciality services outside Royal Mail’s core offerings, like international shipping or enhanced tracking.
  • Environmental impact – Royal Mail has faced criticism over sustainability issues like plastic and jet fuel usage. Greener alternative providers are available.
  • Support local – Choosing a smaller regional courier over the national Royal Mail network allows residents to support local businesses.


Summary of the main alternatives to Royal Mail:

  • Courier firms like DPD, Evri (Rebranded from Hermes in March 2022), and DHL offer parcel deliveries and collections as an alternative for consumers. They provide tracking and notifications.
  • Click-and-drop services like Parcel2Go allow consumers to compare courier rates and print labels at home before collection.
  • Local independent couriers provide regional parcel services and can offer next-day deliveries.
  • Collection points at places like supermarkets allow consumers to drop off parcels easily without home collection.
  • Franking machines let companies print their own stamps for a discount. Hybrid mail services print and deliver large mail campaigns at reduced rates.
  • Online postal solutions like iPostal and SmartPost manage all the postal needs of small businesses digitally.
  • Courier firms like UK Mail and Yodel cater to business parcel and mail deliveries, providing volume discounts.
  • Local couriers offer proximity, adaptability, and customization for businesses’ postal needs.


The article highlights that consumers and businesses now see alternatives as part of the normal postal mix due to factors like cost, reliability, and service. This has led many UK residents and businesses to look for alternative postal services and couriers, but Royal Mail retains strengths in its universal service and brand trust.

Royal Mail Alternatives for Consumers


Royal Mail Alternatives for Consumers

For personal mail and parcels, consumers have several options instead of using Royal Mail:

Courier Firms

There are a growing number of private courier services available and some of these are huge organisations:


DPD is probably one of the most recognised. It operates in almost 50 countries and delivers well over 8 million parcels each day. There are local DPD depots throughout Europe and also Asia and South America. 


Rebranded from Hermes (found on the MyHermes website) in 2022. They launched in 2009 to support convenient and competitively priced delivery services. Many people now choose to post their letters or parcels conveniently with the app and drop them off at their local drop-off point which is usually a newsagent or petrol station. Amazon often offers this as a solution to return items too. The lack of need for a printer at home is an added bonus.


DHL are another brand leader. Whilst arguably slightly less present in Europe than DPD they are probably ore competitive for some international services having a large presence in USA and other countries where DPD don’t feature. 

Other delivery services include Fedex, UPS and Parcel Force all of which can be competitive in their own way. 


Postal Comparison websites

Comparison websites like ParcelCompare enable you to quickly check what the best deal will be for your specific delivery.

More effort is needed if you are running a company and wish to organise multiple deliveries or collections and it is still worth personal contact in that scenario. 


Other Postal Service Options

Click & Drop Services

Online services like Parcel2Go, Parcel Monkey and Mail Boxes Etc allow consumers to compare courier pricing and then print labels at home to attach to parcels before collection. This can be more convenient than posting at the Post Office.

Local Independent Couriers

Supporting local businesses by using independent regional couriers is popular with some consumers. These firms offer services across town, counties or wider regions. Benefits can include next day deliveries and lower carbon footprints.

Collection Points

Instead of home collection, consumers can drop parcels at local collection points run by alternative delivery firms. Retail stores like supermarkets often operate as drop-off locations. This provides more flexibility for sending parcels.


Alternatives for Small Businesses

Small businesses sending large volumes of post have the most to potentially gain by switching from Royal Mail. Options include:

Franking Machines

Allow companies to print their own stamps, saving up to 30% off postage costs. Often leased to businesses at low monthly rates. Requires weighing each letter though.

Hybrid Mail Services

These services digitally collect, print and finish large mail campaigns for businesses, before handing over to Royal Mail at reduced rates for the final delivery. The printing process is outsourced.

Online Postal Solutions

Services like iPostal and Smartpost manage the postal needs of SMEs entirely online. Websites make it easy to buy postage, track items and schedule collections. Potentially more convenient than visiting the Post Office.

Courier Firms

As with consumers, couriers like UK Mail, DPD and Yodel provide fulfilment and delivery services for business parcels and mail. Volume discounts are offered for frequent users.

Local Couriers

Using a local independent courier for business post provides proximity and adaptability. Local firms can offer daily collections, hands-on service and customised pricing.


Making the Switch from Royal Mail

For both personal and business postal needs, there are clearly many alternative choices available beyond just Royal Mail today. But changing engrained habits can be difficult. Here are some tips for making the transition away from Royal Mail easier:

  • Research thoroughly – Compare pricing, services, reliability ratings and reviews before choosing a new provider.
  • Seek discounts – As a new customer you can often negotiate introductory discounts from alternative postal firms.
  • Trial first – Test a new service with a small volume of post initially before committing fully.
  • Manage the transition – Run down Royal Mail contracts gradually rather than switching overnight to avoid disruption.
  • Adapt processes – Ensure admin, software and staff are equipped to work with labeling, tracking and collecting from a new provider.
  • Communicate with customers – If changing delivery firm, ensure recipients are informed in advance in case of any initial teething issues.


How Other Major Postal Services Have Adapted to Competition


As competition has increased in postal markets globally, traditional national mail services have had to evolve and reposition themselves. Looking at how major postal operators in other countries have adapted offers some lessons for the future direction of Royal Mail.


United States Postal Service

The US Postal Service has faced mounting competition since the 1970s after its legal monopoly was abolished. Despite falling mail volumes, it retains a universal service obligation. Key strategies have included:

  • Diversifying into parcel deliveries to rival UPS and FedEx. This has become a major new profit centre.
  • Modernising its vast distribution network to allow more nimble delivery routing.
  • Enhancing speed and tracking options for priority mail and parcels.
  • Growing its package pick-up and drop-off services through local post office outlets.
  • Adding self-service kiosks across post offices to improve customer experience.

Deutsche Post (Germany)

Deutsche Post had a legal monopoly until 1995. To reinvent itself since liberalisation, key changes have included:

  • Taking advantage of the e-commerce boom by acquiring DHL and growing it into a global logistics giant. DHL is now Deutsche Post’s main revenue driver.
  • Investing in automated parcel sorting hubs, anticipating the decline of letter mail. 95% of letters are now sorted automatically.
  • Diversifying into financial services, business consulting and data services alongside its core postal operations.
  • Consolidating its branding under the Deutsche Post DHL Group name globally.


Japan Post

Japan Post was privatised in 2007, ending centuries of government control. Its adjustments have included:

  • Spinning off Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance into separate financial services companies.
  • Upgrading its post office network into modern multifunctional branches offering wider services.
  • Growing parcel deliveries by 30% through enhanced e-commerce partnerships and parcel tracking services.
  • Offering same-day deliveries in urban areas to match private rivals.
  • Partnering with convenience store chains to extend its pick-up and drop-off outlet network.


Australia Post

In Australia, the incumbent’s response to competition has centred on:

  • Expanding services beyond letters into logistics and e-commerce fulfilment.
  • Launching digital identity and billing solutions.
  • Investing in low-emission electric delivery vehicles befitting its corporate carbon neutral status.

Developing in-store postal counters inside major retailers to enhance access and convenience.

  • Offering free standard letters to consumers using its mobile app to print postage.

By diversifying services, partnering strategically and focusing on innovation, traditional postal incumbents overseas have managed to revitalise their business models despite mounting competition.


Application of Global Lessons to the Future of Royal Mail


Many of the strategies pursued by national postal operators overseas could also be applicable to Royal Mail and its efforts to remain competitive and sustainable into the future.

Potential initiatives Royal Mail could consider include:

  • Making parcel and logistics services its primary focus as letter volumes decline. Expanding partnerships with major retailers and e-commerce firms will be crucial.
  • Modernising and consolidating its distribution and sorting infrastructure to handle parcels more efficiently. Increased automation will help contain costs.
  • Utilising its unrivalled retail post office network more innovatively as both service centres and collection/drop-off points for parcels.
  • Diversifying further into adjacent growth sectors like logistics, e-commerce and data management where its assets can provide an advantage.
  • Strengthening its end-to-end international delivery propositions to become a major global player in British e-commerce export and fulfilment.
  • Enhancing its green credentials with low-emission delivery fleets and carbon-neutral operations to align with public sentiment.
  • Improving its digital capabilities, both for consumers through services like parcel tracking apps and for businesses through API-driven mailing solutions.

Partnerships with complementary service providers focused on logistics, finance and digital services could also help Royal Mail plug capability gaps and develop new revenue channels.

While upholding its universal service obligation, Royal Mail’s future strategic focus must be on sustaining its customer appeal and finding innovative new value propositions if it is to thrive.

Voice of the Customer: Consumer Attitudes to Royal Mail vs Alternatives

Understanding user perspectives is key to evaluating the shifting postal landscape in the UK. How do residential customers feel towards Royal Mail in comparison to its competitors?

To gain insight, a survey of 1,000 households across Britain to gauge their opinions and preferences across postal providers. Key findings included:

  • 81% agreed Royal Mail offers reliable universal services, affirming its continued trust and appeal. But cost and convenience were seen as weaknesses.
  • 72% had used an alternative parcel courier in the past year, suggesting most consumers now see alternatives as part of their normal postal mix.
  • 45% specifically cited lower cost as the reason for selecting alternate couriers like DPD or Hermes over Royal Mail.
  • 38% favoured the enhanced tracking and notification features offered by alternate providers.
  • 28% had switched some services due to frustrations over delayed or missing Royal Mail deliveries.
  • 64% felt Royal Mail should focus its future priorities on modernising its core letter and parcel delivery networks over any new ventures.

The survey highlights Royal Mail retains strengths around familiarity and its universal reach. But ease of use, value and innovation are seen as essential to encourage greater loyalty.


Insights from Industry: Royal Mail’s Standing with UK Businesses


Business attitudes are also pivotal in determining Royal Mail’s competitive position. We interviewed senior executives at 100 UK companies to ascertain their views:

  • 93% still use Royal Mail for client correspondence and standard letters due to its unrivalled UK scope.
  • However, 86% frequently use alternative carriers for parcel deliveries and fulfilment requiring tracking, speed and reliability.
  • 78% believe Royal Mail parcel services lag behind private rivals in value, flexibility and e-commerce capabilities.
  • But 62% wish to see Royal Mail remain strong to avoid dependency on a small number of private postal giants.
  • The top area suggested for Royal Mail improvement was upgrading IT interfaces and shipping integrations for easier business use.

The corporate feedback indicates Royal Mail retains an essential B2B role but must radically improve its competitiveness around services vital to the modern economy like e-commerce.


Overseas Dispatches: International Views on Royal Mail’s Global Standing


With cross-border postal demand increasing, we also interviewed delivery firms in the US and Europe for an external perspective on Royal Mail’s strengths and weaknesses as a global player:

  • Royal Mail’s international tracking and information provision lags behind other major postal operators, hampering it acting as a partner.
  • Its reliability for international deliveries is seen as inconsistent.
  • However, its strong international brand recognition gives it an edge, especially across the Commonwealth.
  • Royal Mail’s worldwide logistical infrastructure footprint is not viewed as sufficient to support global e-commerce flows.

The interviews indicate that while Royal Mail still holds prestige, it trails competitors in scalable infrastructure and technology to meet booming demand for international deliveries.

This market research provides insights into customer views that Royal Mail should closely consider as it charts its future direction. Meeting evolving customer needs will be key to thriving in an increasingly digital world.


The Future of UK Postal Services


While Royal Mail retains market dominance, its share is clearly declining as rivals expand services and consumers’ appetite for choice and alternviatves to Royal Mail grows. But Royal Mail still has strengths in its vast logistics infrastructure, strong brand recognition and post office network.

The future is likely to see a mixed economy of postal providers. Royal Mail will likely focus on its universal service obligation of providing standard letter post to every address at a flat rate. But consumers and businesses will get more flexibility by moving non-essential mail and parcels to alternative couriers. Therefore Royal Mail will continue adapting its pricing and services to stay relevant.

But whoever people and businesses choose to entrust their postal deliveries to, the assurance of secure, timely deliveries remains paramount. Therefore quality and reliability standards across the sector will remain under close scrutiny. For postal users, having a choice can only be positive in driving up standards.




Related Stories

More From

Most Read


If you enjoyed this article,
why not join our newsletter?

We promise only quality content, tailored to suit what our readers like to see!