Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canada Post's digital service snags major clients

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IN the last two months, Canada Post's digital mail service, called Epost, has gained a sizable number of new Winnipeg subscribers.

That's because the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is now distributing its fortnightly pay stubs to all of its 12,000 employees via Canada Post's digital platform.

The WRHA Epost service began May 3 and about 70 per cent of employees have already signed up, which is considered a strong early uptake on the service on the part of Canada Post.

Those who haven't yet signed up will receive their pay stubs through the mail until they do.

Those Winnipeg health-care workers are part of massive group -- numbering 7.5 million -- who subscribe to Canada Post's free online service.

For the WRHA, the move to digital pay stubs was about efficiency, reliability and environmental consideration.

For Canada Post, it is no less than the difference between sustainability and a significant decline in business.

As letter traffic slows down dramatically, Canada Post's digital service is being developed to replace some of the lost revenue from its legacy business.

"The way we think about it is that Canada Post delivers flyers, magazine subscriptions and bills to physical mailboxes," said Daria Hopej, a spokeswoman for Canada Post Corp. "Now with Epost we are well-positioned to continue to deliver to Canadians' digital mailboxes."

The pay-stub delivery service for a large employer such as the WRHA is a way for Canada Post to attract more people to the platform that is designed to be used as a bill-paying clearinghouse.

So far, Canada Post's Epost hosts more than 100 companies and institutions that regularly mail bills to consumers representing 250 different documents. The site can also be used to view more than 5,500 magazine titles (if you already have a subscription, that is).

(For a complete list of the "mailers" available on Epost visit http://www.canadapost.ca/cpo/mc/personal/epost/tour/find_mailers.jsf .)

Operating behind the highly secure firewall of the Big Five banks, Epost can operate like a one-stop bill-payment management site.

"Canada Post is pushing the digital envelope and we believe that we can play a role in the digital economy," Hopej said.

Physical mail is still Canada Post's core product and main source of revenue, but it is a product that is on the decline. In the past five years alone, letter mail has declined by about 20 per cent per address and international experts are suggesting this trend will continue. Within the next 10 years, postal administrations around the world are expecting to see only about 40 per cent of the letter mail traffic they currently handle.

On the other side of the coin, parcel business, at least some of which is being driven by the growing use of e-commerce and online shopping, is growing modestly. In 2011, Canada Post's parcel business represented $1.3 billion in revenues.

"Some experts are suggesting that e-commerce will double over the next five years," Hopej said. "We are investing to capitalize on the growing e-commerce business, which represent an unparalleled opportunity for us."

Among the value propositions Canada Post believes it can provide with Epost is transactions and communication through Epost are governed by Canadian law and are not subject to U.S. Homeland Security scrutiny, which could be the case using other popular free email services.

For an employer such as the WRHA -- including staff at Health Sciences Centre, community health services, the Pan Am Clinic, Manitoba E-Health and the corporate staff -- it means safety and security for the distribution of hundreds of thousands of personal, confidential documents every year.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

On the wane

-- Traditional letter mail has declined by 20 per cent per address in the last five years.

-- Canadians spend over 45 hours a month online.

-- Canada Post has 21 major mail processing plants,500 letter carrier depots and 30,000 street letter boxes.

-- The company reaches over 15 million addresses and has more than 6,500 retail offices (that's more than the number of Tim Hortons in Canada).

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2012 B4

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