What is the role of Courier, Express, and Postal services in E-Commerce?

  • icking up parcels and letters from senders: (r)etailers, fulfillment centres, offices, individuals, etc.

  • Bringing items to distribution hubs and parcel sortation centres

  • Sorting and preparing parcel and mail for further delivery

  • Distributing items to delivery centres and local depots for ‘last mile’ delivery, or delivering items directly to recipients (businesses, individuals, etc.)

  • Handling returns, which includes all of the above in reverse order

The explosive growth of e-commerce has drastically changed the CEP industry in several ways:

  • Postal services have had to reconfigure their businesses from mostly handling traditional letter mail to cover parcel delivery as well

  • Some couriers, whose primary focus used to be same-day document delivery, have extended their area of business to delivering small parcels

  • With 48-hours delivery becoming the norm, express services are becoming more common

  • With more players in global e-commerce and distribution, competition is fierce, and consumers are increasingly expecting faster and cheaper – even free – delivery


How does a distribution hub work?

At the centre of CEP operations is the distribution hub, where shipments are received, processed, and sorted for further distribution. Here are just a few of the tasks performed at distribution hubs:

Each of these operations can be automated to varying extents. Some distribution hubs rely heavily on manual labour, while other hubs have in place what’s close to “lights out” sortation where parcels are handled completely automatically from the moment they arrive at the centre to they are loaded onto vehicles for delivery. This is called door-to-door automation.

Major e-commerce challenges for CEP providers

With practically any item you can think of being available for purchase and delivery, CEP operators need to handle a wide range of challenges at sortation centers.

1. Predicting incoming parcel flow to plan sortation operations

The rapid developments in global e-commerce make it increasingly difficult for parcel distributors to use historical data for projecting which types and sizes of parcels will arrive at the doorstep. At the same time, the emergence of more global e-tailers with different standards for how to package goods drastically changes the overall composition of items being shipped worldwide.

2. Handling irregular items

Handling shipments at distribution centres used to be somewhat simpler. To a large extent, parcels were parcels, letters were letters, and items that would fall in between the two categories, so-called “rest mail”, were occurring at a manageable frequency. Now, with more packages to process than ever before, conventional distinctions between parcel and letter are being challenged, and especially tiny parcels have distributors working at capacity limits.

3. Dealing with ‘no-read’ and unsolvable parcels

Poor data exchange between CEP operators and the emergence of home-printed labels are giving rise to processing issues. More specifically, unsolvable or no-read parcels are caused by various issues, including: 1) parcels not having a barcode or label at all, 2) the barcode is damaged or otherwise unreadable, 3) the barcode’s data structure is not compliant, or 4) the barcode does not contain data for further processing. Unsolvable parcels is a major headache as they require additional manning and facilities.

4. Accommodating for peak seasons

E-commerce shopping trends are highly seasonal, and the global emergence of shopping holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Singles’ Day, is challenging capacity planning at parcel distribution centres. While a major business opportunity for CEP providers, without proper planning, peak seasons put operations at risk. Operators must find the balance of planning for fluctuating demand without wasting money on overcapacity.

5. Ensuring a safe and healthy work environment

With day-to-day delivery becoming the industry standard, CEP providers are under increasing pressure to distribute faster. Automation enables high-speed sortation, but for human operators to interact safely and efficiently with automated systems, they need smartly designed workplaces. Ergonomics can help optimise operations, e.g. better parcel handling, while limiting work hazards, like heavy lifting, repeated movement, and unnatural working positions.


5 things to consider for your automated sortation system

Sortation is the beating heart of modern Courier, Express and Parcel (CEP) operations. As such, choosing the right solution for automated sortation at your distribution centre is a major business decision. With potentially hundreds of possible sortation designs, it’s an acquisition that requires careful consideration in terms of both capacity, performance, and specialisation. At the same time, emerging trends and new international players in global e-commerce make it increasingly difficult to know which is the right solution now and in the long run. 


The eTower Customer Service team proactively monitors every item sent. If there is a problem, we are here to notify you and help you resolve it.

All our services offer free end-to-end tracking, free notification emails and an optional POD (Proof of Delivery). Your account comes with a bespoke tracking page showing real-time and up-to-date tracking details for all your shipments, regardless of the carrier chosen.

Our IT team keeps things running smoothly and ensures our systems are up to date. If problems arise, they're on hand to help and guide you through any technical issues.

No matter what your level of computer skills, we can help. Everything is set up and created as efficiently and hassle-free as possible. With eTower, you can be sure you're getting the best service and care at the best price, allowing you to take care of your business yourself.



Whether you're an eCommerce start-up, established online merchant, wholesaler or leading multi-channel retailer, eTower's wide range of parcel delivery services from its carrier partners, combined with its order management system integration, has helped it become the nation's leading provider of favourite eCommerce parcel delivery services for high-volume shippers.

With cheaper shipping rates and free software, eTower takes the cost and hassle out of sending parcels. eTower delivers over 6 million parcels a year on behalf of hundreds of e-commerce businesses and wholesalers, making it the most cost-effective parcel shipping solution for small online merchants and large multi-channel brands.


That's why your online business should leverage eTower:.

 SMBs and large e-commerce retailers can save up to 80% on parcel delivery costs with eTower

eTower customers distribute over 500,000 parcels per month, benefiting from a 'combined volume' discount rate

Different services for different sized items, saving you extra pence and pounds

Free daily pick-up/collection

Customer service team based in Shanghai, China and proactive SMART notifications

Free installation and maintenance

Seamless integration with your website, e-commerce platform, warehouse management system (WMS), eBay and/or Amazon account

Full end-to-end tracking and POD options for all services

Flexibility to utilise eTower's carrier partners and/or maintain your existing carrier contracts


What makes our prices go down?

 Over 500,000 parcels sent each month through carefully selected carrier partners

Smaller, lighter items at reduced prices

Best cost routes from a wide range of UK and international carriers

Organised and efficient processes and systems

In-house customer service and software development teams

For over a decade, eTower has built strong relationships with carriers and e-commerce platforms in the industry


Using our integrations and extensions saves significant time by speeding up

creating labels

Entering and tracking orders

Sending confirmation emails

Monitoring shipments

Update order status and tracking numbers

Order picking sheets


All our services offer free end-to-end tracking, free notification emails and optional POD (Proof of Delivery). Your account comes with a bespoke tracking page showing real-time and up-to-date tracking details for all your shipments, regardless of the carrier chosen.

Our IT team keeps things running smoothly and ensures our systems are up to date. If problems arise, they're on hand to help and guide you through any technical issues.

No matter what your level of computer skills, we can help. Everything is set up and created as efficiently and hassle-free as possible. With eTower, you can be sure you're getting the best service and care at the best price, allowing you to look after your business yourself.


Distributing over 6 million parcels a year on behalf of hundreds of merchants, eTower is a flexible and scalable e-commerce shipping solution that integrates seamlessly with your order management system. Technology provides bespoke multi-carrier shipping and e-commerce customer service solutions for hundreds of SMEs, multi-channel retailers, wholesalers and global brands.


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