UPU’s eCom API provides a cutting-edge IT solution to facilitate e-commerce

The UPU’s Doha Postal Strategy (2013-2016) and Istanbul Postal Strategy (2017-2020) have mandated the UPU to support the development of global e-commerce through its postal network.

The UPU encourages its member countries to participate in its different projects enhancing their driving role in inclusive e-commerce.

With this in mind, the Postal Technology Centre (PTC), the UPU’s cutting-edge technical arm, has been offering innovative Cloud services, as well as a large choice of logistics and payment-related solutions, to Posts. Examples include the International Postal System (IPS), the Customs Declaration System (CDS), the Domestic Postal System (DPS), and the International Financial System (IFS). In order to provide postal operators with easier access to this software and more flexible integration options, the PTC has created the eCom API, a package of application programming interfaces (APIs) that serves to build a comprehensive e-commerce solution.
How it works
“The eCom API can be helpful anywhere there is potential for e-commerce cooperation between two countries, involving their Posts and a merchant platform located in the country of origin,” says David Avsec, UPU’s Account Relations and Product Management Coordinator.

The solution ensures standard interfaces for the Posts’ and their commercial partners’ merchant virtual market places (VMPs) to automate order, payment, shipment, customs clearance, and delivery processes.

Currently a proof of concept, this solution offers a full online purchase and delivery scenario through the Post.

“Assuming a merchant platform or the Post can calculate all costs related to a postal item, such as its value, shipment, import duties, and handling, we can activate the corresponding payment with the eCom API,” explains Avsec.

“Therefore, the eCom API represents a ‘plumbing’ mechanism to link a VMP, powered by the Post or an e-commerce company, and the logistics and financial services offered by the Post.”
The primary advantage of the eCom API is the easy technical integration between the IT systems of the Post, its e-commerce partner company, and the relevant UPU IT product. The solution provides for reduced deployment costs of these systems, harmonized compliance with the UPU’s regulatory and security requirements, and safe access to the UPU’s IT tools.

Moreover, its minimum set of APIs supports all business operations required for successful online purchases through a virtual marketplace, as well as delivery to the customer. The eCom API provides accurate, real-time information about the quality of service of a postal item. Its numerous functions also include track and trace.

Finally, with the help of the eCom API, the Post can quickly enrich its services portfolio for its customers.
Technical principles
With the eCom API, Posts can choose to integrate their e-commerce solutions based on a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. In this case, Posts do not purchase and install the solutions locally. They simply subscribe to the UPU’s software powering the API, which the UPU hosts on its postal Cloud.

Posts can also host the solutions themselves. For example, if the operator decides to host IPS locally, then it would also need to host the eCom API using IPS in the background.

It is also possible to mix both integration models, offering total flexibility to Posts. Moreover, the operators can always extend the existing functions of their eCom API by adding new services and data sources to it.

The eCom API follows the same deployment process as any other UPU product developed by the PTC. The UPU offers its rich expertise to its member countries and their external partners, helping them successfully connect their platforms to the eCom API and providing consultation on any issues.

“Further development of the eCom API is of the utmost importance for the PTC. Our primary goal is to continue enriching its current functions,” says Avsec.

“In the future, we would like the eCom API to encapsulate third party services to complement a varied spectrum of capabilities the UPU offers through its software. Therefore, whenever there is an opportunity to speak about this innovative solution, at forums or workgroup meetings, we try to engage everyone to test it and thus to contribute to its future advancement,” he adds.
Success story
The first and the most advanced user of the eCom API is Tunisia’s La Poste Tunisienne. Tunisia was the first country to come on board Ecom@Africa, the UPU’s initiative to facilitate the enhancement of e-commerce through African Posts and help them revive their business as they face declining letter-mail volumes and traditional postal services.

“Barriers to e-commerce in Africa are many and varied. We need one platform that can address all the challenges comprehensively. Ecom@Africa powered by the Post is the solution,” said UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein at the Fifth Extraordinary Session of the Pan African Postal Union (PAPU) in Antananarivo, Madagascar, in July 2018.

In March 2017, Tunisia organized an Ecom@Africa onsite assessment, followed by signing a cooperation agreement with the UPU in July. The UPU has recommended that Tunisia Post install the Customs Declaration System and upgrade its IT tools. For this purpose, the operator is deploying the eCom API, thus giving local micro, small and medium-sized enterprises easier access to international markets through the Post.