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Qatar’s state postal service has launched a new service that will allow shoppers to buy items online and get them delivered directly to their homes or to a “smart locker.”

Announcing the new “Connected by Qatar Post” service, the organization also said it is planning doorstep drone delivery for some packages.

The shop and ship service is similar to Dubai-based Aramex, though appears to be considerably more expensive.

The first phase of the new drone service should start in three months, QNA reported.

During a signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Transport and Communications yesterday, Q-Post‘s chairman and managing director Faleh Al-Naemi said a second phase will be rolled out by October.

However, no details were provided about either phase. In a statement, Al-Naemi said:

“Such a program will help us reach out to all our people and revolutionize the way we serve Qatar with faster, environmental-friendly and reliable delivery services.”

What’s offered

The new, home-grown e-commerce service was first mentioned by Al -Naemi last October and at that time had been called “Ship 2-Q”.

Under the new system, customers can rent postal addresses, initially in the UK and USA, and buy items online that can be sent to these locations.

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Tim Reckmann/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Packages will then get forwarded on to them in Qatar – either directly to their homes, to one of 30 post office branches in the country or to a smart locker.

These lockers will be in locations across the country, and will be open round-the-clock, Al-Naemi said.

Q-Post has not given updated details of the lockers’ locations, but Al Naemi previously said they would be in shopping malls, residential neighborhoods and university campuses.

How it works

The new service should make it easier for residents to shop online and get goods delivered to Qatar – particularly from outlets that don’t ship to this country.

Q-Post will be competing with Aramex, which offers private shop-and-ship facilities, though customers usually have to collect their parcels from an Aramex outlet.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Public.Resource.Org/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Shoppers can sign-up to Q-post’s new system online, which will give them a mailing address in the US or UK.

Addresses in Japan and China will follow “soon,” Q-Post said on the website of the new service.

With lifetime membership, shoppers can buy goods online using the overseas address as a shipping location.

The items can be stored in a warehouse for up to 21 days, allowing shoppers to bundle together a number of parcels to minimize shipping costs.

Q-Post said it aims to get parcels delivered “within five to eight working days” and has an online tracking system.

Parcels can be up to 1.5m in length and the maximum length plus girth cannot be more than 3m.

Shipping costs

Q-Post has a different fee structure from Aramex, though both charge an initial “lifetime” membership fee.

However, according to the Peninsula, Q-Post will waive its QR99 fee (Aramex costs QR164) and also give 30 percent off on the base charge for a customer’s first shipment.

According to Q-post’s website, delivery charges will be based on the weight of the package.

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Mark/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

There’s a minimum charge of QR129.60 for the first item up to 500g, plus an additional fee of QR4.6 per 100g thereafter, for goods shipped from the US.

Items from the UK cost QR133.25 for the first package plus QR2.9 per extra 100g.

Q-Post’s basic fee for a parcel up to half-a-kilo is around three times the price of that charged by private rival Aramex (QR43 plus a QR10 inspection fee).

A 2kg parcel posted from the UK to Qatar would cost QR158 with Aramex, but QR176.75 with the new Q-Post system.

But the fee structure for heavier packages is different, with Q-Post charging per 100g while Aramex bases its costs in 500g increments.

And with Q-Post there is no base-rate charge for second and subsequent packages, which are charged according to the total weight of the delivery – making it cheaper for customers to bundle multiple parcels together in one consignment.

E-commerce

Al-Naemi has previously said that Q-Post would play a central role in the country’s expanding e-commerce market, which is expected to grow to US$2.2 billion by 2019, up from $1.2 billion last year.

The launch of the new service comes amid a broader e-commerce strategy in Qatar to introduce more competition, which would lower prices and improve service.

Despite the sector’s rapid growth, only 14 percent of Qatar’s residents shop online compared to a regional average of 27 percent, according to ictQatar.

Would you use the new service? Thoughts?

Note: This article has been corrected to state the actual costs of a 2kg shipment from the UK to Qatar.

Q-Post to give PO Boxes to 5,000 more Qatar residents

In what would appear to be a new stage in a long-promised roll-out of Qatar’s home delivery mail system, Qatar Postal Services Co. (Q-Post) has agreed to serve 5,000 residents in some residential developments in Ain Khalid, Mushaireb, West Bay, Al Waab, Al Rayyan and the Pearl-Qatar with their own PO boxes.

Q-Post signed a five-year deal with Al Asmakh Real Estate Development Co. for the service, although it does not say when this will service will start. Q-Post said in November it would start offering this service gradually on the Pearl.

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Public.Resource.Org/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar residents will soon be able to rent “virtual addresses” outside the country from the state-owned postal company, officials have said.

The new feature will make it easier for customers to shop from online portals such as Amazon that currently restrict deliveries to the Gulf state.

Q-Post is scheduled to start a pilot project by March 2016 called Ship 2-Q, which aims to overcome barriers to buying goods online from outside the country.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Mark/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The feature would compete with private shop-and-ship firms such as Dubai-based Aramex, said chairman and managing director Faleh Mohammed Al Naemi, who made the announcement at last week’s Qatar e-Commerce Forum.

He predicted Q-Post would play a central role in the country’s expanding e-commerce market, which is expected to grow to US$2.2 billion by 2019, up from $1.2 billion this year.

“Q-Post will work hard to fill all the gaps in Qatar’s market,” Al Naemi said.

While Amazon says the majority of items in its catalogue can be shipped to Qatar, some residents report being unable to purchase some popular products online.

An alternative used by many residents is Aramex’s Shop and Ship service, which gives customers their own delivery address in one of 15 foreign countries. Products purchased online are delivered to the foreign address, then forwarded to Qatar.

However, some customers have complained about Aramex’s rates and customer service over the years and hunted for alternatives such as Borderlinx, a service that partners with shipping firm DHL.

Aramex has also relocated several times in Qatar, and closed down a few of its more convenient locations in recent years. However, over the summer it opened a branch at the Gate Mall in West Bay, to the relief of those who found it difficult to access its main location in Abu Hamour.

Al Naemi did not elaborate on Q-Post’s planned rates or provide specific details on how Ship 2-Q would work, apart from saying that customers would be able to have addresses in the US, Europe and Asia.

His announcement comes amid a broader e-commerce strategy in Qatar to introduce more competition, which would lower prices and improve service.

Online shopping

Despite the sector’s rapid growth, only 14 percent of Qatar’s residents shop online compared to a regional average of 27 percent, according to ictQatar.

Rates are higher among wealthy foreigners and lower among Qataris and low-income expats, the government ministry added in a report distributed at last week’s forum, titled Qatar National E-Commerce Roadmap 2015.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Tim Reckmann/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Increasing e-commerce usage is seen as desirable because it gives consumers more flexibility and choice, while enabling businesses to more efficiently bring goods to customers.

The government wants to reduce some of the barriers to the sector’s growth, such as a preference for paying cash on delivery and the regulatory requirements for establishing an online business.

Officials are also taking a closer look at the logistics of how physical goods are delivered from an online business to a customer.

During the forum, Dr. Hessa Al-Jaber – Qatar’s minister of information and communications technology – said the government planned to end Q-Post’s monopoly on domestic parcel service to make it easier for local e-commerce entrepreneurs to serve their customers.

While Al Naemi made no mention of this regulatory change, he highlighted several other planned initiatives.

Home addresses in Qatar

MOI/Twitter

Home addresses in Qatar

These include offering automated “e-locker” rentals in shopping malls, residential neighborhoods and academic campuses by March 2016, where residents can collect their deliveries at their convenience.

He also said Q-Post remains committed to introducing home delivery service, which was first announced more than two years ago.

Al Naemi said a pilot project is currently underway in Al Wakrah and that officials are analyzing the results.

He gave no timeline for the expansion of the service, but suggested that the slow adoption of the Qatar Area Referencing System project – under which every home and building in the country will eventually be identified by a unique blue address plate – was hindering its efforts.

IctQatar has uploaded a video of the entire e-commerce forum here:

Thoughts?