As the demand for online shopping continues to accelerate, so do customer expectations. Customers want to receive their order on the day they expect it, making delivery a critical element of the total e-commerce experience.

But delivering on this expectation can be challenging, especially when the recipient lives in an apartment building, condominium or university housing. Many customers aren’t home during the day and their packages are simply left in the lobby for pick up. To avoid this situation, many recipients have their packages delivered to their workplace, creating issues for their employers.

Parcel lockers are a safe and effective solution for apartment and condominium managers, universities, corporations and retailers who face these challenges.

What Are Parcel Lockers?

Parcel lockers are an automated electronic “click and collect” system that securely stores packages for easy consumer retrieval. They can take the customer experience to the next level, while at the same time reducing the potential risk for theft, lost packages and re-delivery attempts.

Automated parcel lockers provide an easy, three-step process to package retrieval:

1. Package is delivered and placed into the parcel locker. Recipient receives a notification of delivery by email or SMS.

2. Recipient enters a one-time PIN code at the locker station.

3. Door opens for package retrieval.

Returning a package is just as easy:

1. Recipient places the return label on the package.

2. The label is scanned at the locker station.

3. Locker door opens and customer places the package inside.

Benefits of Parcel Lockers

Automated parcel lockers provide many benefits including:

· Convenient, 24/7 access to parcel pick up.

· Total security for package delivery and reduced risk of lost packages.

· Complete tracking and accountability for shippers, with a log of every package drop-off and pick-up – 100% chain of custody.

· Electronic log record eliminates the need for required signatures

· Consumers can select either email or text notification to receive their locker passcode.

· Reduced labor costs with fewer internal resources required for parcel management, distribution and pick-up. Labor savings can justify the cost of the system.

A Win-Win for Building Managers and Consumers

According to recent studies conducted by Forrester Research Inc., U.S. online retail sales are expected to increase from $334 billion in 2015 to nearly $500 billion by 2019. Just think of what that means in terms of the number of parcels that will need to be shipped, delivered and picked up by the customer. And think of the impact that will have on building managers, corporations and retailers.

While more and more consumers love shopping online, many apartment managers and condominium associations are struggling with the growing number of packages being delivered to their door. Packages must be signed for and then delivered to the resident, or the resident must be notified that a package is there for pick up. Building owners also need more space for sorting packages and storing them until they are picked up. All of this adds time and money, particularly in labor costs.

University housing managers face these same challenges, but typically don’t have the flexibility to deliver packages to each student apartment. Students come to a central lobby or mail room to get their packages. During peak delivery periods such as move-in and exam weeks, students must often wait in long lines to pick-up their packages from home.

As increasing numbers of shoppers choose to ship purchases to their place of work, companies are also challenged with handling increased volumes. Many mail-rooms deliver packages to the employee’s desk or workstation. Higher volumes mean more time, and more cost, for sorting and delivering packages that aren’t even related to the business itself.

Retailers who install parcel lockers adjacent to or within a brick and mortar store cannot only benefit from enabling customers to pick up their e-commerce deliveries on their own schedule, but also from increased foot traffic as customers go into the store to make additional purchases.

One of the biggest benefits of parcel lockers is the total customer experience. Consumers can pick up their packages whenever it is convenient for them, without needing to worry about possible theft. Building owners and companies who make this possible are providing a valuable service that is much appreciated by their residents and employees.

Configuration and Features

Parcel lockers can be configured for each installation, with a variety of locker sizes available. These can range from just 3.5 X 24 inches for a small locker to 29 X 24 inches for an extra-large size.

Other features can include an industrial touch screen, camera, uninterruptible power supply, barcode reader, badge reader and tamper detection with an alarm and notification system. Optional technology includes video area monitoring and surveillance, a receipt printer, siren, label printer and payment module.

In summary, automated parcel lockers enhance the customer experience with a secure and convenient solution for package deliveries.

Mark Aument is Senior Vice President of ProShip Inc., a Neopost company that is a global supplier of enterprise-wide shipping and manifesting software solutions installed at customer sites around the world.