What is the future of parcel pick-up points?

June 5, 2018

Ordering online, and getting your stuff delivered to your front door. That’s the beauty of e-commerce right? But what if nobody is there to answer that door? This is where pick-up points come into play.

Even though home delivery is improving, with more and more delivery options becoming available, pick-up points have solidified their spot in the logistics landscape. Most come in the shape of local Mom and Pop stores that function as pick-up points on the side. Not so interesting. But more exciting stuff is right around the corner. Let’s take a look at the future of pick-up points:

Office lockers

Let’s start at the source. What is the reason pick-up points even exist? Right! We are all too busy working during day to receive our online orders at home. So, what’s the solution? Right again! Just send your parcel to your office. Everybody’s happy. Well, that is where things get tricky. A growing number of office buildings are now refusing personal deliveries, as front desks get overwhelmed with parcels.

This is where companies such as MyPup and Bringme jump to the rescue. Both focus on supplying offices with stylish parcel lockers, ready for employees to use. MyPup even offers to place ordered parcels into the lockers themselves, saving front-desk employees from all parcel processing duties. Will this be a standard sight in all future offices?


Campus lockers

Not working yet? No worries. At least not if you are studying at one of 30 American campuses. Retail giant Amazon is applying the same concept we see at Bringme and MyPup to campus locations across the US. The lockers are exclusively available to student members of Amazon’s delivery subscription service Prime. Amazon Prime Student is offered at $50, half the price of a regular Amazon Prime membership.

Why all this effort? Well, college students are a great audience for Amazon. Their busy lives and digital skills combined with the above-average need for books, electronics and fashionable clothes make them the perfect online shoppers.


Parcel towers

These parcel lockers are all well and good. But do we really want our offices and retail spaces to start resembling your local swimming pool changing room? If e-commerce keeps growing at its current pace, we’ll soon be running out of locker space.

Luckily, the Estonian firm Cleveron has a solution: parcel towers. Instead of taking up valuable horizontal floor space, the company takes a vertical approach. The towers hold up to 300 parcels on a 2,5 m2 floor space.

These are even better for the consumer: instead of having to walk to the right locker, the tower’s internal conveyor will bring your items right to you. Wow-factor guaranteed.

This combination of space-saving and state-of-the-art design was enough to convince even the largest retailer in the world to test the towers. Walmart initially placed 200 of the big boys, only to add 500 more in 2018.

And when a retail giant like Walmart is moving, more are sure to follow… First up is Walmart-owned British retailer Asda, who introduced the parcel tower to Europe in early 2018. Who’s next?


Social pick-up points

There is a hidden network of pick-up points all across your country: friendly neighbors that are at home when the majority of us aren’t. Old ladies, freelancers, students sleeping in – they are the secret power behind our convenience-driven economy. But for how long? Not all consumers are happy to act as their neigbourhood’s postal office.

Some, on the other hand, are more than happy to help others out. Meet the idea behind social pick-up networks such as Dutch Homerr and ViaTim. In return for a small fee consumers can open their ‘own pick-up point’, saving their busy neighbours a trip to the store. Via a smart app the pick-up point ‘owners’, as well as the online consumer who want to use the points, can plan suitable delivery windows. The result? No more missed deliveries! A win-win for all involved.

No wonder that major carriers are quick to catch on. Homerr already has partnerships with DHL, DPD and UPS in place, with more likely to follow soon. To help them expand, the company has just secured one million euros in funding. Exciting times!


Parcel lockers on wheels

Let’s close this list with the craziest idea: driving parcel lockers. Back in 2016 Google patented the idea of autonomous delivery vans, full of parcel lockers, driving around city neighbourhoods.

Google’s vehicle has to accommodate a number of lockers (based on the drawing 12 a side, so perhaps 24), which consumers can open themselves by means of an NFC chip or pin code. The receiver can even pay at the vehicle, which makes the vehicles de facto ‘self-driving shops’. Much of the technology for this concept was already on Google’s shelf, following their pioneering work in self-driving vehicles. In 2012, it also bought the start-up Bufferbox, which makes unmanned package lockers. Google pulled the plug from the locker concept in 2014, but who knows if it will be back?

At least Google is not alone with this vision. We saw a slightly more futuristic version of the concept at design agency IDEO, who envision a future of self-driving and (semi-transparant!) vehicles.


Conclusion

The future of pick-up points is looking bright. After a period of ‘under-the-radar’ growth, innovations such as parcel lockers and social pick-up points are now finally breaking into the mainstream. With growing concerns over the sustainability of (free) home delivery, this trend is likely to continue.

Want to know more about pick-up points?

Be sure to join DHL and Paazl on June 20th for a deep-dive into pick-up points for e-commerce:

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