Parcel lockers, which can be used to either receive or send a parcel, are among the several popular alternative solutions customers can select to manage their online shopping deliveries. For logistics companies, investment in parcel lockers can reduce costs in the logistics chain, increase delivery efficiency and generate new market opportunities.
The 2018 IPC cross-border e-commerce shopper survey looked into the delivery preferences and experiences of around 33,000 global consumers in 41 countries. 68% of consumers used delivery ‘at home’ in 2018, lower than in previous year. There were some large differences by country, notably:
- Delivery at home was the most commonly used delivery location at 68%, and ranged from 86% in the Netherlands to 30% in Russia.
- Delivery to a post office was the next most commonly used (23%), and was highest in Russia (74%), Iceland (62%) and Latvia (61%).
- A postal service point (16%) was most popular in the Nordic countries – Sweden (67%), Norway (67%), Finland (56%) and Denmark (45%).
- A courier’s parcel shop (13%) was most popular in France (46%), followed by Denmark (29%).
- A parcel locker station (10%) was most commonly used in Finland (40%), Denmark (36%), Latvia (35%) and China (32%).
When looking at the types of products bought cross-border, the three most popular categories - Clothing, footwear and apparel (31%), Consumer electronics 21%) and Health & beauty (17%) – would mostly fit in a parcel locker. However, the infrastructure and integration of logistics systems need to be improved to allow for a seamless cross-border delivery to a parcel locker.
Overall, only 12% of the respondents found using parcel locker delivery very convenient. This is lower than delivery to a post office, alternative address, office/workplace and home delivery. While delivery to a parcel locker ensures first time delivery success for the operator, a number of improvements need to be made, including a denser network and a carrier-agnostic approach, if consumers are to find this method more convenient in the future.
In this article, we present an updated overview of the parcel locker market development by market - highlighting key players, both postal operators and other entrants.
Carrier Agnostic approach
While some companies such as KEBA and InPost produce parcel lockers which can be used for deliveries from a specific carrier only, the carrier agnostic approach is increasingly prevalent in the parcel locker market with examples such as SwipBox and Pakpobox.
SwipBox already has parcel lockers in 60 countries - the lockers are mainly concentrated in larger networks in Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Finland and Australia. They are typically electric powered with a touchscreen and requiring a PIN code for access. A vast majority of them is carrier agnostic – which is one of the company’s main objectives along with creating the densest network of lockers available. SwipBox has just launched the new SwipBox Infinity parcel locker, which is a battery powered parcel locker that communicates via apps. This new parcel locker is now ready for the market and is currently running as a Pilot in Denmark under the brand, Nærboks.
Pakpobox, a parcel locker supplier in the Asia-Pacific region, has worked closely with seven postal organisations on building parcel locker networks – Singapore Post, Australia Post, Hong Kong Post, Pos Malaysia, Macau Post, Maldives Post and Cyprus Post. The latest step in its quest to create a carrier agnostic parcel network is the launch of Alfred, a smart delivery platform that integrates and manages multiple delivery companies at the same time. Alfred is designed to manage not only parcel delivery and returns, but also on-demand services such as grocery delivery or food delivery. Furthermore, Alfred can manage and integrate both lockers and PUDOs, and works with lockers supplied by Pakpobox or third parties.
Source: SwipBox, Parcel and Postal Technology International
Mobile parcel locker stations
The parcel locker stations (PLS) concept is still evolving. Ford will apparently be piloting a mobile delivery service in London, where electric vans act as mobile PLSs and drive to a specific location, from where several foot and bike carriers will deliver the last mile.
Amazon has received a patent for integrating PLSs within buses to make this type of delivery more accessible to its customers. Customers would meet the bus at a convenient stop, and pick up their items from a removable delivery module attached to the vehicle. It is also experimenting with smart locks, which may well be a solution for improving delivery to single family residences.
Google is another player that has been granted a patent for the development of a self-driving parcel delivery truck, which it has named the ‘autonomous delivery platform’.
Most of these ideas will require fine-tuning but one thing is clear: future customers will have more choice and more convenience should they be implemented. In the meantime, traditional lockers and PUDOs (including retailers’ click-and-collect options) will accommodate most of the out-of-home parcel volumes.
Parcel locker update by country
Australia Post launched their parcel locker system in 2014 together with MyPost Deliveries, a service that gives customers choice over exactly where their parcels get delivered. By registering for MyPost account, customers can choose their closest or most convenient delivery point, whether to their home, a post office close to work or a Parcel Locker, with the flexibility to change it every time they shop. Currently there are around 200 parcel locker stations provided in partnership with InPost – the details of the partnership are not public.
In 2017, bpost introduced Cubee - a branded Belgian parcel locker network open to all couriers. The Belgian postal group and Dutch partner De Buren have converted the former bpost-branded parcel locker network into an open, independent system. A parcel from any logistics partner can now be delivered to a Cubee parcel locker. All 150 existing bpost parcel lockers have been converted into Cubee parcel lockers and currently there are more than 250 such parcel locker terminals in Belgium and the Netherlands combined.
Source: bpost, CEP-Research, https://cubee.be/about-us/#1504708938545-41e5a635-7f51
In urban areas in China, Cainiao Network has developed neighbourhood delivery solutions with a combination of community and campus stations and residential self-pickup lockers, which they call Cainiao Post. These solutions have become an important complement to the last-mile delivery network of Cainiao’s express delivery partners in China. It also aims to have 100,000 self-pickup locker terminals in China within three years (by mid 2021).
Cainiao will continue to expand its Cainiao Post pick-up stations, jointly rolled out with express-delivery partners, to cut down last-mile delivery costs. Embedded within communities – with some located in schools and residential areas, while others are attached to convenience stores and convenience stores – the pick-up stations offer free storage and make package pick-up as easy as a click on the Guoguo app. Cainiao Post currently processes about 10% of packages generated by Taobao and Tmall sales. Cainiao plans to expand the pick-up station to 100,000 locations in three years.
At a recent summit, Cainiao showcased prototypes of new technologies it has been testing, including artificial intelligence-powered pick-up lockers that automatically shift their storage space based on the size of parcels thus accommodating up to 60% more parcels in the same space than previous pick-up locker units. Consumers can activate the service via entering a code or facial recognition, and have parcels brought straight to them, instead of needing to find and walk to the designated locker.
PostNord partners with SwipBox
Since March 2019, Denmark’s PostNord has been running a six-month pilot scheme in Kolding and Sonderborg in Denmark, with parcel locker provider SwipBox to test a new solution designed to improve convenience for customers. The pilot aims to evaluate 200 new, public parcel lockers located close to the homes of the receivers in a defined test area as a complement to home delivery, manned service points, and the existing regular parcel lockers.
In contrast, the Danish lockers, which are also being tested with PostNord, are battery operated and communicate via Bluetooth with an app on customers’ phones, sending push notifications to customers when a parcel is ready to collect. This means they don’t require electricity or an internet connection to work. Customers are sent an SMS that tells them to download an app to access their parcel and which can navigate them directly to their locker. Once there, the customer clicks on their parcel within the app, which then connects to the locker and opens the locker door – allowing them to retrieve their parcel. The lockers are carrier and postal agnostic, currently offering DHL and PostNord the possibility of delivering through them. SwipBox has plans to expand the network of Nærboks to 10,000 by end of 2020.
Finnish postal group Posti is investing in parcel lockers, a move driven primarily by a record-breaking e-commerce delivery orders, especially around the Christmas season.
Towards the end of 2018, the company installed its 1,000th parcel locker at Helsinki Central Railway Station, giving it virtually double the number (533) that it had available before Christmas 2017. And the network is due to be further increased to 1,500 lockers by the end of 2019.
Posti is not only expanding the parcel locker network, but also improving the underlying technology. This innovation is based on a new information system technology introduced in Posti's Turku sorting centre and transport terminals, which enables manual work to be digitalised. At the sorting stage, the system can tell whether locker space is available, and if necessary, direct the parcel straight to another pick-up point in the same area.
The nationwide project will be rolled out in stages, with the new parcel distribution system being introduced in central Turku from April onwards. There are 40 parcel lockers and 12 pick-up points in the municipality of Turku.
Le Groupe La Poste
The roll-out of the French Pickup Station lockers began in 2014, and at the end of 2015, 200 Pickup Stations were operational in France in busy areas of the five largest cities in France (Paris and the Paris region, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, etc.). New locations (tramway stations, post offices, universities, hospitals, large retail stores) are currently being tested. The self-service parcel terminals, supplied by Austrian firm KEBA, can handle 40-100 parcels/day.
Around 6,500 e-retailers in France now offer parcel delivery through Chronopost or Colissimo to a Pickup Station.
InPost France makes provision for the deployment of 900 'Abricolis' lockers at Leclerc's outlets. Leclerc has several e-Commerce sites including those for over-the-counter drugs, wine, sports gear, electronic appliances and spectacles.
InPost now have around 2,000 lockers in service nation-wide.
In France, self-service parcel terminals have been installed at various hypermarkets in recent months and the company plans to install 500 lockers across the country “very quickly”, including 64 at Auchan stores by the end of June 2019.
Since 2001, Deutsche Post DHL has installed around 3,700 parcel lockers (packstations) provided by the Austrian manufacturer, KEBA nation-wide. Packstations achieved national coverage by 2010 (approximately 90% of the German population is able to access a Packstation within ten minutes of their home). Since 2009, the number of large corporations locating packstations at their offices has grown, increasing accessibility and convenience for employees. Prior registration for receiving parcels at Packstations is required and includes membership in a loyalty programme.
When purchasing online, consumers insert the shipping address of their chosen Packstation. Upon delivery of the parcel at the locker, consumers receive an e-mail or an SMS notification. In order to retrieve parcels, consumers require their smart card (provided upon registration) and pin (sent with the notification).
Using parcel systems from KEBA, Deutsche Post DHL has also expanded in other countries with 250-300 lockers planned in retail stores in Finland and around 25 lockers in Vienna, Austria. At the same time, using the same system provider KEBA, Austria Post is developing its own parcel locker network.
Amazon is actively looking at introducing parcel lockers in Germany in competition to DHL’s Packstations in follow-up to their launch in the UK and France. Amazon is already testing lockers for staff at its offices and logistics centres across the country. Munich and Berlin, where the company now has its own delivery operations, could be the first two cities where the self-service parcel terminal would be trialled.
In May 2016, HongKong Post introduced its parcel locker systems in six locations, with three of them open 24/7. The lockers are applicable for the following mail types: Local Ordinary Mail (Packets only), International Ordinary Mail (Packets only), Local Parcel, International Parcel, Smart Post Mail Delivery Service (Packets only) and EMS.
Upon receipt of an SMS notification, the delivery is available for collection within four days. If not collected within this time period, it will be transferred to the nearby post office for counter collection.
Pakpobox are also working with Cainiao, the logistics platform owned by Alibaba – as the system integrator and the official partner to build its network in Hong Kong – and have a joint venture in Indonesia with Paxel, the first tech courier offering same-day delivery in the five main areas in Indonesia, using mobile only controlled lockers – there are no screens on the locker.
InPost is an independent postal services provider in Poland which offers secure electronic parcel services via its Paczkomaty facilities. Each parcel station has 76 locker boxes in three sizes, accessible 24/7. Users must register in order to access the parcel locker service. Consumers can select a Paczkomaty delivery from selected e-retailers with parcels ready for collection within 48 hours. SMS notification is provided including a delivery code, which together with the user’s mobile number is required for collection. Currently, there are 4,800 InPost parcel lockers in Poland.
In 2019, the national Polish postal operator, Poczta Polska, announced that it is collaborating with SwipBox, a Danish parcel locker and software operator. Poczta Polska will deliver parcels through the existing agnostic network that SwipBox has developed for the Polish market, which currently consists of more than 150 parcel lockers in Biedronka stores (supermarket chain) as well as additional parcel lockers in other locations.
In a pilot phase, SwipBox will make 200 parcel lockers available for Poczta Polska at attractive locations in Biedronka stores and post offices. Indoor parcel lockers will be accessible for customers during the venue’s business hours.
In Poland, SwipBox is responsible for the implementation of an agnostic network of parcel lockers, which will be offered to every logistics operator. Each element of the SwipBox solution is designed to minimise the operating cost of its business partners. The goal is to create solutions that substantially reduce the impact of the first and last courier mile on the environment. SwipBox parcel lockers are produced in Denmark.
Correos launched the ‘CityPaq’ parcel terminals in late 2014. In a pilot project with the Spanish rail operator Renfe, CityPaq self-service parcel lockers were installed in nine local stations in Barcelona and Madrid. The machines, accessible during train station opening hours, have up to 80 compartments of different sizes.
Correos now has a network of 4,278 differently-sized CityPaq terminals and collection boxes in major cities across Spain. Most lockers are located in Madrid, where there are over 1,000 self-service points, followed by Barcelona, Málaga, Seville and Alicante. Despite having more parcel locker locations than, for example, Deutsche Post, the actual number of locker compartments available may be similar or lower. CityPaq network seems to be a dense network of relatively small locker terminals (such as the one below, located outside the Post headquarters in Santander).
The postal operator delivers parcels on a daily basis to the lockers for collection by recipients at a time of their convenience. The lockers are located in diverse public places such as train stations and car parks, in shopping centres, outside post offices and at retail outlets such as petrol stations and supermarkets.
In April 2018, Swiss Post put its 100th My Post 24 terminal into service using its KePol parcel locker system with 100 more lockers to follow by 2020. The My Post 24 terminal in Berne-Bümpliz, in the west of the Swiss capital, is the biggest parcel terminal in the country to date. The terminal features 172 compartments, with 11,000 households in the nearby vicinity being able to take advantage of the service. Customers can receive, send and return parcels and registered letters 24/7, placing shopping in the locker temporarily, or store keys at the My Post 24 terminals.
Overall, InPost has a national network of nearly 1,200 fully automated parcel lockers in the UK, which are located in a variety of “safe and secure” locations including Morrisons supermarkets, Esso petrol stations and Transport for London sites, as well as outside retailers such as Toys R Us.
The company works with a wide variety of partners, including well-known retailers such as ASOS, Boohoo, Holland & Barrett and LG
InPost’s parcel locker network in the UK is accessible to courier partners such as UK Mail, DX, DHL Express, Hermes and APC Overnight.
Source: inpost.co.uk, postandparcel.info
There are over 600 Amazon Lockers in the UK, with locations ranging from Shopping Centers, Business Parks, Petrol Stations and Convenience Stores to Transport Hubs, Universities and Corporate HQ's. Amazon Locker offers daily deliveries, seven days a week, which can be tailored to the opening hours of the location if required.
Source: Hermes UK, InPost UK, CEP-Research, https://inpost.co.uk/en/our-partners, https://www.cep-research.com/news/hermes-adds-inpost-parcel-lockers-to-uk-parcel-shop-network,
According to the 2015 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper US study, more than half of avid online shoppers, who make two or more online purchases in a typical three-month time period, are interested in an alternate delivery location with extended hours. Preference for alternate delivery locations grew nine points (to 35%) in the last two years according to the UPS study.
To respond to this trend, UPS announced in June 2016 that it would expand its smart locker programme from nine locations in Chicago to 300 locations nationwide. The UPS Access Point lockers are alternate delivery locations that are usually outside and accessible 24 hours a day at convenience stores and other locations. Online retailers can integrate the locker delivery addresses into their web checkout process to give ‘e-commerce stranded’ consumers, who live in a residence where front-door delivery is not possible, a nearby delivery location.
UPS is working with 7-Eleven and independently owned and operated retailers to offer the locker programme in select areas across the US.
More than 2,800 lockers are located across 70+ major metropolitan areas in the US. They are mostly located in Whole Foods chains or convenient stores and Prime members can use them free of charge. These lockers can also be used for returns, even if the order was originally delivered somewhere else.
Under the Interconnect Programme, IPC leads the Delivery Choice Project which covers the topic of Delivery locations/services for international traffic offered by all countries within the Interconnect programme.
The goal of this project is to enable e-retailers/e-sellers to offer their customers a full range of locations where to receive/collect their items so e-shoppers can determine where and when to collect their purchases, as opposed to the default postal delivery.
The array of delivery options offered by each e-seller depends on each post’s domestic offer and capabilities, as one of the principles is to align the inbound post’s domestic offer with their international offer.
Parcel lockers as a delivery option are part of a bigger picture under the umbrella of the Delivery Choice Project within Interconnect as many other options/services are offered by different posts (e.g. Post office delivery, Shop delivery, hold the item, re-direct the item etc.).
In order to support posts, e-sellers and e-shoppers on the selection of delivery options at destination, IPC has developed a tool (translation engine) that allows users to access delivery points at destination.
For questions or comments about the Delivery Choice Project, please contact Carlos Setien at firstname.lastname@example.org