How can parcel lockers improve last-mile delivery?

With more people than ever shopping online, efficient delivery to homes and offices is critical – and smart parcel lockers are an increasingly popular solution.

August 28, 2019

Parcel delivery lockers are fast becoming a familiar sight in malls, stores and train stations as the boom in online shopping leads retailers and logistics providers to look for new ways to deliver orders as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Global sports retailer Decathlon is rolling out parcel lockers in its 1,500 stores as part of its click-to-collect service, while Amazon has had lockers in supermarkets, post offices and transport hubs across Europe for the last few years.

Online shoppers select the lockers as a delivery option during checkout, then receive a QR or SMS code that will open the locker once the parcel is delivered.

“Parcel lockers are becoming popular because of the convenience,” says Tessa English, Director, Industrial and Logistics, at JLL. “Consumers have more control over when they pick up their shopping, rather than having to wait for deliveries or risk parcels being left in the wrong place.”

Last mile drop-off

As online shopping continues to rise across Europe, shoppers are increasingly expecting fast, flexible delivery. DHL has a network of 340,000 lockers in Germany, accessible by 90 percent of the population, while many retailers, such as ASOS in the UK, also allow customers to return orders via a locker.

“This gives customers greater flexibility over their shopping, especially as lockers located in transport hubs often offer public access 24/7,” says English.

For retailers, parcel lockers are also a means to tackle the challenges – and costs - of last mile deliveries from warehouses to homes and offices. Trying to deliver packages to customers who aren’t home can cause delays on delivery routes, while getting orders to individual addresses often means putting vehicles on the roads before they’re full, raising costs and contributing to city centre congestion and air pollution.

“Delivering to parcel lockers means a van could drop off dozens of orders at each delivery point, rather than just one,” says English. “This reduces vehicle movements and the number of vehicles required, which offers retailers and operators better route and cost efficiencies.”

The right location

Parcel lockers tend to be placed in areas with high footfall, such as supermarkets and train stations, although varying consumer habits in different countries – or even different areas of the country – have a big impact on location decisions.

“A good location depends on retailer customer profiles – how frequently customers order and where they live. This is where big data can provide insight into the most effective locations,” says English.

“What’s key is that customers can pick up the parcel along their usual journey, without a detour. As soon as the convenience factor is lost, parcel lockers become a less effective investment and potentially also a less sustainable solution.”

Furthermore, lockers need to be in secure locations with good surveillance to minimise the risk of theft or vandalism.

Future building must-have?

Across Europe, clothing retailers as well as technology and lifestyle brands have already partnered with logistics firms to deliver to lockers. And with more than half of UK customers predicted to shop for groceries online by 2021, refrigerated lockers for food orders could also become popular fixtures.

Down the line, new residential and mixed-used developments could include a block of lockers, accessible by all residents as well as retailers.

“In terms of convenience, this is probably the ultimate - a safe place for parcels that can’t fit into individual mailboxes, allowing people to pick up orders when they’re home,” says English.

For landlords, providing that convenience could be an additional perk that attracts commercial and residential tenants – especially as online shopping across Europe continues to grow.

“With many more goods going through the parcel network, there will be increased demand for convenient last-mile delivery options,” says English. “Retailers want to enable a more seamless, easy delivery. Parcel lockers are one part of the solution.”