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Interest In Parcel Lockers Grows For Online Shopping-Addicted Americans

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Nearly 14% of Americans reported being victims of package theft in the past 12 months, according to a December survey from Finder. That equals 35.5 million Americans and an average package theft value of $156.82.

A new survey released Tuesday morning on package theft and security solutions from Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI) found that 30% of Americans are willing to pay more to have their package delivered to a package locker, and 53% remain concerned about packages being stolen from their doorstep.

The study of 2,200 millennials, urban dwellers, and office workers was conducted by Morning Consult for Pitney Bowes.

Kerry Caylor, vice president of SendTech Parcel and Locker Innovation for Pitney Bowes, told Modern Shipper that smart lockers are still relatively new in the U.S., although some foreign markets have embraced the concept. The reason for the slower growth in the U.S. is in part the way the major carriers – UPS (NYSE: UPS), FedEx (NYSE: FDX), and the U.S. Postal Service – have set up delivery networks in the U.S., by address locations.

"How do we create more access points?" Caylor said. "It hasn't taken hold [yet], but when you look at that data, in the next six to 12 months you are going to see [an uptick in interest]. Lockers are really going to have to find a way into the public domain."

Related: Read: Pitney Bowes introduces ParcelPoint Smart Lockers Read: Porch pirates pose a greater threat than burglars, and consumers are paying the price

Caylor said Pitney Bowes is having conversations with mall operators, seeing an opportunity to place smart lockers in empty retail spaces. Amazon has already done this to some extent by placing Amazon Lockers in Whole Foods locations and some other businesses, such as 7-Eleven stores in some markets.

"What they are looking to do with their systems, and what ties back to our strength, is they are looking to create lockers as a service ... as a way to draw traffic in [to stores]," Caylor said.

In June, Pitney Bowes introduced an addition to its line of smart parcel lockers with the launch of ParcelPoint Smart Lockers. The company's lineup of locker systems is designed for e-commerce and mailing applications. Utilizing Pitney Bowes' own software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology, ParcelPoint lockers can be managed remotely as individual lockers or as a fleet of lockers across locations. The lockers offer both pre-configured and customized options, giving businesses the flexibility to meet their unique needs, the company said. ParcelPoint lockers join Pitney Bowes' other locker solutions, including the Express Series. All Pitney Bowes lockers include the SendSuite tracking online solution.

Parcel Growth

Global parcel volumes are expected to reach 200 billion by 2025, but while shippers are working to improve the speed and accuracy of warehousing and parcel shipping operations, theft at the consumer's doorstep remains a problem.

According to the new survey, parcel security was the major factor in the use of smart lockers, with 66% of respondents saying they are interested in a more secure way to receive their packages. The study found 49% of respondents don't like others to see the packages they order, with that number rising to 57% of millennials.

Millennials are particularly interested in smart lockers, with a third saying they do or have used one and 75% saying they like the security they provide. A fourth of urban dwellers say they already use a smart locker, and 73% indicated they are looking for a more secure way for packages to be delivered. While 48% of respondents who use smart lockers use them for everyday online orders, one in four uses them only for more expensive orders. Contactless delivery was cited as a preference for 54% of respondents.

Caylor said interest in smart lockers continues to grow among businesses especially. As more Americans return to office locations, the preference to receive their packages at their place of employment is growing. Overall, 20% said they prefer to receive packages at work, with one in three millennials saying so.

Respondents also saw broader business use for smart lockers:

  • Fifty-six percent would use them for business-related packages or documents.

  • Fifty-five percent for business-related equipment.

  • Fifty-five percent for everyday online orders.

  • Fifty-four percent for in-office package or equipment pickup.

"We've known for over a year that our core vertical is in central office receiving operations," Caylor said, adding that "61% of office environments are expecting to make a purchase of intelligent lockers."

New commercial buildings are also being designed with the ability to integrate smart lockers, Caylor noted.

"The new buildings are contemplating these deliveries," he said. "We've all lived at one point of the time where cluster boxes were common. Cluster boxes are slowly being replaced by intelligent lockers."

And security and expandability are key reasons why smart lockers could quickly gain acceptance in offices, apartments and even retail stores, where 30% of consumers ordering online would like to pick up the item the same day.

Building Sustainability

One of the keys to smart lockers is their ability to grow with the needs of the businesses or consumers. "Even as the merchants adapt to the [new] consumer experience, do they quickly render one experience [useless]?" Caylor asked.

Pitney Bowes is building its smart lockers to ensure that doesn't happen. Caylor said the systems will soon be able to handle "ship from system" capabilities, allowing the consumer to generate a shipping label and complete the entire process for returning an item to the sender through the locker experience.

"You are seeing merchants being able to bring in the return traffic," Caylor said. "Our technology tries to solve a really important point from the merchant standpoint. We need systems that are flexible and can create multiple use cases."

Click for more Modern Shipper articles by Brian Straight.

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