Much has been said and written about the need to enhance urban distribution models as the number of daily parcel deliveries continues to grow at lightning speed. The latest scoop, the DHL parcel box, actually sounds more hands-on than some of the more futuristic approaches such as the Amazon drone although the latter is by no means unlikely considering the advances in the privately operated drone market.
So what exactly can you expect from the new service model? Buy or rent your own personal parcel box and the times you had to wait at home for a parcel, or collect from a neighbour or go to the post office (and I am deliberately not saying the ‘nearest’) are finally history. This is at least the case in Germany anyway where the parcel box service is now being rolled out (other countries may have to wait a little longer!). To be able to receive this service all you need is a bit of space outside your home where the box can be installed and accessed by the delivery personnel. It will of course have security measures to protect from theft (of the parcels inside and the box itself). A huge benefit to customers will be that they can also return deliveries or directly mail parcels that have the correct stamps attached.
Interested to see what others make of this new offering, I took a straw poll of a few friends and colleagues. I would describe their response as one of subdued enthusiasm. Every person I asked stated that having parcels delivered to the office remains their favoured model. By no means is this down to the cost applied to the parcel box service. The most basic solution of the parcel box costs €1.99 per month to rent or €99 for acquisition. This compares to a voluntary (but regularly paid) €1 for a parcel arriving at our office to compensate reception staff for the extra effort dealing with private parcels (and subsequently donated to a charity). With some of my colleagues receiving on average two to three parcels a week – you do the maths.
So whilst the ‘jury is still out’ on the newest service it does clearly highlight the continued pressure on retail companies and third-party service providers to improve customer satisfaction, thus constantly evolving urban delivery models. Time will tell if the parcel box will thrive. What is clear is that it will not be the last innovation in the ever more complex urban logistics market.
What all of the future innovations will have in common will be the need for increasing collaboration and an adequate provision of real estate solutions such as consolidation centres and shared user facilities to support future urban delivery models. What is clear is that going forward distribution real estate needs to be more seriously accounted for in urban development planning. For many municipalities this will require some rethinking. Policy makers need to understand that urban distribution facilities are not part of the problem – that is causing congestion and emissions as they attract high traffic throughout the day. Instead real estate needs to be seen as part of the solution to improve the quality of a city and support environmental friendly local business.