Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon Oct 15 2012 22:21:42

Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B

By: Ina Steiner

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Shipping is one of the biggest challenges online sellers deal with every day, and retailers have begun zeroing in on the delivery component of order fulfillment. Missing or damaged packages are the bane of a seller's existence, and that's why merchants are testing alternatives to dropping off packages at shoppers' front doors.

Amazon is building lockers at convenience stores where shoppers can pick up their items, and ShopRunner is testing in-store delivery for online merchants.

Former PayPal and Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, now at ShopRunner, told me the company is close to announcing the expansion of its test of ShopRunner Pickup Points being conducted in Philadelphia. A shopper can buy something on the Toys R Us website and pick it up at their local Walgreens, for example. The shopper hands a receipt with a bar code to the clerk at Walgreens, who goes into a secure area and retrieves the package.

Scott said testing showed 61% of shoppers going in to pick up their online purchases bought something while in the store - a huge selling point for retailers participating in the pick-up program.

He referred to the "delivery challenged consumer" such as his nephew who works long hours in an office building in New York City that no longer accepts personal deliveries. Another example he cited - a retail chain that has a policy of not sending packages to Seattle because the rain would damage packages left on shoppers' doorsteps. ShopRunner is betting that those types of consumers will be happy to go to their neighborhood drugstore or other retailer to pick up their online purchases.

EcommereBytes has noted the increase in pick-up services (Amazon, Kinek, UPS). ShopRunner, which is retail chains' answer to Amazon Prime, is nicely positioned to coordinate an in-store delivery system, and it acquired Boston-based PickupZone in April.

But could there be another alternative to these delivery options? What about doorstep lockers?

There's a whole host of items being delivered to people's doorstep besides mail and newspapers. Express Scripts delivers prescriptions. Zoot's built a business delivering dry-cleaning right to the front door. Edible Arrangements delivers fruit bouquets. Netflix delivers rental movies.

In the old days, people had meat and dairy items delivered to the home. But with many couples now working outside the home, it went out of fashion. But it's coming back in style - at least if Jeff Bezos has his way - Amazon has been testing grocery delivery for some time, not to mention supermarkets such as Stop & Shop's Peapod service.

The question is, who's there to take delivery of all these items?

Could doorstep or porch lockers soon become a regular fixture at people's homes? How about climate-controlled sections for groceries, a rack for hanging dry-cleaning, and a locked drawer for prescriptions? Could designers mesh aesthetics with convenience and come up with a high-tech secure solution for today's "delivery challenged consumers"?

Whatever kind of lockers or in-store delivery systems become mainstream, let's hope they include ways to reduce claims of non-delivery or damaged packages! Let's hear your ideas for worry-free package delivery.




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B   Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B

This user has validated their user name. by: eBankrupted

Tue Oct 16 00:57:21 2012

Porch lockers might attract hooliganism; rattle snakes in a can, dead skunks, and other practical jokes. The lockers might not be Federally protected, like USPS mailboxes are, and also might violate local zoning and HOA codes.. A locker on the porch might be a great spot for a stalker to hide on Halloween though, and scare the dickens out of trick-or-treaters!

The concept seems sound, but if your item is mixed, lost or stolen at the Walgreens, the whole idea gets ugly. I’m not sure I’d want my package to be lost in the back of a Walgreens, with no recourse other than to file a police report and deal with all that stress.

UPS has recently reduced its rates for mailboxes, and will accept any ground delivery, DHL, USPS or otherwise. I’d trust an UPS store over a random retail store, so maybe UPS can offer a temporary pickup service?

Perminate Link for Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B   Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B

by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Tue Oct 16 09:43:35 2012

Buying online means not having to go to the store. Delivered to you on your doorstep. If It is something I ''need'' that day-would just go to store and buy it.  Buy online and go to store to pick up doesn't make sense.
Cannot imagine that it would be profitable in any way. Probably through raised fees????

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by: JordanMalik.com This user has validated their user name.
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Tue Oct 16 10:14:31 2012

For my shipments, I rarely have a problem with USPS. I mean, for the past 5 years I can't think of one missed delivery or missing package. I can see how theft can be a problem in urban city areas, though.

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by: Susan Averello This user has validated their user name.
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Tue Oct 16 11:23:54 2012

I read about amazon's pick up and that's the last thing I want. If I order something online, it's because I don't want to go to the store. Lane Bryant offers free shipping too if you pick it up at the store. So I can order online and drive a 1/2 half to pick it up - shit, I'd rather pay their shipping.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Tue Oct 16 11:58:10 2012

I totally agree with Susan. I order online for the sole purpose of having the item shipped to me to avoid traveling. Most online stores have free shipping if you order a certain dollar amount, or give you coupon codes to get free shipping.

As far as lockers on your front porch, that's just asking to have the door broken open and anything inside taken. If no one is home during the day, then have your items shipped to your work address; virtually every online seller has the option to bill to one address and ship to another.  

Perminate Link for Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B   Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B

by: Mr. Me This user has validated their user name.

Tue Oct 16 12:05:26 2012

The truth of the matter is that the shipping PROCESS takes effort and $ , but sicne eBay expexts free shipping, and Amazon short changes shipping cost, sellers must either cut corners or pay out of their own pockets, for small sellers , it is a lose-lose proposition, while eBay can claim "free' shipping....Wake Up folks!

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by: heavyonion This user has validated their user name.
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Tue Oct 16 13:45:16 2012

I have the intellectual property for the secure software/hardware solution, unattended secure Point-of-reception tool, HeavyOnion.com
After a decade of my solution many alternatives have arisen. Packstation, ByBox, and more globally. Ecommerce has evolved, many companies have not. Target markets are logistic firms like Fedex, UPS, USPS, DHL, supermarket chains, home builders, pharmacies, emerchants, etailers, trucking and camping industry and many more. My system will create many jobs with green technology to improve economies globally. Pass it on...Thanks!
PS: Please share this with Mr. Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com

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by: mylifeisgood This user has validated their user name.

Tue Oct 16 14:57:49 2012

Ebay and cohorts can't keep their platform running correctly so why would anyone with half a brain expect them to be able to deliver anything correctly.

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by: Linda This user has validated their user name.

Tue Oct 16 19:14:18 2012

OK, so if Amazon is going to ''own'' these lockers will they be considered brick and mortar since it is a physical presence?

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This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Tue Oct 16 19:58:49 2012

OK - with doorstep delivery, the milkman, the postman, the candlestick maker. Been there, done that. But that was with the pre-nuclear family - you know "Leave it to Beaver"

Given that context - and - most of the population in the US is now in urban areas, how is anyone going to construct lock boxes in an apartment complex, or in your typical Baltimore row hose.

It seems that some of the contributors here are from rural areas - hence the "just drop it off at the porch".
Some are from sub-urban areas where driving 10 miles to the mall is painful - again why should I drive?

So maybe Walgreens has a workable solution. The are pervasive since the rapidly aging baby-boomer cohort needs their meds. Here in southern New England, its a toss-up between new construction of banks or pharmacies. Sheesh!

Might not be a bad idea. I'm picking up my Lithium & at the same time getting that new AK-47  50 shot magazine from Amazon.

The jury is out on this folks - vox populii.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Tue Oct 16 20:01:07 2012

OOPS!  
the 4th paragraph should read ---


So maybe Walgreens has a workable solution. THEY (Walgreens) are pervasive since the rapidly aging baby-boomer cohort needs their meds. Here in southern New England, its a toss-up between new construction of banks or pharmacies. Sheesh!

Perminate Link for Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B   Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Tue Oct 16 21:24:40 2012

@Al G: Maybe they ought to look at putting the lockers into Dunkin Donuts. If anything is ubiquitous in New England, it DD.

I've had a mailbox at the UPS store for years for this reason. I got tired of packages being left in the rain or out in full view on my front stairs. I also work as a contractor and change jobs very frequently, so changing shipping addresses to the various office locations all the time would be a pain.

Amazon has been doing this sort of delivery in Japan for a while. COD is a very common method of shipping and payment there and many people have things shipped to these commercial locations where they also pay for their items. I don't think that model would necessarily work well here - the COD part, at least - but the pick up aspect makes a lot of sense for the reasons Ina mentions.

I've used Peapod delivery for groceries here in Mass. and it worked quite well. I also used Amazon Fresh when I worked in Seattle, along with Safeway's grocery delivery service. They all worked well, with refrigerated trucks and the ability to schedule convenient delivery times. They can be a little expensive, but if you're crunched for time, it can be a great thing.

I've also used store pick-up on some occasions, since it can save hefty shipping charges, especially on heavier items. I suppose a lot of it is a balance of what's more important at a given time: saving money or saving time. I personally don't need the lockers in stores as long as I have my UPS Store mailbox, but if I didn't have it, that would be a viable option to consider. Picking up packages while doing other errands isn't all that inconvenient a prospect. I would worry about the security, though.

Perminate Link for Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B   Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B

by: UrsaMajor This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Oct 17 11:13:21 2012

While picking up at a local retail location is an alternative, it is certainly not ideal. As has been mentioned here, consumer expectations when ordering online is to have the item delivered. In many situations, unattended delivery is not an option due to weather or security issues. In these cases, perhaps a door step locker seems logical however, this opens a myriad of issues such as cost, size, vandalism etc all of which are good points.

I believe the solution is two fold. First, deliveries need to arranged when convenient for the consumer. In most cases this may be in the evening or on weekends. Of course this is quite problematic for delivery companies since the greatly impedes their route planning and leads to inefficiency.  That is why I believe that as online purchasing increases, the consumer, rather than the merchant will select the delivery carrier. This solution is a  win-win-win. The consumer chooses the carrier that serves his/her needs and schedule at an agreeable price. The carrier consolidates all packages for all sources for the consumer's stop. The merchant no longer has to  play the "free shipping" subsidy game and can in turn be more price competitive with products.

Delivery carriers can build route density by marketing within neighborhoods and zip codes. Deliveries can include orders from national online sellers as well as local retailers helping give the local merchants an online presence.

The second part of this solution is the automated parcel locker. Located in convenient locations, automated parcel lockers provide an alternative delivery point for those consumers who have unpredictable schedules, spend extended days away from home or other situation where home delivery  may not be optimal. Automated parcel lockers also provide an avenue for convenient return shipping.

These two delivery alternatives work hand in hand with consumer routed shipping. While many consumers may not have necessarily have a preference at this point, I see the consumer routed shipment as an up and coming trend which will begin to resolve the delivery dilemmas many currently face.

Perminate Link for Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B   Getting Ecommerce Packages Safely to Point B

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Fri Oct 19 18:35:42 2012

As long as the sellers have the option to offer varying scenarios to buyers at no disadvantage why not.

If a buyer wants delivery "their way" and it is offered by the seller, everyone is happy.

There then has to be logistic services being more "consumer oriented", experimental and forward thinking. It may be more of an issue to convince the logistic companies to provide a new service to their customers.



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