Mail types and volume have changed but how are our mailrooms coping?
Recent years have seen a rapid decline in the number of letters delivered to our vertical villages, while the amount of sent parcels has soared. This change is inline with the national shift towards parcel delivery as Australians continue their love affair with online purchasing.
This change may be most evident in our traditional deliverer of letters, Australia Post, where since 2008 (when Australian letter volumes reached an all-time high), the number of letters it delivers has declined by more than 50 per cent.
However, it is not a case of doom and gloom as Australia Post has reoriented its business to focus on Australian’s preference for online channels and home delivery.
Indeed, according to the Parcel Shipping Index, parcel volume in Australia grew 8 per cent last year to 841 million parcels. And our parcel market is expected to grow to more than 1 billion parcels a year by 2021.
But just what is being delivered to our vertical villages?
One visually notable category is the home meals kits, which arrive in their white styrofoam boxes and wait for their owners on the floor of our mailrooms.
But we are told that there are actually increases in several categories of parcel delivery:
Business-to-consumer: This is the main category and includes such popular items as online ordered clothes;
Business-to-business: This is a growing category with many small businesses operating from their apartment home;
Consumer-to-business: In terms of our apartments, this category includes the many “returns” which wait in our mailrooms for courier pickup; and
Consumer-to-consumer: Such as when we send a parcel, such as a gift.
And accompanying this rise in the volume and variety of parcels, are the expectations of customers for timely receipt. Retailers now say that two out of three shoppers expect to place an order at 5.00 pm for next-day delivery and three out of five believe orders placed by noon should be delivered the same day.
However, there are several issues arriving with our parcels – and mailrooms strewn with parcels too large to fit into standard letterboxes may well be the least of our challenges.
So says Shay McQuade from My Parcel Locker, an Australian-owned business specialising in intelligent mail systems.
Shay sees the emergence of the parcel delivery sector as a genuinely interesting space but one where the broad impacts are, as yet, largely unappreciated.
For instance, there are customer issues such as failed or redirected deliveries, which are particularly annoying for apartment residents who do not have concierge services to sign and receive. This means that we will either have to stay at home to await delivery or collect our parcel after hours from a secure drop-off point. Not really the purpose of parcel home delivery!
However, a more critical and wider felt issue emanating from these increased, repeated and often failed deliveries is the growth in traffic congestion, which is exacerbated by these deliveries being made predominantly (and repeatedly) during business hours.
While bicycle couriers may not take up too much space, an army of delivery trucks (seeking spots to unload and hand deliver parcels) will certainly impact upon the traffic flow surrounding our apartment blocks.
Another issue raised by Shay involves security and theft – both of our goods and our identity. This is a concern shared by the Australian Federal Police whose first piece of advice on protecting yourself is to “secure your mail”.
What to do?
Once again, this is a multi-faceted challenge requiring the involvement of our transport and traffic regulators and well as our more innovative minds.
Some of the more creative solutions involve drone drop-offs or robot deliveries – though both of these options bring their own raft of issues.
Other options include greater use of “click and collect” where the customer orders online but collects from the outlet, but this assumes a local physical store.
And then there is another trend which is being adopted by many new apartment builds – the smart locker solution. This is where an array of secure lockers are designed and installed into our apartment blocks – possibly replacing our mailboxes or as an additional facility in a common area like our car park. These lockers come in various sizes and configurations and can include “refrigerated and frozen lockers” – catering for those home meal kits!
Utilising a system of pre-approved authorisations, it allows deliveries to be made out-of-hours to secure but accessible units.
So, here’s another item to add to your owners’ corporation list for future-proofing!