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Innovation in the postal sector. Episode 5 : automatic lockers

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Here’s already the fifth episode of our series (read here episodes 1, 2, 3, and 4) on innovation in the postal sector. The postal sector is one of the most innovative and adapts constantly to new or emerging consumers behaviors. Automatic lockers is one very successful example.

Episode 5: automatic lockers to better match customers’ needs and behaviors

A widespread solution in Europe

As you will read from the section below, automatic lockers are being adopted by all postal operators in Europe. We’re in the middle of an heavy testing phase in many countries, and some others are already very advanced in the deployment of this solution. The Austrian post for instance has put 40 parcel collection stations into operation in 2013, and is expected to deploy 70 more in 2014. Unlike other locker systems (see below for other examples) the Austrian post solution allows customers to use their bank cards to unlock the door and proceed with collection of the parcel.

French post behind schedule with Cityssimo …

We already discussed on this blog the excellent bpost initiative called Bpack 24/7. French postal provider La Poste is testing a similar system called Cityssimo, a 24-hour parcel collection service, via a network of 35 locations equipped with lockers. The aim here is to allow customers to collect their e-commerce deliveries whenever they want in function of their own agenda. In September 2013, La Poste launched a ‘digital concierge’ service in Sceaux (Hauts-de-Seine) for the town’s retailers, which allows parcels to be collected from a Cityssimo located within the RER station. The aim of the service is to offer a wider range of hours for customers to collect parcels, with Neopost ID launching a similar project dubbed Packcity. Similarly, Darty has tested the idea of a locker in its Ternes (Paris) store and Printemps allows clients to pick up their orders at any time of the day or week.

… but Packcity launched in parallel with high ambitions

As mentioned above Neopost ID has launched its Packcity automatic parcel collection service. The group has partnered with Relais Colis for the pilot phase, with takes place in a Monoprix store of Neuilly-sur-Seine. Interestingly the service can also be used to return goods purchased online. Original content in French (Link to the Original Source) The project is for 2/3 by Neopost and 1/3 by GeoPost. A ambitious total of 1,500 lockers should be installed by 2016 and eventually no less than 3,000 units are targeted. The lockers will be installed by Packcity France, wa joint-venture of Neopost and GeoPost. Packcity gained prior experience in the field with a similar project for the Australian post. 

Balikomat in Slovakia

In Slovakia the Balikomat 24/7 delivery service, which is operated by the company Postal Terminals, is already available. The service was launched by Jozef Ecker, the representative and CEO of Postal Terminals, and by the Director of In Time, Vladimir Pencev, an operator of parcel vending machines. The first two online retailers to use the service were shoppie.sk and gorila.sk. When client do their purchases online they can chose from different options for the delivery, among others Balikomat 24/7. Clients receive an SMS notification when the parcel is ready to be collected. A unique ID code is provided to open the locker and access the parcel. Purchased goods have to be collected within 72 hours. A total of 50 Balikomat parcel vending machines have already been installed nationwide (which is pretty much the same number as bpack 24/7 in Belgium) and 13 are located in Bratislava. Negotiations were ongoing with 13 more e-shops before Christmas 2013

Czech post still in its infancy

Czech public mail operator Ceska Posta (CP) is less advanced than other European counterparts but planed to commence the installation of its first self-service parcel machines in late February or early March 2014, (source : Ivo Mravinac, spokeperson). First trials are announced for May / June 2014. Initially a total of 40 machines was planned but CP has postponed the project several times.

Russian post scores high in terms of customer satisfaction : 90 seconds to collect a parcel

In Russia too things are changing. The Sovietic times are over and consumerism is imposing the rules. Russian Post plans to open 24-hour parcel collection centres in Moscow in early 2014. The first centers of this types have existed in St. Petersburg since September 2013. Here gain the arguments put forward are in terms of customer satisfaction and collection time which went to several tens of minutes to 90 seconds. With this new solution in place the Russian post expects to be able to attract e-tailers and grow the business. It’s a little bit the chicken and egg problem where one has to take the risk of launching an initiative to lead to a behavioral change. Traction doesn’t always pre-exist on a market.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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