As a logistics company, we can see that the future of parcel deliveries lies in unmanned channels – whether it be parcel machines, robots, lockers, drones, or something else. Last year’s collaboration with Starship’s parcel robots and the new pilot project with Cleveron’s parcel lockers are interesting opportunities to test the services of the future.
We are constantly looking for ways to make the delivery of shipments more convenient for people. Technology, innovation, and automation have an important role to play here. By testing different solutions, we can determine which one is the most convenient and pleasant for the customer. This way, we can find the best way to provide parcel and postal services in the future.
We believe in the automated solutions of the so-called last mile and therefore, we want to test the promising innovative solutions in this area. In the summer of 2017, we conducted a pilot project with Mercedes-Benz’s Robovan and Starship’s parcel robots to test the delivery of parcels to customers with small cute parcel robots. The robots were well received by the customers, but at the same time, the pilot showed that the volume of parcels in areas with more people ordering parcels than the average is still not sufficient to achieve efficiency in robot deliveries. Additionally, customers were very clear about the fact that although the robots are cute, they are not happy with having to be at a specific place at a specific time to meet them. Estonian customers prefer a situation where the parcel waits for them, not the other way around, which is why they prefer parcel machines to send and receive parcels – they can go there at a suitable time for them.
However, this does not mean that robot deliveries will never become a reality in Estonia. At the moment, the time is simply not right for it. However, robot deliveries will definitely further develop to meet the wishes of the customers better. We will probably hear more about those cute robots – one way or another!
Parcel lockers make the courier service more effective
How to automate the customer’s wish to receive a parcel at their home without having to wait for a courier or a robot? As a follow-up to the innovation pilot projects, we launched a pilot project with Cleveron on 25 July this year: we are testing Cleveron’s parcel lockers (home parcel machines) as a possible future solution to deliver shipments (parcels, periodicals, letters). Essentially, the locker is a small personal parcel machine located near your home: you can use it to receive shipments. We are one of the first companies to deliver shipments to these parcel lockers during the pilot project. This is a novel opportunity to get closer to the customers and offer them a convenient service with which – as per the customers’ wishes – they do not have to wait for the parcel; instead, the parcel will wait for them.
Among other things, the use of these personal parcel lockers helps to make the courier service more efficient: the courier does not have to meet the customer to deliver the parcel and the customer does not have to wait for the courier at a certain time. For the customer, it is a service of convenience: in addition to the courier service fee, they will pay an additional rent for the parcel locker to Cleveron, the owner/installer of the parcel locker. As it is a completely new solution for customers, one of the objectives of the pilot is to receive feedback on how the customers welcome this business model.
In the current pilot project, we deliver parcels to parcel lockers installed at a limited number of addresses in Viljandi. The parcel lockers will be used to deliver courier shipments ordered to the customers’ home address, as well as postal items (letters, periodicals, direct mail) so that the customer could receive both postal items and parcels from one place. Registered letters require the customer’s signature upon receipt, which is why we will deliver them in the same way as before – the courier has to meet the customer and ask for their signature.
Right now, we will not increase the number of addresses participating in the pilot. As this is a completely new service, it is reasonable to test it in a smaller extent and in the hometown of Cleveron, where it is possible to resolve all possible problems quickly.
The success of future services
There are, however, automation options at the beginning of the process, as well – in the so-called first mile (the collection of shipments). Therefore, we are working on a pilot of smart mailboxes: mailboxes which notify the system so that the mailman would know whether they have to pick up shipments from that mailbox or not. This is also part of the services of the future.
This is thought-provoking: could we use the parcel lockers installed near our homes to send parcels, as well? For this end, we would use the same logic as we do with the smart mailboxes: if a customer places a shipment in the locker, our courier will be notified of it. Right now, this is something for the distant future, but still – it is possible.
Naturally, we cannot forget our parcel machines. It is highly likely that as a result of the innovation project, we will learn that customers still prefer parcel machines, especially as the network of parcel machine is expanded and reaches more and more customers.