Are in-home deliveries here to stay?

The idea of in-home deliveries seems alien, but the service offers convenience while also helping to combat the widespread problem of package theft.
22 January 2019

You are thousands of miles away on holiday when you receive a notification on your mobile phone. It informs you that a parcel under your name is less than 20 minutes away, from your home.

Instead of fussing over how no one is at home to receive it, you acknowledge the notification. A live video starts playing.

You watch as a deliveryman keys in a code on his phone, which unlocks your front door. He opens it, slides the parcel across the doorway, steps back and taps his phone as the door shuts. The door lock activates and he leaves. Your phone then beeps and the video screen closes.

You tuck the device away in your pocket, confident that your parcel — and home — are safe.

According to DHL’s Logistics Trend Radar, in-home deliveries powered by newer and smarter technology will become increasingly common within the next five years.

Combating “porch piracy” with in-home deliveries

The last-mile delivery has always been a bugbear for many players in e-commerce.

For most of the day, the customer is out at work, which makes it difficult for deliveries to be made. In some cases, customers who are unable to receive the parcel ask for it to be left at their front doors, believing that no one will notice that small brown package.

Almost 11 million homeowners in the United States experienced package theft in 2016.

But the problem is that people do. Porch piracy is a real and growing problem, with loose packages left out at the door seen as easy targets. According to a study by San Francisco-based smart lock company August, almost 11 million homeowners in the United States experienced package theft in 2016.

Porch piracy is also placing a dent in consumers’ trust as seen in a survey by Shorr Packaging, which revealed that as many as 41 percent of the respondents said they avoid buying certain products online out of fear that the items will be stolen if left outside their front door.

For the consumer, losing the package is exasperating. Having to go through the process of claiming insurance with the delivery company and having to re-order their items, is not the experience e-commerce has promised to offer.

For the e-commerce brand and its delivery partners, parcel theft can have serious repercussions on their image and overall identities.

In an article by CNBC in 2017, Natalie Berg, an analyst at Planet Retail RNG, said an unattended delivery brings about unwanted risks to both the package and the delivery company’s reputation.

“It’s not just the financial cost but also the impact that a failed delivery can have on brand reputation and customer loyalty. Nothing makes shoppers more irate than missing a delivery,” she said.

Not at home? Not a problem

The practice of allowing a stranger into homes to take on specific jobs is not new. Many people trust dog-walkers or cleaners to pick up the key from under the house mat, do their job, and then leave.

In such cases, there is an element of trust and familiarity; dog-walkers for example need to build their reputation before anyone gives them their precious puppies to walk. This process may be time consuming, but it is something new and advanced technologies can manage.

With wireless locks that are linked to the homeowners’ mobile phone, random passcodes can be generated on the spot to give the deliveryman access to the house.

For retailers, the benefits are obvious. By allowing the deliveryman to cut down on wasted trips, productivity jumps. Logistics player PostNord estimates that conventional deliveries fail so often that it takes an average 1.5 attempts to deliver a parcel to a home in the Nordic region.

Delivering a package on time and securely also boosts the branding of the company.

This is a big reason why retail giants are picking up on the trend of in-home deliveries. Walmart is working with smart lock company August to develop in-home delivery options through the August Access app. Customers can view the entire delivery process from start to end via a smart camera that is placed at the door’s entrance.

Safety is still the first priority

Of course, for in-home deliveries to take off in a big way, convenience is not enough. Assuring people that both their parcels and houses are safe is critical.

Companies like Amazon believe safety is key. For instance, the Amazon Key App only allows verified delivery personnel to place packages inside customers’ front door via a one-time password.

Apart from providing homeowners with real-time footage of deliveries, the service also documents the details of the delivery personnel so customers know who exactly is turning up to deliver their parcel. It also has a “Block Access” option which gives customers the ability to refuse the delivery at any time at all.

And while the idea of in-home deliveries has not quite taken off in Asia, perceptions are slowly changing within the region.

In Singapore, local start-up Igloohome has devised a smart lock system that allows users to unlock doors even without an Internet connection. Modeled after the local bank security token system, Igloohome uses remote PIN code-creation capabilities to generate one-time pin codes which will allow users entry into homes.

Similarly, the customers are given full control and supervision over the delivery process, with the option to connect via Bluetooth to refuse entry to users at any point in time.

With the increasingly secure technologies now being developed and available for e-commerce businesses and consumers alike, in-home deliveries may soon be here to stay.

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