Like logistics providers everywhere, European carriers are facing capacity challenges, delivery delays and rising costs to deliver parcels. In Western Europe alone, e-commerce sales jumped 26% year-over-year in 2020, according to research firm eMarketer Inc.
As consumers across Europe increasingly expect next-day or same-day delivery, more e-commerce companies are turning to parcel lockers, or unattended delivery machines found in places that are highly attended — such as retail, restaurant and convenience store locations.
Lockers are typically available to receive and send parcels 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they provide a cost-effective way for carriers to perform last-mile deliveries. For example, carriers’ costs such as those for failed first deliveries, rescheduling deliveries, and the uncertainty of having someone at home to pick up an item within a vague timeframe can all be reduced. On average, carriers can deliver up to five times more parcels with the use of lockers, according to various studies.
Customers also enjoy the convenience of 24-hour accessibility and close proximity to homes or other frequented locations.
Achieving density is key in offering a lower-cost and reliable delivery option to retailers and consumers, according to Poland-based InPost SA, Europe’s largest automated parcel market network. Locations of locker sites should be carefully analyzed for proximity to prospective consumers to help drive route density within the delivery network. Lockers should also be carrier-agnostic.
Since 1990, the European Union's net carbon emissions have fallen by just over 20% while global net emissions increased by 65%. With the recent passing of its Green Deal, the EU aims to make Europe the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
Research is limited on the environmental impact of parcel lockers. Based on studies from the University of Brussels, the usage of parcel lockers seems to be more sustainable and less costly than standard home delivery. (There are some restrictions to this assumption, such as distance the customer must travel to collect the parcel, which method of transportation is used, and urban vs. rural areas.)
Other research has concluded that parcel lockers can benefit the environment because the number of deliveries or re-deliveries to a home is reduced, thus reducing carbon emissions.
The EU will not achieve its CO2 goal by just encouraging parcel lockers. However, combined with electric fleets and nighttime deliveries, local emissions could be reduced by 35% and congestion by 25% over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum.
The European parcel locker market is currently valued at $500 billion and is expected to grow at an annual 11.6% rate between 2021 and 2027. While Poland currently has the most parcel lockers, it’s expected that Western Europe will see increased adoption due to the rising volume of parcel shipments, increasing online purchases, and changing consumer lifestyles.
John Haber is president of parcel at Transportation Insight.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.