‘Tis the Season for Shopping … and Package Delivery Management

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In a matter of hours, consumers will have wide eyes on Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains that stream across their cell phones, tablets and desktops. When they tap screens and punch keys, a new chain of online shopping events will unfold.

What shoppers buy will once again bring into view on city streets parcel vans as they zip in and out of neighborhoods. They will also bring into focus an up-and-coming way to deliver goods to multifamily residents.

At some apartment communities, carriers will bypass the leasing office for storage lockers planted specifically for residents to conveniently receive packages – at any time of the year. Apartment staff will probably wave at the brown- and blue-clad messengers, and may even leave cookies and milk by the lockers. Some who have been inundated the last couple of years by mounds of packages and trying to keep up with them for residents may shed a tear.

Yes, Virginia, there is a package delivery solution.

Automated storage lockers represent a growing amenity for residents – and staff – to handle America’s growing notion to shop ‘til ya drop online. Those gym-like lockers were tops on the minds of industry executives earlier this month at the National Multifamily Housing Council’s annual technology conference in San Diego. Panelists in one session spent 10 minutes on the benefits and practicality of providing package concierge service any time of year, not just during the holidays.

Attendees didn’t let the discussion go by without asking several questions, including how to anticipate the number of lockers to install and what to do with residents who don’t pick up deliveries soon enough.

Panelists agreed that this is new territory for the apartment industry and that this year’s holiday rush will answer some of those questions. It’s the first full cycle, they say, that lockers are in place at many of their communities.

Simply, time will tell.

property manager with packages

Residents expect apartments to have package delivery solution

But a lot of eyes are on the solution because leasing offices have been overwhelmed by the hundreds of packages daily that arrive at some communities. E-commerce is growing faster than a checker can swipe soup cans. By last estimate, online shopping is a $349.20 billion industry in the U.S. and gets pretty intense the last two months of the year.

In November and December last year, desktop computer transactions totaled $53.3 billion, and analysts expect the growing use of mobile devices to up that number by 17 percent. Already, online shopping is jamming online checkout lanes this holiday season. Internet Retailer reports double-digit increases in sales the weekend before Thanksgiving in 2015.

Apartment residents are certainly in the mix of online shoppers. A recent NMHC/Kingsley Associates report says that apartments in the U.S. which receive 100 packages a week can expect double during the holidays.

But how apartments handle the influx really isn’t of concern to the resident, industry executives say.

As CORT Furniture’s Pete Regulas burned up Twitter at NMHC, he tweeted “Fact: residents don’t care about your package problems. The care about your solutions.” Too boot, a panelist in “DIY: 24/7 Self-Service Apartments” said at the threshold of customer service expectations by residents is package service.

Further, the NMHC/Kingsley report says that 72 percent of residents want a package storage/holding area but don’t expect to pay for the service. If they had to, $20 a month is about all they’d be willing to pay.

Pocket change, but it can add up to a pretty significant revenue stream.

packages

Is your property ready to handle the influx of packages?

Automated storage solutions are giving apartments the option to provide that package service and make life a little easier in the front office. Lockers come in varying sizes and can integrate with property management systems. When packages arrive, residents are alerted and given a code so they can pick up their holiday booty.

At NMHC, a panelist said that one community saved three or four hours a day in the front office the first week a package system was installed. That’s a few hours that staff can focus on other issues in the day-to-day management of apartments.

As with anything, there are two sides to every story. Over a big cheeseburger last week in San Diego, a handful of industry executives weighed whether apartments should be in the package delivery business. Absolutely, said one, and automated package systems that integrate with property management systems were the other. Another said apartments should leave it up to residents to figure out how to get their packages – off property.

Dean Holmes, CEO of the Madison Group, told attendees at NHMC that the debate over package delivery management will occupy conference sessions for the next few years. When asked what will be mainstream technology in the next two or three years for the apartment industry, UDR Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Scott Wesson said it will be package lockers.

Shopping trends suggest consumers will continue spending online. That means more deliveries will be coming, and apartments that offer package delivery as a service will need to have a plan in place.

Is your community ready to handle package deliveries?


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

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Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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