E-commerce at the apartment: Self-service to the rescue

Originally Posted at Retail Customer Experience

Computerized package room solutions, aided by self-service kiosks, make package delivery and pickup easy for residents and multi-family property managers.

E-commerce at the apartment: Self-service to the rescueA resident scans a QR code to retrieve a package from The Dime’s package room.

 | by Elliot Maras — Editor, Kiosk Marketplace & Vending Times

For apartment residents, picking up deliveries — whether meals, merchandise or cleaning supplies — can be a fraught with friction. The vendor’s delivery notice can get lost, causing delays, and the package room may not be attended when the resident comes to get their delivery.

As e-commerce has exploded, so have these challenges.

Fortunately, forward thinking property managers are discovering computerized package room solutions to make package pickup easy for residents.

Technology to the rescue

A courier delivers a package to The Dime’s smart package room.

Residents of The Dime, a 177-unit residential property in Brooklyn, New York, are automatically notified when a package arrives, thanks to the iPickup Smart Package Room technology provided by Position Imaging, a provider of logistics fulfillment and asset tracking solutions.

The iPickup solution is similar to the buy-online-pickup-in-store concept retailers have been deploying — in a multi-family as opposed to a retail environment.

When delivering a package to an apartment, the courier scans the package label at a kiosk before entering the 200-square-foot package room.

The door then unlocks, allowing the courier to place the package in an open shelf area in the package room.

Automatic notification

The software automatically notifies the resident via text or email that they have a package waiting and provides a QR code that the resident, in turn, scans at the kiosk to retrieve the package.

When the resident enters the room, colored laser lights guide them to the exact package location.

For property managers, the solution offers a proof of delivery and information on who picked up the item and when.

“It’s just been a huge hit for our residents, for our operations, and running the building,” Nick Silvers, founding partner of Tavros Holdings, the New York City-based property owner, told Kiosk Marketplace in an interview.

“Once you scan the QR code and the door opens, then you (the tenant) go in and see which package is yours because there’s a laser pointer pointing at your individual package.”

He said the process saves 15 minutes for staff on the delivery side and 15 minutes for the tenant on the retrieval side.

E-commerce raises the bar

The Dime installed it a year ago in response to the growth in e-commerce. Silvers said the growth in e-commerce driven by the pandemic created the need for this technology.

Tavros Holdings learned about Position Imaging from a video intercom service provider the property management firm works with.

“You always hear about the growth of e-commerce… it’s overwhelming to the building management and staff,” Silvers said. “Some of our tenants, if they could brush their teeth online, they would.””We’ve been encountering a huge burden of package management for our tenants and it was costing us, it was creating a ton of inefficiency for running the building,” Silvers said. “We would end up having a ton of man hours associated with sorting and collection and delivery, pickup, monitoring… it was just a huge issue.”

“When you look at the explosion of e-commerce in general, the byproduct of that is deliveries,” agreed Ned Hill, CEO of Position Imaging, in a phone interview. “Deliveries and the logistics of those deliveries need to go through something. They’re either going to be hand held and put into a locker, or they’re going to be managed more efficiently with technology.”

“Any enterprise that’s getting more than 20 packages a day is somebody who could really use this kind of a solution,” Hill said. “Why use a human or a bunch of metal to manage these packages when you could just do it with technology?”

“We have the ability to monitor, and our property manager actively does,” Silvers said. “Position Imaging will check and see that everything is running smoothly.”

Silvers calls the solution a do-it-yourself amenity for the tenants.

People of all ages have been able to use the smart package room without difficulty, he said.

Another factor is the building’s age demographics — 20- to 40-year-olds — who demand easy access and easy ordering.

A labor saving

Prior to this solution, the staff had to notify residents when packages arrived and keep track of where they were placed.

“When they’d come by to pick up the packages, you basically have one door man who would be responsible, and you probably would have to hire somebody else to just sit there and wait by a concierge desk,” Silvers said.

The tenant would then be directed to enter the package room and to find their package. Oftentimes, tenants had to wait to enter the room until someone arrived at the concierge desk. The process could easily take a tenant 20 minutes.

If the package is not picked up in a certain number of days, it can get sent back.

“You save all those man hours that up until five years ago never existed before,” Silvers said.

Many buildings simply keep the package room locked when unattended, he said.

One solution is to have individual tenant lockers, but the cost is much higher, in addition to taking a lot of space.

“Tenants hate using them and delivery guys hate using them,” Silvers said regarding tenant lockers.” The staff hates using them.”

Cold food and cleaning goods

The package room includes a refrigerator for cold food and racks for dry cleaning goods.

“When they’re delivered they just don’t go to a black hole in a dark room somewhere,” said Hill. “All the staff and the delivery person needs to do is register the person and clip the item. Then they put them in the fridge or on dry cleaning racks. People are getting more and more cold food deliveries every day.”

Position Imaging builds the kiosk in partnership with Kiosk.com, which provides the cabinet.

The system costs about $15,000, including the monitoring service, according to Silvers.

Over a 10-year period, he thinks the savings is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars compared to a manned package room.

“It’s really the best and only true solution we found in the marketplace that provides all the things that you need: safety, reliability and notice to the tenants,” Silvers said.

Photos courtesy of Position Imaging.

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