Parcel lockers can contribute to the fight for a sustainable future

Parcel lockers are gaining increasing popularity with customers, but they can also help protect the environment and promote sustainability across the international postal network.

Two months ago, Croatian Post opened a new distribution channel and installed 70 out of 300 parcel lockers planned for the end of next year. The important and increasingly popular distribution channel has surfed the COVID-19 pandemic and its horrific impact to become the future of delivery.

The pandemic has dramatically changed consumer habits, as the lockdown made people turn to online shopping. The sudden change in the market conditions served as “rocket fuel” for e-commerce and it has exploded unlike anything we have seen. At the end of last year, postal operators and courier services faced massive parcel volumes. In the societies where online shopping has now become a permanent habit, parcel lockers are the ideal channel offering sufficient capacity, simplicity and availability (available 24/7) and suited to today’s pace of life.  

With the rapid e-commerce expansion, the importance of reverse logistics and managing returns of goods from customers is increasing. Convenient return options are often mentioned in e-commerce offerings. According to available data, in recent time, returns have increased by 70 per cent to 80 per cent. Reverse logistics in e-commerce will continue to grow, especially because of the increasing number of businesses that are looking to make returning goods purchased online a simple process. This will attract buyers to make the purchase.

The question postal operators and courier services should ask themselves is how they can help businesses make returns as fast, smooth and cost-effective as possible? In this case parcel lockers should be used for most parcel returns, because they are simple to use and convenient and end consumers do not have to take their parcels to the post office and wait in line. The use of automated parcel lockers for returns of goods also reduces queues in post offices, increase operational efficiency and consumer satisfaction.  

Protecting the environment and our planet has never been as important as now. Every goal we achieve or miss will influence future generations. Therefore, the logistics industry is undergoing intense green transformation in order to reduce negative emissions and environmental impacts. This represents a huge challenge, because at the same time parcel business is growing and the number of deliveries is constantly increasing. Studies show that last mile delivery significantly increases CO2 emissions and urban traffic congestion. Automated parcel lockers will improve the first attempt delivery rate, and delivery vehicles will have to make fewer rounds further reducing emissions.  

One of the advantages of having a network of automated parcel lockers is that postal operators can choose busy urban areas or locations closest to traffic hubs to have them installed. Shopping malls, busy petrol stations or public administration buildings are examples of ideal locations for automated parcel lockers, as they are high-traffic areas.

Automated parcel lockers also enable contactless delivery. There is no need for any physical contact and end customers do not have to go to the post office, and can collect their parcels when it is convenient, because parcel lockers are available 24/7. These options are highly convenient at the time of global pandemic when social distancing and avoiding crowds remains the main strategy in preventing the spread of the virus.

Everyone can benefit from automated parcel lockers being available in the Croatian market. Croatian Post is able to meet the rising demand and manage the annual peaks, and end customers can manage their parcels and choose when and where they wish to collect them. Most importantly, we are reducing our environmental footprint and contributing to the fight for a sustainable future.  

Matija Pavlinek, Head of the Logistics Development Department at Croatian Post