Consider it the perfect storm: a steadily growing population and skyrocketing housing costs have resulted in Canada’s multi-residential market being more robust than ever; e-commerce is soaring, thanks to the preferences of tech-savvy millennials; then, enter a global pandemic that required that we all shelter in place and avoid contact with one another.
Together, this sequence of events has launched an unrelenting tidal wave of parcel deliveries landing in condo and apartment lobbies from coast-to-coast and has left property management teams scrambling to keep up.
Many, in an effort to mitigate the myriad of problems associated with the onslaught, are turning to technology to save the day – technology including smart parcel lockers, such as those produced by Canadian owned and operated Snaile.
Online shopping was not born out of COVID-19, but it certainly helped to accelerate the already exponentially increasing volumes that were being seen before the world shut down.
In 2018, for example, Canada Post reported an increase of 21.7% in parcel deliveries over the previous year. Much of this increase has been attributed, historically, to the all-important and digitally dependent demographic disruptor: the millennial, accounting for approximately 27% of the country’s population.
Then along came COVID-19 and online shopping was no longer reserved for the tech-savvy, younger set. With widespread closures, quick trips to the mall became a thing of the past and everyone turned to e-commerce to fulfill not just wants, but needs. The result – record-breaking deliveries across the country.
On Monday, April 20th, for example, Canada Post alone delivered more than 1.8 million parcels to Canadians. That number, according to the Crown corporation, is comparable with the busiest delivery days previously only seen during the holiday season. And while carrier companies worked to adapt to these unprecedented volumes, multi-residential properties were quickly overwhelmed by the number of packages turning up at their doors.
Apartment complexes and condo buildings from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland began to find lobbies strewn with parcels containing everything from surgical masks and toilet paper to groceries and fast-food deliveries.
Concierge and security staff – already skeletal in numbers due to social distancing requirements – were bombarded with receiving parcels and tracking down their recipients. The situation quickly became untenable. Those that were able to pivot and adapt to the new normal, however, were the ones who had had the foresight to install a smart parcel locker in anticipation of the delivery uptick.
Smart parcel lockers, such as those manufactured and distributed by Snaile (pronounced Snail-ee), are relieving much of the stress brought on by parcel overload. The units, which are modular and entirely customizable – meaning they can accommodate any building, large or small – provide residents and carriers with a designated delivery area, eliminating the need for unnecessary foot-traffic throughout the building.
Carriers simply go to the locker’s terminal, select the appropriate unit number and compartment size and deposit the parcel. The moment the compartment door closes, the recipient receives a delivery alert via SMS or email containing a unique, one-time PIN or a scannable QR code, which is then used to collect the parcel when convenient. This simple and secure process eliminates the need for concierge staff to accept and store deliveries and keeps hallways and lobbies free of clutter.
Demand for the lockers has understandably risen dramatically since the onset of COVID-19 and its effects on the new normal.
At press time, Snaile has more than 200 lockers spanning 23 cities across Canada. With new installations happening weekly and blue-chip clients including Cadillac Fairview and Oxford Properties, the Ontario based company seems poised for rapid growth. “The parcel delivery business was already booming, prior to COVID-19,” says Snaile CEO, Patrick Armstrong. “But with the surge brought on by the pandemic, we’ve seen a 57% increase in parcel volumes when looking at the same locations from May 2019 to May 2020.”
What does this mean for buildings who installed the systems prior to the current bustling climate? According to Kirstin Thomas, VP of Marketing at Snaile, the company has that covered.
“The beauty of the modular systems is that we can install a unit based on projected needs (assessed in conjunction with the client by looking at occupancy and demographics) and, should those needs change over time, we can revisit the configuration with the client and add on more compartments, larger compartments, or refrigerated ones, for example, depending on their residents’ evolving needs.” That ability to adapt is precisely what seems to be setting companies like Snaile apart when it comes to not merely surviving but thriving during these challenging economic times.
“We have been devastated to watch to the tragic effects of this global pandemic unfold. I wouldn’t wish for this under any circumstances,” says Armstrong. “But now that this is our reality, I am exceedingly proud to provide a product and service that helps to mitigate some of the risks associated with this crisis.”
The risk mitigation can be attributed in large part to the smart locker’s capacity to facilitate contactless delivery.
In an effort to minimize unnecessary person-to-person contact, many carrier companies have waived signature requirements and property managers have prohibited carrier foot traffic throughout their buildings. A smart parcel locker allows carriers to deposit multiple parcels within minutes, without going past the designated delivery area. Residents can then collect parcels at their convenience by scanning a QR code or entering a secure, one-time PIN. And the bank-grade touch-screen terminal along with the flat steel surface of the lockers themselves allow the units to be cleaned and disinfected between uses with ease.
Yet another new norm to emerge from our post-COVID reality is the prevalence of working from home. As apartments and condos are doing double-duty as the new 9 to 5 workspace, the number of deliveries is increasing accordingly. These deliveries might include much-needed office supplies as well as time-sensitive documents requiring immediate attention. When a deposit occurs to a smart parcel locker, the recipient is notified of the delivery the instant the compartment door closes. This allows for timely collection, clearing the compartment for subsequent use, and means that time-sensitive deliveries are flagged right away so no time is lost in a resident’s important workday.
While the workday has changed for people in virtually every sector, those on the frontlines of the parcel deluge, from carriers to property management personnel, have borne the brunt of it, being inundated by the e-commerce avalanche. The sudden, around-the-clock arrival of deliveries coupled with the requirement to reduce onsite personnel translated into stress levels shooting to an all-time high. To avoid employee burnout and costly turnover, employers have adopted new technology to ease the burden.
“It is widely understood that happy employees are more productive,” says Jane McIver of Snaile. “By streamlining parcel deliveries with the addition of a smart parcel locker, concierge and security staff no longer have to spend countless hours managing incoming deliveries and tracking down recipients. Instead, those human resource hours can be directed to other, more important endeavours and property management teams can get back to dealing with people, not parcels.”
There is no denying that the arrival of COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work and shop. Experts predict that many of the changes brought about by the global pandemic are here to stay – more remote working, continued minimized contact and fewer brick-and-mortar stores. Whether it’s for personal use or business, the new order of things means that valuable items are coming to us, rather than being picked up in store. Items such as phones, computers, credit cards and other sensitive documents that could lead to identity theft should never be left unattended.
And while much media attention has been paid to the porch pirate of late, lobby looters have become a reality in the new, multi-residential landscape. By ensuring that all deliveries are made to an industrial grade smart locker, where each parcel is safely contained until the resident has an opportunity to collect it using their secure one-time PIN or QR code, property managers can avoid the liability concerns around theft and damage to property, and residents can take comfort in the fact that their belongings and personal information are protected.
“Our goal,” concludes Armstrong, at the end of our interview, “is to provide optimal solutions to our clients, throughout COVID and beyond, and to ensure safe and timely deliveries to Canadians everywhere.”
Visit snaile.com for more information on their innovative smart parcel lockers.