The UPL is an automated, electronically connected network of parcel lockers, usually managed by a single entity, that can accept parcels across multiple parcel carriers/retailers or users. No such truly universal parcel locker networks of any size exist in the US, although the concept is gaining popularity in some smaller European countries.
Why Does UPL make sense?
- It allows the parcel carriers to consolidate costly residential deliveries at a single, automated, and secured pick-up point.
- The UPL is environmentally friendly as it will drive the reduction of delivery vehicles on our congested streets.
- Consumers are generally concerned about the theft of unsecured, released e-commerce shipments outside of their home. The UPL is a totally secured delivery option for the consumer and provides 24/7 access to support recipient pick-up.
- The consumer can request direct shipment from a merchant to the UPL or redirect shipments to the UPL via carrier delivery apps.
- Return shipments can be dropped off at the UPL.
The enormous cost of privately developing a UPL network is a problem, and as a result, the parcel carriers have been more inclined to develop retail access point relationships with national retailers. However, this type of retail store-based, consolidated pick-up solution is fraught with problems.
Why is UPL Difficult?
- Retail access points are limited to the store’s operating hours and do not provide 24/7 consumer access.
- Shipments holding for pickup at a retail access point are normally not stored in secured venues within the store and in most cases, visible to the public.
- The consumer must wait in line for the store associate to process their transaction as handling a parcel pick-up is just one of many tasks a store associate must support.
- Dedicated pack & ship stores offer a superior service experience for the consumer versus access points like Walgreens and CVS. However, you must still interface with a store associate to retrieve your package, which is becoming a less optimal solution for a consumer that prefers a totally automated solution.
Why is USPS the Perfect UPL Solution?
Our US postal service offers the best solution for the development of a national UPL network, for the following reasons:
- The USPS already operates nearly 30,000 post office locations that in most cases, could support an outdoor UPL with 24/7 access.
- US Post offices are conveniently located and normally fully developed retail venues with consumer-friendly ingress/egress and abundant parking.
- The timing is perfect for the USPS to coordinate further development of its GOPOST parcel locker initiative and morph their small, proprietary parcel locker network into a universal parcel locker solution.
- The USPS could reduce operating cost and improve the consumer experience by consolidating some of their services via an automated, UPL solution.
- It makes sense for UPS, FedEx, Amazon, and the USPS to join forces and share the cost of developing a single, universal parcel locker network. The two mega-carriers, UPS and FedEx, have historically rejected any type of partnership that would comingle operations to reduce operational cost and drive consumer convenience. However, the two carriers recently worked together on developing the Corona Virus distribution solution here in the US. Quite possibly, this joint initiative will open the door to more collaboration, that could lead to the private carriers linking with the USPS, to mutually sponsor the development of a UPL network.
Whatever you call it, Carrier Agnostic, Universal (UPL) or Carrier Neutral, the timing and circumstances are right for the USPS to take the lead in developing the Universal Parcel Locker concept, across America.
About the Author
Contributing editor Dean Maciuba is Managing Partner of Last Mile Experts, an e-commerce last mile CEP consultancy. He advises clients on e-commerce, last mile, and courier express & parcel matters in the US and Canada.