A parcel delivery locker on Liyuan Road in Huangpu District. The smart lockers are proving a hit. (Jiang Xiaowei)
Local courier firms and communities are widely promoting an intelligent parcel delivery locker as a new solution to the costly last mile of delivery in Shanghai.
The parcel lockers typically comprise 40 to 200 electronic lockers with a control unit that allows each compartment to be opened with the proper credentials. They are available in different sizes.
"They offer a very convenient and cost-effective alternative for customers and couriers to get parcels both delivered and received," said Zhang Jianhong, the property manager with the Carnival Garden, an international community in Gubei in Changning District.
The neighborhood with over 200 households, 30 percent being from abroad, has installed three such intelligent lockers in a central basement. Another two lockers with the brand Hive Box will be installed soon to meet the increasing demand, Zhang said.
Customers said it is more convenient to pick up from the lockers when they are not at home and they don't have to be bothered by constant phone calls from deliverymen, he added.
Several leading courier giants — SF, Yunda, STO, ZTO and the logistics infrastructure provider GLP — have joined together to set up Hive Technology Co. The aim is to develop and promote the Hive Box locker, currently the largest player in the Chinese market.
Over 5,000 such intelligent lockers have been installed in Shanghai and about 60,000 nationwide, according to SF Express, which led the Hive Box cooperation scheme.
One of the top issues that Zhang and other apartment managers face is handling resident packages and parcels, especially during the various online shopping festivals.
Last year's Singles Day shopping frenzy on November 11 racked up a record-setting US.8 billion in revenue for Alibaba Group alone.
Zhang said many local community managements have refused to accept packages for customers.
Nancy Liu, a white-collar working for a multinational company, said the smart locker in the neighborhood in Liangcheng, where she lives, has played an indispensable part for her online shopping experiences.
"It makes me feel safer to pick up the parcels from the lockers rather than open the door to a strange person, especially at night," Liu said.
While the lockers are being lauded by customers, the deliverymen also see them as a more efficient and convenient delivery option.
"I don't have to climb up and down," said Chen Deping, a deliveryman who delivers in the Gubei area.
"It also solves the problem that many customers are unwilling to open their doors to us," he said.
Another courier surnamed Jiang, said: "We don't have to take liability for the theft of the parcel left on the doorstep when the customers are not at home."
However, some of their colleagues said they preferred to deliver the parcels to the customer's door because using the locker costs them about 0.5 yuan (7.5 US cents) for each parcel.
While the intelligent lockers are spearheading the industry growth, there should also be some improvements, said Cao Lei, director with the China e-commerce Research Center.
"Deliverymen must get approval from the customer before dropping the parcels in the lockers," Cao said. "Otherwise they must deliver the parcels to the homes according to the nation's courier market management regulation."
It is estimated 43.8 billion parcels will be delivered nationwide this year, or 120 million parcels daily, according to the State Post Bureau of China.