Recent deals between Amazon.com Inc. and large apartment complex owners to install self-serve lockers aim to simplify package delivery in urban areas. Such arrangements also make Amazon more central to e-commerce order delivery, regardless of whether the order comes from Amazon.
Amazon.com Inc. is installing self-serve lockers where shoppers can pick up packages sent to them by any retailer—not just Amazon—in apartment buildings across the country. Called Hub by Amazon, the lockers have been installed in buildings owned by several large property management companies, including AvalonBay Communities Inc. AvalonBay is the tenth-largest apartment management company in the country, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council.
Kurt Conway, senior vice president of brand strategy and marketing for AvalonBay, says the company began installing the lockers about six weeks ago and now has them in a dozen of its complexes, which he calls communities. He declines to identify the complexes, the markets in which they are located or how many residents have access to Amazon Hub lockers.
“On average our communities receive about 1,000 packages per month,” Conway says. “Given this volume and the expected increase based on the online shopping preferences of our residents, we believe this is a valued amenity, allowing residents the convenience of picking up their packages 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Residents of AvalonBay properties where the lockers are installed receive a one-time use code via text message or email that they can use to open the locker when their package arrives, Conway says. He referred questions about how those use codes are generated and how shipping carriers access them to Amazon, which did not return multiple requests for comment.
AvalonBay plans to install the lockers in about 100 of its 287 apartment buildings over the course of the next year, and potentially increase that figure, he says. No additional staff is required to manage the lockers, Conway says, and all shipping carriers and retailers will be able to deliver packages to them.
Kalin Robinson, director of new product development for United Parcel Service Inc., confirmed that UPS will deliver packages to Amazon Hub lockers.
Bryan Jensen, chairman and executive vice president of logistics consultancy St. Onge, says the lockers are a strategic move that provides one more way for Amazon to stay top of mind with shoppers.
“If those lockers are Amazon-branded, every time I go past them even without using them, I see the logo and the next time I go to the internet to buy something, I’m more likely to buy something (from Amazon),” Jensen says. “This is just another leg on that table and another arrow in the quiver of making Amazon ubiquitously associated with internet shopping.”
The lockers serve as “a billboard in every apartment building that they’re going into,” says Georgianna Oliver, founder of smart-locker manufacturer Package Concierge, which installs its systems in apartment complexes and student housing. “They’re trying to control the retail chain through the last mile of delivery.”
Conway says the lockers have a small Amazon logo in a corner but don’t include additional Amazon branding.
Whether Amazon’s lockers are capable of collecting data about the packages—such as point of origin, sender and recipient—is unknown. Amazon did not return multiple requests for comment, and AvalonBay’s Conway deferred all questions about that to Amazon.
Jim Barnes, CEO of supply chain consulting firm enVista Corp., says he considers the data, such as where a package is shipped from and its destination, as being valuable information that Amazon might collect from Amazon Hub lockers in large apartment buildings.
“If I’m building my own transportation network and I know that UPS and FedEx are delivering to me, I can start looking at lane density and start building out my network around this lane density,” Barnes says. Lane density refers to how much package volume moves between certain geographic areas, such as Los Angeles to Phoenix or New York to Boston, for example.
Oliver says Package Concierge’s system collects such data as what time of day and time of year packages are being delivered to its lockers, in addition to the names of residents who live in apartment complexes that use its systems, and none of that data is shared or sold to third parties. If Amazon’s lockers collect similar information, she says that could give them a competitive advantage over other retailers.
“They are basically data mining,”Oliver says. “They are going to know every package a person orders and has delivered. They’re going to know everything about their buying habits. They’re going to know what we know, but we’re agnostic.”
Arik Levy, CEO of smart delivery locker manufacturer Luxer One, also says installing Amazon lockers in large apartment buildings gives the e-retailer a competitive advantage. “[Amazon] now controls the last-mile experience for other retailers.”
Luxer One sells its locker systems to apartment complexes, offices and retailers to automate the package delivery process. The locker systems log each time a delivery driver or resident accesses a locker, and they include video surveillance. After a carrier delivers a package to a locker using a unique access code, the recipient receives a notification via text, email or both, that the package is ready for pickup, along with a one-time access code to open the locker, says Melody Akhtari, Luxer One’s marketing and communications director.
“We collect as little information from the lockers as possible,” she says. “We know what time a package goes in and out, and what carrier delivered it because the carrier has way to get into the system. We don’t track the retailers.”