UK public suffering from ‘parcel pandemonium’, as 47% say delivery services will get worse and more expensive, Quadient survey finds

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This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: UK public suffering from ‘parcel pandemonium’, as 47% say delivery services will get worse and more expensive, Quadient survey finds.

UK consumers are beginning to lose faith in the reliability and convenience of home parcel deliveries, according to research from Quadient, a company helping businesses to create meaningful customer connections through digital and physical channels.

Some 47% of UK adults[1] are worried that the way parcels are sent and received is not sustainable, and services will get worse and more expensive – citing experiences with missed or stolen deliveries; less safe neighbourhoods; the need to reduce emissions; and feeling pushed into unsatisfactory click-and-collect alternatives.

Consumers are open to alternatives to home delivery that can address these issues. For instance, consumers are willing to use “trip chaining” – i.e. combining a journey to a shop, library or other local amenity with picking up parcels. Given the option, consumers would replace on average 47 parcel deliveries or pick-ups a year by trip chaining: the equivalent of 1.4 billion miles a year driven by couriers across the UK[2]

The survey also found:

  • Missed and stolen deliveries: 36% of consumers have received a “sorry you were out” card for a delivery while they were still at home. 35% are more worried about parcel theft now than they were before the COVID pandemic – understandable when police data shows parcel theft increased by 300% in three years. 
  • Safer neighbourhoods: 42% say the number of delivery vehicles in their neighbourhood each day is making it less pleasant and safe.
  • Environmental obligations: 31% of consumers feel under pressure to have fewer parcels delivered for economic and environmental reasons, but lack an alternative.  
  • Click & collect not meeting expectations: 45% say existing click-and-collect services – e.g. picking orders up from a customer service or dedicated counter – are too frustrating to use regularly, reducing its attractiveness as an alternative to home delivery. 

“Home parcel deliveries are an essential lifeline to many people, and despite poor experiences, they are still a vital part of the retail economy,” said Katia Bourgeais-Crémel, EVP Parcel Locker Solutions Europe at Quadient. “However, it’s clear the expectations that have built up around fast, free, anytime delivery and even return of parcels aren’t sustainable, either for businesses or for the environment. Instead we need an entire ecosystem that will allow people to order, receive and return parcels at their convenience, without committing to an unsustainable business model. The right mix of options will give people the convenience they need, reduce emissions, improve neighbourhoods, and create new opportunities for businesses.” 

As an alternative to traditional home deliveries or click-and-collect counters, 72% of consumers are open to using smart, secure parcel lockers. These solutions can be installed in residential and office buildings, simplifying home delivery, in stores or in public areas on the street. With respondents receiving an average of 72 parcels a year to their home, and sending 36 via couriers, adopting lockers could make trip-chaining simpler for consumers, and help retailers attract up to £13.7 billion in additional spending. 

With online shopping and returns increasing sharply during the pandemic, consumers have grown to expect free, fast delivery, at a convenient time, and in many cases to even return items from their door at no charge. However, many retailers and carriers have found that offering these services is no longer sustainable, resulting in a perceived drop in service quality. 53% of consumers noted that retailers’ delivery options are becoming less generous, for instance with fewer retailers offering free delivery without the buyer spending a large amount, or receiving deliveries at inconvenient times. 

At the same time, the fractured nature of deliveries and collections – with many different companies offering different levels of services and using proprietary pick-up and drop-off locations – is preventing greater uptake. For instance, 38% of consumers would like to use parcel lockers but their closest options are only used by one company, making them less practical. As a result, many consumers and organisations are missing out on benefits including:

  • Boosted businesses: Hosting parcel lockers can boost footfall to retailers and encourage spending. At least 54% of consumers would make extra purchases when picking up a parcel from a locker at a retailer, spending up to £705 a year – the equivalent of £13.7 billion across the UK[3]
  • Improved environment: 50% of respondents say that installing parcel lockers would make their community a safer place – for instance by reducing traffic and opportunities for theft.
  • Delivering on sustainability promises: 43% of respondents say their local council has committed to improving the environment, for instance by reducing traffic, but hasn’t delivered. Installing parcel lockers at key locations such as leisure centres, libraries or council offices would help reduce journeys.

“Automated parcel lockers are an essential element of any ecosystem designed for sustainable, modern retail and delivery,” continued Katia Bourgeais-Crémel. “An open network of lockers that can be used by any retailer or carrier, placed in locations including supermarkets and petrol station forecourts; car parks, stations and local amenities; and residential settings including apartment buildings, will give retailers and consumers maximum flexibility when ordering, receiving and returning deliveries. The benefits are clear: from lower traffic and emissions in communities, to increased footfall for businesses, to lower travel distances for carriers. Most importantly, consumers themselves will benefit from secure, reliable, affordable and convenient delivery, without the fear that services will collapse under increasing pressure.”  

[1] Survey of 2,000 UK adults aged 18 and over conducted in May 2023
[2] Calculation assumes the equivalent of 1 mile of courier travel for each delivery or collection, and 2021 census data of 19.4 million households in the UK
[3] Calculation assumes 2021 census data of 19.4 million households in the UK

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