Having packages shipped and left at your customer’s front door comes with many logistical problems, from missed deliveries to address mix-ups and stolen or weather-damaged documents and merchandise. To solve such problems and improve customer satisfaction, Amazon has joined with the U.S. Postal Service and several large retailers in instituting a secure package delivery service that should give consumers peace of mind when ordering online.
The process of requesting such a delivery service is supported by email or text message notification during checkout. Customers are asked online to search for and select a locker location, either by inserting an address, area code or a nearby landmark. Once the package arrives at the location, an email alerts the recipient and includes a locker number and a pickup code. The customer simply enters the code on the touch-screen display at the retail location and picks up their package.
But Amazon isn't alone in the secure package delivery game. Several rival programs, including the U.S. Postal Service’s gopost and The UPS Store, also offer options that enable customers to have their packages delivered to a secure location for easy pickup.
Here’s how the various services work:
The world’s largest online retailer is in the process of installing large cabinets called Amazon Lockers in strip malls, drugstores, convenience markets and grocery stores throughout the country. In the past year, Amazon Lockers have been placed into operation in many (mostly 24-hour) retail operations in several major cities with more on the way.
These lockers are only available for items sold or fulfilled by Amazon.com, so if you don’t sell on Amazon, you can’t ship merchandise to one of their locker locations. In addition, the lockers are limited to items weighing less than 10 pounds and measuring less than 11.8-by- 11.8-by-11.8 inches. Another restriction: Items can’t require special handling.
With the postal service’s gopost, it’s your customers who decide to go this route. Shippers can’t offer this service as an option like they can with FedEx or UPS. Consumers visit gopost.com for a registration kit, receive a unique ID and a locker number and pickup code, similar to the way Amazon Lockers operates. Lockers come in three different sizes, small, medium and large (12-inches wide-by-15-inches deep-by-18.5-inches high). The consumer then provides the shipper with the gopost address for shipping merchandise.
Currently, gopost is only available in the Washington, D.C. area, but is expected to roll out nationally near post offices, grocery stores, transportation hubs, shopping centers and more by the beginning of 2013.
Related: How Can I Reduce Shipping Costs?
The UPS Store
For around $5, your customers can use their local UPS Store to receive packages they don’t want delivered to their home or office address. Since packages arrive at a brick & mortar location rather than a locker, size and weight restrictions are less of an issue.
The UPS My Choice option allows costumers to avoid those “sorry we missed you” notices by signing up for a phone, email or text message the day before a package arrives, or a small fee they can go online and release packages requiring a signature. For even more control, including being able to use the My Choice platform to reschedule deliveries, deliver to another address, authorize “leave at” instructions, and more, there’s an annual $40 Premium Membership available.
For small businesses that ship or drop ship products, these new shipping options offer you and your customers peace of mind, convenience and security. And since consumers love options, it wouldn’t hurt to update the shipping-related FAQs on your website with information about these choices.
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.