E-commerce … Is it causing a new problem for Facilities Managers?

E-commerce ... Is it causing a new problem for Facilities Managers?

How we buy goods has changed fundamentally since the 1980s. We’ve moved from a situation where people bought locally to a position where someone can buy anything from almost anywhere in the world without leaving their sofa.

In 2015, 77% of the 92% of the UK population which use the internet, made an online purchase. Online retailing now makes up 17% of the overall retail market in the UK and is growing year-on-year. And it’s not just online-only players such as Amazon and eBay receiving the most traffic. High street staples such as Argos, Tesco, Asda, Marks & Spencer and Boots all feature in the top 10 online retailers.

Yet despite the exponential growth, the system often falls at the last hurdle: the delivery of purchases to the consumer. Home delivery remains the most popular option for online shopping, with 92% of UK shoppers choosing this method, but with such a large proportion of the population now working or being out of the home so much, including mothers, this change of social behaviour is the downside to those operating in online retailing.

This is leading to many people choosing to have parcels delivered by other methods. Click and collect in-store is the second most popular option chosen by 68% of people, with a further 23% choosing to have parcels delivered to work and this 23% is a rapidly escalating figure, creating all sorts of problems for FMs.

With shoppers increasingly arranging to have parcels delivered to their workplace, this is putting enormous pressure on company mailrooms. Overall around 2.2 billion packages are delivered every year in the UK, of which 54% are business to business (B2B), 34% are business to consumer (B2C) and 12% are consumer to consumer (C2C). Statistics show that 94% of the UK population have received at least one parcel in the last six months, and on average people receive 1.5 parcels per household, per week. That’s a huge amount of personal parcels for a business to manage.

A small business with 50 employees faced with dealing with an average 75 parcels a week might find this manageable. However, large organisations with several thousand employees would find dealing with personal parcels disrupts business, and can add significant cost to the bottom line.  For FMs or large buildings it is their new nightmare.

Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands, for example, receives 450 deliveries every 24 hours, and 11,000 parcels or letters are delivered every month, of which the FM team estimates that almost a third are personal items. Obvious personal items now account for between 30% and 40% of all incoming post according to James Gilding, managing director of the document-management arm of Mitie, who has seen a 20% increase in personal items being delivered to work addresses on the previous year. As a result of these challenges, several household names including HSBC, JP Morgan, Citibank, DVLA and some Government departments have introduced policies banning the delivery of personal parcels to the workplace. Some charge employees a small fee – around £10 – to deliver packages, which is often donated to the organisation’s charity. Those major organisations which do allow staff to have parcels delivered to work are increasingly promoting it as a company perk, rather than standard practice .

While the majority of online shopping parcels are relatively small – books, DVDs, clothing – mailrooms are regularly asked to deal with everything from bicycles and cases of wine to full grocery orders. Mailroom workers have even reported the delivery of live animals, fireworks and ironing. The problem is exacerbated in December when people will often order all their Christmas presents for friends and relatives online, and have them delivered to work, and also in the lead-up to summer holidays when people are refreshing their wardrobes for warmer climes.

So, how does today’s facility manager deal with this new and disrupting phenomenon? Banning personal deliveries is all very well but it leads to grumbling and discontented staff, not welcome in some industry sectors where staff retention of key employees or recruitment can be extremely challenging.

Another solution, which has proved very popular in Europe and has recently launched in the UK, is the parcel delivery box. The Bringme box provides a secure and safe way of receiving online shopping at home, work or in educational and healthcare facilities. The boxes are located in a building’s entrance, basement or anywhere suitable, and the courier or postman simply delivers the parcel into the box, closes the door and the recipient is automatically informed through the Bringme app that their parcel is ready for collection. There are different sized boxes including chilled ones to hold groceries or flowers, even boxes with hanging rails for ironing.

There is a clear audit trail throughout the transaction from the moment the courier drops off the item, to the moment the recipient collects it, using a unique QR code, ensuring that parcels never go missing. Conversely, if there are items needed to be returned, or sent on, or something needs picking up, the box works the other way around and a courier can collect from it without needing to disturb anyone. It doesn’t have to be a commercial transaction – users can leave or have belonginga collected by friends or family, with Bringme everything becomes less hassle.

This solution is being seen as a competitive differentiator for apartment developments, and a cost-effective way of replacing, enhancing or freeing up the time of a concierge or security guard in some residential developments, particularly in urban conurbations. The stylish design also adds a welcome architectural element to many lobby areas blending in with the existing design.

This is particularly relevant for student accommodation, a growing percentage of the housing stock. The traditional postal delivery service doesn’t fit in with students’ erratic hours of formal and informal studying, part-time working and socialising, whereas the Bringme box, positioned in the hallways of major student accommodation facilities, is an ideal and competitive differentiator for the student accommodation provider when it comes to attracting the student pound.

For workplaces, the benefits of this approach are obvious. Companies no longer have to manage vast amounts of personal mail and can instead ensure all staff mail is diverted to the Bringme boxes. At a time of a major skills shortage, when the war for talent is raging across many organisations, companies can provide staff with the perk of having their personal parcels delivered in a safe and secure way at very little cost to the organisation.

The solution can be capexed if it is brought in at the development stage, or paid through a small monthly fee making it affordable for all organisations.

All the evidence shows that the challenge of online deliveries is only going to get worse. The way we live and work is making the traditional home delivery model at risk of extinction. Managers of workplaces and residential blocks need to start looking for new ways of addressing this complex problem and the Bringme solution is already establishing itself in mainland Europe as the ideal.



E-commerce … Is it causing a new problem for Facilities Managers?