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4 things we’ve learned from e-commerce automation during COVID-19 pandemic

14.04.2020 | Cleveron

Cleveron provides online order pickup solutions for leading retailers all over the world. With 30 customers operating in 24 countries, we’ve had the unique opportunity to follow how the COVID-19 crisis has affected online order traffic and business in general in different parts of the world. Here are four things we’ve learned in this past month. 

1.     Different delivery options are a definite advantage 

…and it is not just the case of offering in-store or home delivery. While before the crisis, curbside pickup was something only a few retailers were testing out, it has become something everyone is rushing to set up. Currently, home deliveries take a long time due to fulfillment issues and a surge in demand. Meanwhile, shopping in stores is restricted and not very safe due to the possibility of direct human contact. This means that the out-of-store opportunity gives consumers a more convenient way of picking up their groceries or household essentials.

Our clients who have opted to use outdoor parcel lockers or robots are now seeing even bigger parcel volumes than they did during Christmas. Outdoor solutions are available for clients 24/7 and are operational even when the physical stores are closed. They also allow consumers to receive their orders without having to come in direct contact with another person, which is extremely important in today’s circumstances. 

2.     Estonians are truly a parcel locker nation

Estonian logistics companies and parcel locker network operators are struggling to cope with the sudden growth or parcel volumes. It is “Christmas 2.0”. During the second part of March and the beginning of April, e-commerce purchases have grown by 35%–40%. In Cleveron’s shared parcel robot network CollectNet, the volumes are record-breaking. 

In an attempt to stop the virus from spreading, the Estonian government closed all shopping centres on March 27th, leaving only grocery stores, essential services and pharmacies open. Consumers are therefore looking for no contact pickup options and ordering their goods to parcel lockers which are now filled to the brim. 

Estonians have been using automated parcel lockers for over 10 years now (Cleveron is partially “to blame” here) for B2C and C2C parcels and several logistics operators have a state-wide locker network. There are many reasons why Estonians prefer using APMs. Customers often receive their parcels faster than they would from a courier, it is a cheaper delivery option, pickup is convenient since the lockers are everywhere and, again – delivery is free of human contact. Another unusual occurrence: since the most popular parcel lockers are constantly full, people are ordering packages to lockers, which may be located on the other side of town, in a quieter area. It may be more inconvenient, but you get your items faster.  

Every detail matters. Our clients using both parcel robots and lockers report that customers prefer to pick up goods from the parcel robot now more than ever. The difference between the two is the number of times the customer has to touch the screen – parcel robots require fewer touches. Wearing gloves or disinfecting hands after use make the service even safer. 

3.     Even small businesses are innovating and moving online 

Before the pandemic, the words online store, omnichannel, click and collect or BOPIS were often used when talking about the future strategies of big retailers. Are they investing in automation? What innovations are they planning? Today, moving your business online is often the only way to keep your business going even for SME’s. 

We’ve seen an unusual surge of inquiries from small businesses looking for a locker solution suitable for low parcel volumes. Even though the problems with parcel delivery existed well before the crisis, the pandemic has forced smaller companies to innovate and come up with new ways to serve their clients. And business owners are seeing opportunities everywhere. For example, one of our parcel locker models, Cleveron 301, is used as a 24/7 car key handover point in a car dealership. Customers use the APM to pick up spare parts, drop off their keys to get their car serviced or tires changed or to return a rental car.  

4.     Automation is not a question of if but when 

Cleveron has been creating automated and robotic parcel delivery solutions for years now. We’ve often heard that our products are a little bit too futuristic. As an Estonian company, we’ve seen first-hand how a convenient solution like a parcel locker changes people’s delivery preferences and creates new business opportunities with the possibility of sending C2C parcels. From the sheer amount of interest we are receiving for our products, from smart lockers to the grocery robot, and considering how shopping habits are changing rapidly all over the world, we can say that in going forward from this crisis, click and collect automation is a necessity, not something to maybe consider in the future.

If you want to learn more about Cleveron’s pick up lockers and robots, please contact us at [email protected].

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