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Estonia in 2021: a parcel locker in every village and town?

21.04.2020 | Cleveron, Cleveron 361

Amid the crisis, people everywhere are shopping online. City dwellers have the upper hand here, as they have limitless options for delivery. COVID-19 has clearly shown that rural communities can’t enjoy the same logistical infrastructure. Our solution? A parcel locker in every village and town by the end of 2020.

The shift to online shopping 

With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, more and more people have focused their shopping on online channels. And this shift seems to have long-lasting effects, with 93% saying they expect to shop online either more (60%) or at the same level (33%) as they did before the outbreak. Consumers are buying everything online and are forced to discover new ways of shopping and receiving their goods. The most preferred version is human contact free pickup. This sharp change in acceptable and available shopping methods has rapidly increased the adoption of different e-commerce services.

While e-commerce is enjoying an onslaught of new customers, it has brought about many challenges in delivery. City dwellers enjoy many options when it comes to delivery – drive-in pickup, courier services, BOPIS and outdoor parcel lockers that are scattered across the city. People living in rural areas, however, are not so fortunate and have to rely on limited delivery options. 

Rural communities and the logistical dance for parcels

Delivery offerings are geared towards cities, where there is a higher number of residents and increased demand. What about rural communities? In Estonia, parcel lockers are very popular and there are plenty available in cities and larger county centres. They are also the delivery method of choice for Estonians since they are cheaper than a courier and, unlike the post office, they are available almost 24/7. But when you live in a village, getting to the parcel locker may be difficult because they are sometimes located 20 km away and the public transport system is not that efficient.

Car owners can make the lengthy trip and pick up their parcel from an APM while others are tackling the situation in a more creative way. Many ask friends or relatives to pick up their parcel. Others have joined community Facebook groups, where they can ask if anyone going to the nearest town could pick up their parcel for a small fee. The idea behind parcel lockers is convenience but this is not often the case in the countryside.   

Cleveron’s grand idea – a parcel locker for every village in Estonia

We in Cleveron believe that innovation doesn’t have to happen in big cities and we ourselves are a great example of that. Cleveron is located in a city of 17,000 residents and creates futuristic parcel robots that are used by the most innovative retailers in the biggest cities in the world. One of our clients has more employees than we have residents in the entire country.

Like for many companies, the COVID-19 crisis temporarily halted our everyday activities, but it also gave us time to focus more on what we are great at: innovation. We got to thinking how we could bring more value to our own home, Estonia, and save people even more time. Today, there are approximately 4,500 villages in Estonia with a total of 430,000 residents. For most of them, using a parcel locker is difficult because there are none nearby. We quickly developed a concept for a parcel locker that can be installed in bus stops across the country. It was named Cleveron 361 – an outdoor parcel locker that combines the characteristics of an APM and a bus stop. Cleveron 361 brings a necessary service closer to consumers, making online shopping more convenient and quicker for rural people and shortening delivery times for city dwellers. The new solar-powered parcel locker can be operated as a courier agnostic locker, filled by couriers or even bus drivers.

"There are more than 4,500 villages and small towns in Estonia, where today, there are no parcel lockers. We calculated that if the state would invest €20 million, we would be ready to install a parcel locker in every village in Estonia," said Cleveron's CEO Arno Kütt.

A thousand Yes-es

We decided to test our thesis with the Estonian public and asked our followers on Facebook if they knew what villages would benefit from a parcel locker. The response we got was overwhelming. Our Facebook post immediately went viral. In 3 days, we reached over 187,000 people which is 25% of all Facebook users in Estonia. We received over 2,400 reactions, 1,300 comments and 800 post shares. Our mailbox overflowed with responses from people saying they needed a parcel locker in their village.

Many people described how they currently receive their parcels. Here are just a few examples:

  • "I have to drive 40 km in total just to use a parcel locker. That means I can’t pick up my parcel as quickly as I’d want to.“
  • "The closest parcel locker is 7 km away. Some people don’t have any means of transportation to go pick up their parcel and have to travel there by bus. It would be very convenient to have a parcel locker near my home.“
  • "We desperately need an APM – my nearest parcel locker is 25 km away and the second closest is 40 km away.“
  • "Yes! I have to use a parcel locker in the nearest town but it’s always full and my deliveries are delayed because of it.“
  • "I have to drive 34 km in total to pick up a parcel from my closest parcel locker. It’s such a hassle!“

Estonians are often called the “parcel locker nation” and yet there are thousands of people that cannot use the service because it’s simply out of reach. Cleveron believes that innovation can and must reach rural areas. Having a comprehensive nationwide parcel locker network would make life in the countryside more convenient and make online shopping seamless for everyone, regardless of their place of residence. This may be seen as just a matter of convenience, but who wouldn't want to enjoy that?

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