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Rental services are becoming more common throughout the shipping industry and among online customers. What should sector professionals do to support the continued growth of these services?

Partner with services that shorten last-mile delivery distances

As e-commerce purchases remain popular, many decision-makers in the shipping industry have explored possibilities for reducing last-mile delivery challenges. One option gaining popularity is to have parcels delivered to lockers people rent. 

In the ideal case, the lockers are in places people must visit anyway, such as their offices or the public transit stations they use daily. Then, it is easy for customers to get their delivered goods and shipping specialists do not have to bring the packages to individual homes.

Delivering to residences comes with many challenges, including people not being home to accept the parcels. It also becomes time-consuming for delivery drivers to get in and out of their vans repeatedly to make deliveries in residential communities with dozens of houses. If a delivery driver can go to a single locker and make dozens of deliveries on a single stop, such arrangements allow much better use of time.

In India, a new app the Delhi Metro offers allows people to purchase products and get them delivered to specific metro stops. Elsewhere, Nigeria’s SmartParcel service places package lockers in highly populated locations, such as hospitals, banks and airports. 

Customers can use apps to see available lockers and temporarily use them as parcel pickup or drop-off points. The company’s team says the maximum transaction time when using the lockers is only 25 seconds, making them convenient solutions for customers.

Increased utilisation within the shipping sector will be essential for these services and others like them to gain mainstream popularity. When someone sees their preferred courier or e-commerce site offers free delivery to these lockers, they will be more open to trying them.

Be open to new opportunities

Rental arrangements enable people to take advantage of the latest offerings without the upfront investments of buying them. Construction industry leaders learned this by renting equipment to save money and achieve safer operations during their projects.

Some rental services catering to the shipping industry and its customers challenge people to be willing to try new things. Consider ROXBOX — a UK-based enterprise offering sustainable containers for storing or transporting fine art. Company founder Andrew Stramentov says 90% of the art world’s packaging is single-use, which he wanted to change. The current system involves shippers making containers for each art shipment and charging for their disposal after use.

However, ROXBOX’s Loop service creates a circular economy by offering artwork containers to rent in cities where such services would be most in demand. London, Paris and New York are some of the current participating locations. This option became possible after European, Asian, and American shippers collaborated with ROXBOX to store reusable packaging and containers in warehouses.

People who rent the containers pay fixed amounts according to the artwork’s size and weight. Numerous international galleries are ROXBOX clients, and use the service to send pieces to and from international art fairs.

Andrew Stramentov compares his brand to the e-bike services that allow people to hop on pedalled vehicles with minimal friction. However, he acknowledges that everyone must work together to insist on more reusable packaging in the art world. Once people know other options exist and are open to using them, their willingness will go a long way in reducing packaging waste.

Promote reusable e-commerce packaging

It is easy to see how consumerism harms the environment. Vast assortments of merchandise and speedy shipping options encourage people to buy more rather than use what they have and be happy with it. The consumerism push also contributes to waste. Even if people donate unwanted clothes or give them to recycling services, the items often get shipped to other countries and dumped.

However, getting people to give up their shopping habits is largely unrealistic. A good compromise is to figure out how to make the current shipping infrastructure greener. Some companies are doing that by encouraging consumers to return their e-commerce packaging, resulting in more reuse and less waste.

One example is KIUD, which turns textile waste into rigid packaging and offers a rental program for e-commerce companies in Estonia. Participating businesses must install plug-ins on their online ordering portals, after which consumers can choose reusable packaging and pay a modest deposit for it. Shoppers get that money back once they return the package.

There is also Hipli — a French brand that allows e-commerce enterprises to pay monthly subscriptions to rent a choice of four flexible mailers and one rigid design. Belgian postal operator Bpost launched a pilot of Hipli’s mailers, meaning stores could reuse packaging up to 100 times instead of relying on single-use options. 

One participating e-commerce company expected to ship about 4,000 orders in water-tight, tearproof packages during the three-month pilot.

Customers who receive these reusable packages can return them to designated points overseen by Bpost or numerous other locations in their areas. Since both this example and KIUD will only work if customers return the packaging, shipping professionals should explore how they could launch programs to support these initiatives and help people develop new habits.

Rental services gaining momentum

These examples show people have more options once they get curious about reducing waste through rentals. Sometimes, the rentals address wasted time — in others, they eliminate single-use packaging. No matter a rental business’s specific approach, these initiatives will have better chances of succeeding when the shipping sector supports them.