Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and along with family and food, the holiday has become practically synonymous with shopping. Last year, American shoppers spent $4.45 billion online on Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day. When I think about how many millions of parcels that equated to, I can’t help but wonder how multifamily owners coped with that influx of packages. Online shopping presents a unique problem for multifamily owners, who must somehow manage the stream of packages it brings in for residents, and it often requires a bit of ingenuity.
Getting packages delivered to their apartment block is a sticking point for tenants. In fact, a recent survey demonstrated that package delivery centers are the second most popular amenity after fitness rooms. If you want to stop the pileup of brown boxes behind your reception desk or in your leasing office and provide residents with an amenity they want and are willing to pay for, you can create a dedicated postal center.
Repurpose Unused or Underused Spaces
The first step in creating a postal center will be to find a dedicated space. But there’s no reason to start knocking down walls to create new space; this is an excellent opportunity to renovate existing areas that just don’t get used. We’ve already discussed the benefits of moving washers and dryers out of communal laundry rooms and into tenants’ apartments, so if you haven’t already made the move, this is a good opportunity. The following renovation work may be all that’s needed to make sure the space is ready to receive parcels:
- Mold removal
- Electrical refit
Spaces of this kind can be renovated and repurposed quickly, and can be ready to start receiving parcels within a few weeks.
Consider Security and Accessibility
Because you’re storing residents’ possessions in a communal space, you’ll need to have a number of features to guarantee the safety of packages. A high level of security can also have the added benefit of allowing residents access to their packages at any time of the day or night:
- Keyless entry. Ideally, the postal room should be locked at all times when staff members aren’t present to avoid opportunistic thefts. But that means residents won’t be able to access their packages in the evening—often the most convenient time for them. It’s imperative to give them access, but the last thing they need is another key to add to their cluttered key ring. Instead, install a keyless entrance system that either gives residents a code or a fob that they can use to access the postal center at their leisure.
- Security cameras. Leaving the center accessible to anyone during the day could lead to accusations of stolen or missing packages. By installing a security camera in the postal center, you can track the comings and goings of everyone: residents, postal employees, and your staff.
- Traditional Lockers. You’re already investing in your postal center, so don’t skimp on the lockers. The size of them will depend on whether or not you put a limit on the size of parcels you are willing to accept—it’s highly recommended that you do—and they must be sturdy, durable and resistant to forced break-ins.
Automate with Package Lockers
Alternatively, you can automate your postal service using package lockers.There’s a wave of new tech start-ups that are revolutionizing how apartment residents can receive online orders and they all focus on providing a block of electronic lockers (similar to the Amazon Lockers that are springing up locations across the city). If you don’t employ a full-time receptionist or concierge, or already have resident mailboxes in use, this may be the solution for you.
How they work: Lockers can be placed in any communal area within your complex, as long as there is an electrical power source and enough space. Different providers have slightly different ways of operating, but they are essentially all very similar. The delivery person will deposit a parcel in an assigned locker. This will generate an alert that will be sent to the resident (typically received through an app or email) to notify them of their delivery. Residents can then use a key fob or a security code (sent in the alert) to access their package at any time of the day or night.
Cost: Depending on which provider you use, setup costs can range from $5000-$20000 or even more. There are also monthly subscription fees for the bulk of these companies (usually less than $10), but these costs can be levied on residents.
Pros: The lockers make it possible to almost completely automate your postal service. Security is also very strong. The lockers tend to be incredibly durable to prevent theft and most come with a security camera included.
Cons: If a package is too large, then owners or receptionists will need to accept the delivery on the tenant’s behalf. Of course, you can always specify that tenants can only have certain sized items delivered to the apartment block.
Required renovation: Only a little renovation work should be required to install lockers. This may include installing additional power sockets in your building’s atrium or knocking through a wall to create a larger communal area.
Whatever storage system you choose, the bottom line is that if you are going to offer your residents a postal center, you must ensure that your liability is covered.
Alert Tenants to their Delivery
Finally, you must choose how to alert residents of their package delivery. There are a few different options:
- Email. Simple, convenient, fast, and free. Most landlords will have their tenants’ emails on file and it only takes a moment for a receptionist or other staff member to send off a template email notifying tenants that they have a package.
- Text. Everyone has a cell phone nowadays. As a result, text message alerts are more likely to be acknowledged on the day they are sent. This means the package spends less time in your postal center. Of course, text messaging can come with a small cost attached, so you must be prepared for that if you use this notification method.
- Apps. Yes, there are even apps designed to alert tenants to their delivery. These apps send instant alerts to residents’ smartphones. They can be used by you and your staff to log and track packages and keep all records in one handy place. These apps aren’t free, however, and fees vary.
- A simple note. Those who are less tech-savvy may still appreciate just a simple note on their apartment door.
There isn’t an obvious choice here. When making your decision, bear in mind who your residents are, how much you are willing to spend, which alert they are most likely to take notice of, and how this system will fit in with your current postal setup.
How to Deal with Uncollected Parcels
With a fast and convenient notification system in place, it’s unlikely that you’re going to have a backlog of packages that are waiting to be picked up. That being said, package pile-ups can still happen and it’s always better to be prepared. To manage this, you can:
- Make returns the tenant’s responsibility. Occasionally, tenants may change their mind about a purchase and not collect it in the hope that you’ll do their dirty work and return it. Don’t let this thought cross their mind by stipulating in their lease that any parcels delivered to the apartment block are the resident’s responsibility to collect and return.
- Gain permission to drop off the package in their apartment. If the first point isn’t enough to dissuade tenants from leaving their packages with you, you can go one step further and stipulate that the resident must give you permission to access their unit to drop off the package after a certain period of time. Given that you’d expect the vast majority of parcels to be collected within a week, this should require minimum effort from you or a staff member.
- Remove tenants from the service. Ultimately, failure to collect parcels can be seen as misuse of the service and you always have the option to ban tenants from using the service entirely. This should be straightforward whether you have self-service lockers where you can remove the tenant’s account, or a concierge or receptionist who accepts packages in person.
Don’t allow the thought of uncollected parcels deter you from developing your postal center, as you can easily head this off with some careful planning and forethought.
Delivering in Style
Allocating a space, keeping security at the forefront, and implementing new technology will together ensure that you create a postal center that runs smoothly and that your residents will appreciate. In a time when deliveries can sometimes be made to residences within hours, it’s more important than ever to offer tenants a reliable and safe method for receiving their packages.
Is it time your multifamily made an amenity out of the nation’s growing obsession with online shopping? If you’re ready to make the most of this boom, REIG is here to help. We have over 120 years of combined renovation experience on hand and have already helped dozens of other multifamily owners to renovate and improve their apartments. Pick up the phone and speak to a member of our team or complete the form below to kickstart your project today.