First-time parcel delivery is a hot topic for postal operators and parcel/express companies. Recipient choice is emerging as the main theme for increasing first-time delivery rates, and was the subject of a session at the recent E-BISS International Postal Delivery Benchmarking Workshop held in Vienna.
Various postal operators have introduced the concept of delivery to a "safe place" when the customer isn't home to receive a parcel.
Royal Mail offers Safeplace, where customers can nominate a safe place for parcels to be left unattended. Australia Post offers Safe Drop, which applies only for non-signature items. Post Danmark offers Modtagerflex, an opt-in service where customers specify a safe place at home for parcel delivery.
Each of these services have a common goal - first-time parcel delivery to a safe place at an unattended address - but use different methods to achieve that outcome.
Post Danmark's flexible delivery service is an opt-in service. When the service first launched, customers could choose from ten standard delivery points (in the shed, on the patio, etc) and in time this evolved to include customer-tailored delivery points. It's a free service.
Australia Post's Safe Drop started as a way of formalising previous informal delivery arrangements, where the customer arranged with the local delivery driver for consignments to be delivered to a pre-arranged safe spot.
One significant difference between Safe Drop and the Post Danmark service is that the addressee has no opportunity to nominate a preferred safe place. It is left to the discretion of the delivery driver if and where the parcel might be left.
Another significant difference is that Safe Drop is the "default" delivery option for parcels not requiring a signature. The sender may request that a "Do not Safe Drop" sticker be placed on the parcel to ensure that the parcel is not left unattended at the recipient's address.
Safeplace, Royal Mail's unattended delivery option, is similar to the Post Danmark service. Customers nominate their own preferred delivery location. The customer's preference will be printed on the delivery label. The delivery driver will still assess the suitability and safety of the nominated delivery location.
Austrian Post offers a "permission to drop off" service. This is a formalised arrangement, where the customer signs a contract with Austrian Post specifying the safe place.
These delivery options are all free to the customer and have contributed to increased first-time delivery rates.
"Safe place" delivery options (and others such as Royal Mail's Delivery to Neighbour) require little investment from the postal operator when compared to parcel lockers, time-specific delivery, and other premium delivery options.
Delivery to a safe place is not a foolproof delivery option, and it won't suit all customers, but it is a crucial part of recipient choice.