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From the Spring 2021 Issue

The New Age of Parcel Deliveries

The Future of Condos

Feature || Jane McIver

The shift in the retail landscape from bricks and mortar to online shopping and resulting increase in parcel deliveries mean smart parcel lockers are fast becoming a must-have amenity in condos of all sizes – not only because they provide a short-term solution, but because of their adaptability to meet future needs.

Today’s condo dwellers have an infinite number of conveniences at their fingertips once reserved for luxury hotels, from apps that allow them to reserve building amenities and local services with the touch of a button to instant messaging with concierge, maintenance and security personnel. In fact, multi-residential stakeholders have been among the earliest adopters of smart carving out their own category, aptly called “PropTech,” as in property technology. Among the PropTech technologies being incorporated into condo buildings, one that is fast becoming a ubiquitous feature in lobbies and mailrooms across the country is the smart parcel locker.

E-commerce Explosion Has Led to a Parcel Avalanche
It is no secret that e-commerce in Canada is booming. An increasingly tech-savvy population, coupled with a global pandemic requiring everyone to shelter in place, led to skyrocketing online sales. Notwithstanding the promise of vaccines and a return to normal, Canada Post’s 2020 E-commerce Report suggests the trend is here to stay, with e-commerce sales in Canada expected to increase from $75.57 billion in 2020 to a whopping $108.1 billion by 2023. Globally, those numbers are even more staggering, with the McKinsey Institute forecasting that the 100 billion parcels delivered last year could double over the next ten years.

This exponential increase presents enormous challenges across multiple sectors, including retail, last-mile delivery, and, of course, multi-residential condo and apartment buildings that are left scrambling to keep up. Many condos have opted to invest in smart parcel lockers to address the growing problem.

A Smart Solution
As their name implies, smart parcel lockers offer fully automated solutions, including instant notifications, contactless collection, and secure parcel storage. Despite being driven by complex technology, the way they work is quite simple: a carrier goes to the locker and selects the unit number and compartment size or type, deposits the parcel, and the instant the compartment door closes, the parcel’s recipient receives a delivery alert by text or email. The resident can then go to the locker at any time of day or night and collect their parcel by entering a secure PIN or scanning a QR code sent straight to their phone. Once the collection is complete, the compartment is available for the next delivery.

For those who live and work in condos, the benefits are apparent, as parcel lockers:

  • prevent parcel theft and damage by securely containing packages until a resident is able to collect;
  • enable contactless exchanges between carriers and residents;
  • save countless hours once required to track down and collect a parcel after a failed delivery attempt;
  • eliminate the risk of costly fire code fines that can result from packages lining lobbies and hallways; and
  • enable building personnel to focus on building maintenance, security and other resident needs rather than managing incoming deliveries.

Of equal importance, smart parcel lockers easily adapt to meet future needs. The modular components and cloud-based software that drives the units mean that smart locker technology is positioned to adapt to an ever-evolving landscape.

The New Face of Retail
The retailers who are winning the day are embracing e-commerce and making it easy and risk-free for consumers to take advantage of fast, free shipping and hassle-free returns. And while today’s smart parcel lockers are primarily handling incoming parcels, the technology is already in place to ultimately facilitate quick and easy returns.

This will become increasingly vital as in-store “try-ons” become a thing of the past. Consumers who live in buildings equipped with smart lockers will be able to shop with confidence, knowing that they can receive a package, inspect their purchases, and if they do not wish to keep the merchandise, can process an online return and deposit the parcel back into the locker for carrier pick-up.

The Next Chapter of Deliveries
Outside of traditional retail merchandise, other sectors are offering online shopping and delivery, including:

  • Meal Kit Deliveries – these dinner-in-a-box solutions by companies such as Hello Fresh and Good Food have experienced record growth in the past year
  • Food Delivery Services – apps including UberEATS and Skip the Dishes are delivering everything from haute cuisine to Starbucks
  • Subscription Boxes – from celeb-endorsed beauty products to toys for our furry friends, these monthly arrivals are adding significantly to parcel deliveries
  • Shopping Locally – consumers are more conscious than ever about the importance of supporting local businesses
  • Eco and Ethical – a recent survey of 5,000 Canadians saw 41% of respondents said they would shop more frequently with retailers who supported an environmental cause

Tomorrow’s Even Smarter Smart Lockers
Smart parcel lockers effectively address the emerging needs of new delivery trends in several ways. They offer purpose-built compartments, whether temperature-controlled compartments for food deliveries or ones designed for your dry-cleaned garments. Smart lockers also support shopping locally by being “carrier agnostic,” meaning they can be used by all delivery personnel and are not reserved for one carrier or retailer. And for those who seek to reduce their carbon footprint, a single successful delivery to a secure, smart parcel locker reduces the emissions from multiple trips in a delivery truck.

Other advancements coming in the future include automated compartment sanitization via UV light and lockers capable of accepting parcels from delivery drones. Decision-makers in condo management can be comfortable investing in smart parcel locker infrastructure today because as technology and cultural habits continue to evolve, smart lockers are poised to keep pace. 


Jane McIver has held a senior executive position at Snaile Canada since 2018. Over the years, her career has comprised roles encompassing equal parts communications and client relationship management.

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