As the number of people shopping online continues to increase, so do incidents of people stealing packages left on doorsteps and porches.
According to a Wakefield Research poll done for Comcast, three in 10 Americans who live in houses or townhomes have been victims of package theft; 53 percent of Americans know someone who has had a package stolen from outside their home.
Companies and consumers have tried various methods to secure deliveries, from sending packages to work addresses to using pickup stations outfitted with lockers. Now Amazon, among other retailers, is offering BoxLock, a smart padlock system that connects to carriers such as FedEx, UPS and USPS.
BoxLock launched with Amazon on Prime Day 2018 and is now being adopted by other retailers such as The Home Depot online and by Ace Hardware in some bricks-and-mortar stores.
Consumers sign up with the respective carriers and place the BoxLock on a secure container. Signs provided by BoxLock show delivery people how to use the padlock to make deliveries securely.
When a delivery person arrives at a house, they push a button on BoxLock, scan the package with a mobile device and use the package’s tracking number to verify they have the right address and that the package is out for delivery.
After a two-step verification process, the lock opens, allowing the driver to leave the recipient’s package securely inside the container. The driver then locks the padlock.
BoxLock founder and CEO Brad Ruffkess spent almost a year developing the system that automatically collects tracking numbers from each carrier. Because BoxLock links to a consumer’s address, it is able to sync to their home Wi-Fi, so before a delivery arrives, an estimated arrival date appears in a BoxLock app. After the delivery is complete, a notice of delivery appears in the app.
Delivery people are trained to use BoxLock by their respective carriers with assistance from BoxLock. Ruffkess says current tests show delivery drivers are capable of using the device for the first time in under a minute, some in under 15 seconds.
Consumers open the container using a master barcode; they can share barcodes with family and friends if they choose. Ruffkess says BoxLock is “protecting thousands of customers in over 1,000 zip codes in all the major metro areas.”
He calls the system “effortless” for both consumers and delivery people.
The potential for growth appears to be huge. In the United States, there are 75 million single-family households, Ruffkess notes, along with more potential commercial customers including pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ offices, laboratories and restaurants.
“Anywhere an asset transfer is occurring, there is an opportunity for frictionless secure chain of custody around an asset,” he says.
TRAINING FOR USE
Ruffkess notes that BoxLock not only ensures consumers “receive deliveries reliably,” it also benefits the carriers by “making their routes more consistent. It takes less time to deliver to a BoxLock than it would during a delivery where they put the package in someone’s hands.”
It also helps reduce the number of redeliveries, he says, as well as help retailers reduce their lost or stolen goods and increase customer satisfaction. And, he says “it can decrease the barrier of entry for customers who may be reluctant to buy online.”
He says BoxLock’s proprietary research has found their customers are more likely to buy online. They buy online twice as often as a typical online shopper, and are 12 times more likely to spend over $500 per month online, according to Ruffkess.
Although Ruffkess says they have never had “a single complaint about the BoxLock being forced open and something taken,” there have been some negative consumer responses. Some users on Amazon complain that drivers ignore or don’t use BoxLock and that communications through the app with their home Wi-Fi is not flawless.
The greatest number of complaints involves delivery people who did not bother to use BoxLock, setting up the app to effectively receive and send delivery missives, and, to a lesser degree, remembering to recharge BoxLock’s batteries.
In response to a question on Amazon about how drivers are not using BoxLock, Ruffkess explained that BoxLock and the carriers are motivating delivery people to use BoxLock, noting that “in many cases, the drivers are required by the carrier to use BoxLock to secure your deliveries.
“Depending on the carrier, the driver can also be held personally liable for damaged, lost and stolen packages, giving them a clear incentive to want to protect your deliveries.”
BoxLock has helped train more than 500,000 drivers, he says.
Liz Parks is a Union City, N.J.-based writer with extensive experience reporting on retail, pharmacy and technology issues.