Commentary

Opinion: Innovation is the answer – but has Amazon found the Key?

Amazon’s Key announcement has had a mixed reaction so what is the answer to non-delivery, asks Mark Bellamy, UK director at B2C Europe. 

Last month, Amazon announced its plan to start trialling the brand new “Amazon Key” in 37 cities across the pond. This delivery service will be free for prime members, but requires consumers to buy a newly developed kit which includes a camera and a device that unlocks their front door. Using these devices, the Amazon Key allows couriers to access a buyer’s home to drop off a parcel while no one is in to receive it.

Despite its bold twist on addressing the ever-growing ecommerce problem – delivery failure – it hasn’t been well received by the internet community, with Twitter users taking against the idea following the announcement. Many have highlighted the obvious security fears around allowing strangers into your home unsupervised, stating they’d be worried about stealing and even being attacked.

For those of us working in delivery and logistics, it’s imperative that we continue to innovate to reduce congestion, pollution and, of course, failed deliveries. However, with such a strong reaction from many consumers –- is Amazon’s new venture really the key?

Consumer concerns

This initial consumer reaction we’re seeing is backed up by research we conducted earlier this year, showing that consumers across the UK and the Netherlands had serious concerns about this sort of technology. When asked if they would give couriers one-time access to their homes, only 36% cent of respondents in the UK said they would be likely to do so. Dutch respondents were even more uncertain about the idea, with only 25% saying yes. Overall, many consumers voiced serious concerns around invalidating home insurance, security fears and the logistical issues.

Although the Amazon Key doesn’t give the delivery driver the code – the door is unlocked when the driver arrives outside the correct address – they are still given access to your home while you aren’t there. Some other questions include whether this would work for a consumer living in a block of flats, with commentators asking how the courier would gain access to the numerous doors. If nothing else, a communication exercise might be needed from Amazon here.

Despite uncertainties surrounding this sort of technology, 71% of our survey respondents also stated they were concerned about the effect ecommerce was having on pollution and congestion. Clearly, consumers are aware of the problems facing the industry, as they affect us all.  But whilst they may be open to innovation to improve the situation, there are still limits to what they are prepared to accept and adopt in reality.

Are boxes better?

Although there has been a mixed reaction to Amazon’s new venture, it’s clear that we need to find ways to address the issues.

Our research found that other kinds of innovation were much better received by our respondents, especially safety deposit boxes. Over 50% of consumers in the UK would be happy with their parcel being left in an unmanned safe outside their property. You can easily see how this would seem less risky than allowing a courier into your home while you weren’t there – even if they’re on camera.

These unmanned safes might also be more affordable for consumers. Although the Amazon Key delivery is free for Prime members, the technology needed to select this delivery type starts at $249.99. And while parcel boxes aren’t exactly free, they are somewhat cheaper; some in the ecommerce industry are even suggesting they should be a legal necessity for new builds.

For me, the Amazon Key’s price tag, along with serious security concerns from consumers, isn’t quite the quick fix the industry needs to address the £780 million that failed deliveries are costing the industry each year – not to mention the other growing complications, such as congestion issues in our cities and dangerously high pollution levels.

Focus on the future

Finding the route to solving the industry’s growing problem isn’t going to be easy, but knowing your consumer and what they’re comfortable with is a great start. If consumers aren’t yet happy with this delivery method, it’s not going to happen. Not for the time-being at least!

So, while Amazon’s initiative is a step in the right direction, I’m not sure it’s going to be enough for the problems we face right now. We’ll have to wait and see if the Amazon Key is a success, but the initial reaction is highlighting some obvious pitfalls.

Mark Bellamy, UK director at B2C Europe. 

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