What To Do About Pandemic Porch Pirates and Package Theft

We’ve analyzed consumer behavior through the rate of ecommerce delivery volumes that skyrocketed due to the COVID pandemic. Specifically, we assessed the response to this change, which resulted in major increases in package theft and exposed issues with current multifamily delivery management solutions.

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2021 Package Theft Statistics

  • $6 billion worth of packages were estimated stolen in 2020
  • 1 in 5 Americans had been a victim of porch piracy between March - May 2020 alone
  • Missing package reports increased 128% across the 4 major US carriers in May 2020
  • Almost 50% of apartment and townhome residents report having a package stolen
  • Over 60% of condominium residents report package theft
  • 20% of tenants aren't happy with the way their packages are handled by their property
  • 84% of tenants would like secure, self-service, 24/7 package access
  • Package theft reports from November increased to 43% in 2020 from 36% in 2019

Current delivery management protocol is far from where it could (and should) be. The skyrocketing rate of ecommerce and online shopping triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a better system, both logistically and from a security standpoint. This was confirmed when we saw porch piracy and package theft hit an all-time high due to inefficient delivery management solutions incapable of handling such high package volumes.

Consumers have had to adjust to a reliance on ecommerce because of COVID. While the rate at which online shopping is relied upon will dwindle slightly as the pandemic subsides, consumer behavior has made a permanent transition. For tenants in multifamily buildings, this means placing a higher priority on amenities revolving around secure delivery and package management.

Multifamily buildings, property managers, and owners will have to find new solutions to align their operations and logistics with their tenant’s evolving behavior. Unfortunately, traditional delivery management systems, such as package rooms and lockers, will not be enough. A new visitor management mindset that both caters to the logistics of high delivery volumes and a better tenant experience is the best solution for a future-proof facility.

COVID-19 Affecting Delivery Management

2020 brought with it a major change in the way multifamily buildings need to address delivery management. With ecommerce at an all-time high, and more people working from home than ever before, the influx of packages are making  property and building managers rethink logistics. 

E-Commerce Is at an All-Time High

According to the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), 61% of property managers have noted a rise in ecommerce year over year for some time now. So, it’s no surprise that COVID-19 sparked an online shopping spree on par with the holiday season. Literally…

April 2020 saw a peak of 19 million ecommerce packages, while December 2019 only experienced 18.7 million. 

During this same time, UPS reported that home deliveries accounted for approximately 70% of deliveries versus the usual 50%, pre-pandemic.  

Source: https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2021/01/07/ups-ranks-no-1-in-on-time-deliveries-during-the-holiday-season/

To a similar tune, Target (who remained open throughout the pandemic) reported that they had 5 million people order from their site for the first time between March and May of 2020. This contributed to their online sales jump of 141% from 2019. 

Amazon, who is almost completely in the business of online sales, hired 175,000 additional workers in their delivery and fulfillment network to keep up with demand. 

Not only has ecommerce skyrocketed, it goes without saying that its necessity has gone up as well. With many stores closed and the risk of going out in public significant, online shopping and deliveries are the only way for some to get necessities and essentials. As such, drugs, medical supplies, and groceries have seen a tremendous uptick from online purchases since COVID-19 began. 

With that in consideration, the stakes of effective delivery management are higher than ever.  

Delivery Volumes Creating Operational Challenges

With more people working from home than ever before, multifamily buildings have had to intercept the influx of deliveries that accompany them. This has put a tremendous amount of pressure on property managers and building staff to conduct office and enterprise delivery management operations on top of their usual responsibilities. 

Before COVID-19, many people would have packages delivered to their workplace addresses instead of their home to ensure secure delivery. Now, multifamily buildings are taking on that additional volume. 

Business-related deliveries now also need to be routed to people’s homes. Interoffice mail has turned into regular mail. Confidential documents or client-sensitive deliveries are now lumped in with FabFitFun and BarkBox subscriptions.

With this significant rise in package deliveries, it only follows that package theft will increase with it if the appropriate protocols are not in place. 

Package Theft Statistics

In January 2020, package theft hit an all-time high.

Fast-forward through the onset of COVID-19, and the boom in ecommerce became a porch pirate paradise. 

According to separate research conducted in May 2020, 20% of Americans had a package stolen since March. In a mere 3 months, 1 in 5 had been a victim of porch piracy. 

This is reflected in the noticeable spike in missing package inquiries from Amazon, UPS, USPS, and FedEx. All couriers — except UPS, which reached their highest spike in June — hit a peak search volume for their respective company’s rate of missing packages in May 2020.  

‘Amazon Missing Package’ +43% from year average

‘USPS Missing Package’ +41% from year average

‘FedEx Missing Package’ +26% from year average

‘UPS Missing Package’ +18% from year average

These four carriers make up the majority of delivery services nationwide. Between them, the rate of missing packages rose 128% in response to consumer behavior triggered by COVID. 

It was reported in 2019 that over 90,000 packages are stolen or disappear without explanation every day in New York City (factoring in a 128% increasing in missing package inquiries, we can estimate that roughly 205,000 packages were stolen every day in NYC in 2020).

By November, 43% of respondents had reported having a package stolen within the year, according to C+R Research. This is an increase from the 36% of respondents who reported a package stolen throughout 2019. And, an estimated $6 billion worth of packages stolen in the US in 2020 overall.

During that same time, USPS issued a compelling statement that should incite proactive measures in regards to the future of package management strategy: 

“Package volume grew by nearly 1.2 billion pieces, or 18.8 percent, compared to last year due to the surge in e-commerce. Although package volume growth has recently slowed since its early fourth-quarter peak, the Postal Service believes that consumer behavior has evolved during the pandemic as the nation has increasingly relied on the safety and convenience of e-commerce.”

While the record package volume has slowed, the rate at which consumers shop online will persist, and property managers need to react quickly in order to protect their tenants and remain competitive in the rental market.  

New Tenant Priorities

Just like the first railway charted for commercial transport in the 1800’s, we too are on the brink of a major industrial transformation. The consumer shift to online shopping will persist beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. That is not to say that brick and mortar retail or grocery stores will disappear. But, it is a logistical transformation that needs to be accounted and prepared for. 

Source: https://www.bcg.com/en-us/publications/2020/can-delivery-companies-keep-up-with-the-ecommerce-boom

Tenant priorities are evolving with their change in behavior. Among the amenities requested by tenants, package management is now at the top. 

One in 5 residents surveyed said that package management was one of the most essential amenities. 

With 91% of apartment hunters saying that amenities will play a role in their rental decision, multifamily buildings cannot afford to ignore this issue. 

Package Theft Solutions

It’s no secret that the past year has highlighted the inefficiencies in current delivery management protocol. Twenty percent of tenants are not happy with the way their packages are handled by their property. The primary reasons for this dissatisfaction include disorganization, lost packages, and delay in retrieval and notification. 

Currently, multifamily buildings use a number of delivery management strategies and package theft solutions, including:

  • Video intercom systems
  • Package rooms
  • Parcel lockers
  • Off-site management

Most apartment buildings use at least one (if not more) of the above package management strategies. Unfortunately, some have fundamental flaws and are not viable package theft solutions as they are not addressing the root of the problem for property managers and building staff. 

Video Intercom

The 2020 NMHC/Kingsley Apartment Resident Preferences Report showed that 84% of tenants would like secure, self-service, 24/7 package access. Simply, tenants want more discretion over their deliveries. 

Multifamily buildings are effectively doing just that through video intercom. This visitor management strategy is successfully being used to enable secure delivery management and ultimately give tenants control they want. Modern video intercom systems now have advanced functionalities that can grant remote access or issue temporary access for secure deliveries. Instead of coordinating a middle man, tenants are playing an active role in receiving their packages. 

This type of property technology is also alleviating the operational burden that property managers and landlords are now facing due to the crushing volume of ecommerce deliveries. Contacting tenants directly diverts the unnecessary responsibilities from building staff. Even if property managers or building admins need to interject when a tenant cannot answer the intercom call, they can do so from anywhere with remote functionality. 

By using video intercom for delivery management, property managers are taking a holistic visitor management mindset that encompasses both the logistics of a delivery management system and the enhanced experience for tenants. With a rising rate of ecommerce and online shopping, multifamily housing needs to solidify a logistically sound and secure system to accommodate new consumer behavior. By implementing a video intercom system (which can now be done quickly and efficiently with advanced wireless intercom systems) as a larger visitor management strategy to accommodate deliveries, building owners and property managers can remain resilient through adversity, decrease overhead, increase efficiency, and build tenant trust and loyalty. 

Package Rooms

Package rooms are a secure hub for building deliveries. Primarily, they are only a luxury afforded to newer buildings that have specifically worked them into their infrastructure. Older residential buildings, who had not had to accommodate nearly as many packages at the time of construction, do not have a secure or formal area like this. This results in packages and deliveries being left in building lobbies, many times unattended. 

Even still, package rooms were built, designed, and constructed to hold a normal volume of deliveries. With the increase of ecommerce, package rooms are becoming overstuffed and disorganized rendering them essentially obsolete. 

Package rooms also require the most overhead for building staff — aside from delivering packages straight to tenant units — as they have to receive the package and record receipt and/or notify each tenant. In fact, 68% of building staff spend up to 4 hours a week managing packages alone. In 2015, Camden Property Trust estimated that across its 59,000 units, 10 minutes of productivity was lost per package received. When paying employees $20 an hour, this equated to a cost of $3.3 million annually for package management alone. 

Package Lockers

Package lockers are another popular solution to delivery management. According to the NMHC, 57% of community manager respondents say that package lockers are the best way to deliver packages to residents. However, less than half (47%) of residents actually use these lockers. Moreover, there are significant barriers to package lockers including high cost, not enough package slots, and no good location to put them. 

Off-Site Management

Off-site management refers to the outsourcing of package delivery to a secure pick-up facility. While secure, this is an inconvenience that most residents do not want to have to accommodate.

Delivery Management Is Affecting Property Managers

Right now, we are seeing a migration of people out of big cities, and consequently out of the residential buildings that are concentrated there. So, it’s imperative that property managers cater to a level of hospitality that counteracts the growing attraction to single family and suburban housing. 

Property managers cannot afford to let tenant inconveniences slip by, despite the odds that have been stacked against them in 2020. Tenants are prioritizing security and COVID-safe operations, and they are willing to compromise leasing decisions if they do not feel that their needs are being met. A minor package theft incident can compromise a tenant’s entire feeling of safety. By compromising safety, a tenant’s trust is broken and thus their loyalty. 

As property managers know, tenant loyalty has a price. The average cost of tenant turnover is $1,750 per month but can be as expensive as $5,000. 

Creating an environment that makes tenants feel safe is in everyone’s best interest. In doing so, property managers and landlords also reduce risk of high turnover rates, vacant units, and poor reputations. So, with the inevitable increase of ecommerce, multifamily buildings need to rethink their delivery management operations. Creating a better visitor management strategy overall is the solution. Not only will it eliminate the risk of porch piracy, it will create a better system for property managers and landlords to ensure tenant safety from anywhere.

Need help with package delivery management?

Get in touch with a Swiftlane specialist to find the right solution for managing package deliveries in your building.

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