Somehow, the holidays are nearly upon us—and for multifamily operators, that means the dreaded onslaught of deliveries.
This season has always posed unique challenges in the multifamily space, but in recent years when tenant reliance on online shopping has skyrocketed, the problem’s only compounded.
“Deliveries and mailrooms have long been a pain point for multifamily buildings,” says Robert Gaulden, director of multifamily channel strategy at Allegion. “However, people have become more accustomed to ordering online, which has only exacerbated this problem.”
He’s right: Last holiday season, USPS accepted more than 13 billion pieces of mail and packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve (and that’s just one mail service). And as Gaulden puts it, “There are no signs of slowing down.”
Want to make sure your property is prepared for the onslaught of packages that’s soon to come? These four strategies can help.
1. Prepare for Large Items
One of the big challenges to come out of the “everything-can-be-shipped” mentality, as Roman Stephens, senior vice president of Northland, so aptly puts it, is the prevalence of more oversized packages.
“Items ranging from sets of car tires to entire couches are being delivered with increasing frequency,” Stephens says. “Package rooms weren’t designed to accommodate such large items.”
Though expanding your package room, designating a second one, adding package lockers, or even using vacant units for storage can help, they’re not always an option—or enough.
An alternative is to arrange for delivery directly to residents’ doors or, even better, directly in their units.
“In-unit deliveries could be the answer for many properties and residents,” Gaulden says. “When doing so, opting-in is important. Residents must be comfortable with delivery service or property management teams having access or entering their units to deliver packages. Adoption of in-unit delivery is tightly coupled to trust.”
2. Get Creative
Smart policies can also help. You could, for example, set a limit on how long you’ll hold onto a package before returning it to the sender. This can create a sense of urgency and help prevent a backup in your package rooms and hallways.
“Managing how long you keep a package within a locker before sending it back is helpful, but isn’t the most resident-friendly thing to do,” says Dwight Dunton, founder and CEO of Bonaventure.
If your property has a problem with timely pickup, you might have to get more creative. At some Bonaventure properties, this means offering on-site gift-wrapping stations.
“They help keep residents from waiting until the last minute to retrieve their packages,” Dunton says.
3. Have a Multilayered Approach
A large package room or high-tech lockers can only get you so far. To ensure things don’t fall through the cracks—and that your delivery remains efficient and successful despite ebbs and flows—having a multipronged strategy is critical.
This means having a primary delivery method, a backup, and, depending on your property size, possibly even one or more additional backups.
“At our mid-rise and high-rise buildings, we use a combination of building door delivery, followed by package storage,” Stephens says. “When those areas are at capacity, if it’s a 24-hour building, our concierge will hand-deliver packages to residents.”
4. Use Tech, But Don’t Expect a Cure-All
Technology can alleviate package woes in many ways. Smart locks and in-unit delivery are one option, as are on-site package lockers.
If your property opts for one of these strategies, Gaulden says, making your package management tools a part of your “overall tech stack” is key to tenant cooperation.
“You’ll want a single resident app that allows residents to pay rent, track packages, and stay up to date on community happenings all in one place,” Gaulden says. “Whether packages are being delivered to the unit or to a shared mailroom, seamless and centralized communication helps residents stay up to date on their packages.”
Just be forewarned: Tech does have its failings. It could mean extra work for on-site staff or technical problems that your team’s not equipped for.
“We’ve tried adding lockers from various vendors and found that they require almost double the management,” Stephens says. “Also, if there was ever an issue with a third-party locker system, residents would then look to us to act as technicians capable of solving the issue, when we don’t have that ability.”
Prepare Now—Before It’s Too Late
No matter what strategy your property chooses, it’s important to be proactive — and take steps now, before the winter package wave is in full effect.
As Dunton puts it, “The holidays take a problem like package management and multiply it.”