So I ordered a bunch of stuff from Amazon this year and each time it arrived, same thing happened. My phone rings in the early afternoon and it shows that someone is buzzing at my front door. Since I’m not home and it doesn’t make much sense to buzz a stranger into my building, I don’t. Then I get home and magically, there’s a package waiting for me at my front door, inside the building. I’m not upset… almost a little impressed at their ability to get in.
My building is fairly low-key and everyone keeps to themselves. I don’t think there’s a significant risk of people stealing my package as it sits in front of my door for a few hours but not everyone is so lucky. There are countless videos of people stealing package from door steps, including delivery employees. I’m not actually sure what the rules are around this but we clearly need to find another solution. Enter the Amazon Mailbox.
The idea is that this box would be larger than your average mail box, so that it’s capable of receiving much larger packages. I’m not entirely sure what the optimal size would be. Perhaps a review of the average dimensions of packages shipped would shine some light on that. There’s a good chance that we’d find a stat like 95% of packages are less than 2’x2’x2′. If that’s the case, make it just a bit bigger and offer some XL options for those looking to receive larger packages.
So a giant mailbox eh? Well there should probably be more to it than that. A big mailbox is just going to be a target for theft if there aren’t any security measures. I’m thinking a solid lock that can be opened through an NFC panel. That way a delivery driver can receive a one-time, time-locked code which will allow them to make the delivery. Once the package is in and the door is closed, you’re back to being the only one with the ‘key’. If someone somehow manages to get in with a code that they weren’t supposed to, good chance it’ll contain all the metadata necessary to know who it was.
Good enough? Not quite. In this age, you probably need a security camera. Perhaps one built into the actual mailbox with a birds eye lens that gives you full view of your doorway. If it was motion activated, you could have a recording of every delivery as well as anyone else who was creeping around your front door. In the mobile age, it would be also be nice to have a notification arrive to your phone when your mailbox has been opened so you can quickly check the footage and make sure everything was straight forward.
So where do these things go? If you own a home, there’s probably enough real estate at the front of your house to make this work without too many issues. Maybe it gets bolted to the floor or door. The problem is that E-comm seems to be most heavily used in areas of high urban density. The idea of retroactively installing these things in old apartment or condo buildings seems like an uphill battle. I think there’s good reason to make this a standard in new buildings, but you would probably need some traction first. Hmm…
I’m genuinely not sure if something like this would work but I’ll put it out there. What if you created your own PO box? Rent a space and load it up with as many of these Amazon mailboxes as logistically possible and charge something like $10/mo for a rental fee. You might even get away with having the place fully automated. An NFC panel on the front door could let you in while keeping uninvited visitors out. Load the place up with security cameras and have them tethered into a central security monitoring system with clear instructions around showing up and sorting out the rift-raft when it happens. If you have any issues, just use your app to start a customer service chat.
I can’t help but want to run the numbers for a sec… Lets say a 1000 sqft location and assume these Amazon mailboxes are 2’x2’x2′. Without any room to walk, you could place 500 of these on the floor. Stacked up 6′ high, that’s 1500 mailboxes. Accommodating for walkways, let’s cut that in half and say 750 mailboxes total. 750 @ $10/month would be $7500/month in income. Lower than I would’ve liked. Maybe there’s a way to increase the density here. Maybe there’s a formula that would leave us with an ideal square footage for a location. Either way, the overhead would be extremely low if you could avoid having to staff it. Electric, IT, security… and general corporate overhead. I found an average rate of $23/sqft for retail. Applying that here, we’re looking at about $2300/month in rent. If you could keep monthly overhead for each location under $2500, you have a pretty healthy margin. That said, 750 mailboxes @ $10/month still only amounts to $90,000 in annual revenue. Hardly worth the effort for most. Even with multiple locations, you’d need 12 just to break $1,000,000 in revenue.
But maybe it’s not about modern PO boxes. Maybe that’s the penetration strategy for being able to manufacture and sell these boxes. If you could get people using them and excited about their convenience, it’s only a matter of time until people start requesting them in their homes. If you could get some major property development companies on board, you could have these installed in every new condo tower they build. If the average building has (guessing) 40 units and these boxes come at a cost of $250 each, that’s a $10,000 for every new building that goes up. If you get to the point where most new builds include a ecomm-ready mailbox, that would likely build enough traction for these things to go mainstream. If they go mainstream, e-comm becomes that much more effective (and attractive). If e-comm gets that much more effective and attractive, that many more people will want to buy these boxes.
All speculative, of course… just an exercise in problem solving 🙂