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In Germany, many urbanites use a major train station every day, and many more live or work near a station. That’s what prompted the national railway service Deutsche Bahn (DB) to have a lightbulb moment: Most of the people passing through or near stations are highly digital, and the majority are digital shoppers. Why not allow them to collect purchases and other items directly at the station?
The result is DB BahnhofsBox—an interactive locker available round the clock, where consumers can pick up online orders and other parcels, retrieve their laundry and dry cleaning, or fetch and drop off keys for a vacation rental or car rental. When an order is ready, users will receive a message containing a code to open the locker. Some lockers also will be refrigerated, allowing grocery shoppers to retrieve perishables in good condition.
Click-and-collect lockers have a somewhat checkered history in Europe. In the UK, for example, InPost has a reasonably large number of installations, yet most digital buyers still opt for home delivery or in-store collection.
Germany is a more promising market, though. According to a MetaPack survey from September 2016, 31% of adults in the country who had made a digital purchase in the past six months had picked up online orders from a dedicated locker.
In fact, locker collection was more than three times as popular in Germany compared with that in the UK. Overall, shoppers in the US and five other European countries included in the survey preferred collecting purchases from a local shop, pickup point or an in-store facility.
Though BahnhofsBox is DB’s first foray into ecommerce, this could prove to be an astute move. eMarketer estimates that 48.5 million residents will buy goods and services on digital platforms in 2017, and Germany’s retail ecommerce market alone will be worth $63.9 billion.
DB’s locker scheme, which will be piloted in Berlin and Stuttgart, is just part of a €1 billion investment aimed at enhancing the operator’s competitiveness and broadening its appeal for travelers with digital technology. In December 2016, DB began rolling out trains equipped with free, robust WLAN service.
—Karin von Abrams
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