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What are Refrigerated Lockers?

Refrigerated lockers are one way that emergent technology is turning the grocery industry on its head. Although refrigerated lockers will be commonplace within a few years, at the moment they remain largely unknown to the majority of people. There are many different ways that the grocery industry is changing. Some of these changes have been occurring for some time, such as an increasing emphasis on organic and health foods driven by a growing awareness of the importance that nutrition plays in our overall health. Other changes are fairly recent. For example, an increasing portion of the population is beginning to rely on grocery delivery to complete their weekly grocery shopping. The advent of refrigerated grocery lockers is an outgrowth of this trend.
Since most people are still in the dark about refrigerated lockers, this article will serve as an introduction to the topic. We’ll examine what exactly refrigerated lockers are and what they are used for. We’ll break down the common areas where refrigerated lockers are utilized, and explore how this use will capitalize on growth that is already occurring in these sectors. Lastly, we’ll touch on the types of industries that refrigerated lockers can be used for. While refrigeration is most commonly needed for perishable items such as groceries, there is a wide range of uses for refrigeration for temporary storage, including for pharmaceuticals and other industries where temperature regulation is essential.
There are many layers to the growing incorporation of refrigerated lockers into our residential and retail spaces. At a core level, an increasing need for secure, temperature controlled storage is driving innovation. More broadly, this demand stems from changing consumption patterns that have shifted how we purchase products, and how we use technology to interact with the world around us. The use of refrigerated grocery lockers for picking up groceries purchased online would have been unthinkable two decades ago when the internet was in its infancy.
Today, we live in an increasingly technologically integrated and driven world. This integration is causing us to look at existing technologies in new ways. For example, grocery stores are now looking for ways to use technology to bring groceries to the customer, rather than have the customer come to them. The use of refrigerated lockers stems from this change, but in its own way is disrupting the way retailers and shippers bring products to our doors. Beyond even this, the use of refrigerated lockers may revolutionize how we interact with our environment in multifamily home environments, including the types of services and amenities we expect in the coming years.
So, while refrigerated grocery lockers themselves are an outgrowth of the increasing viability of online grocery shopping and grocery delivery, the use of temperature controlled parcel lockers is disrupting a wide range of industries and fields in interesting ways.

What is a Refrigerated Locker?

Before talking about the impact that refrigerated lockers are having and how you might use them, let’s take a moment to get a better understanding of what refrigerated lockers are. A refrigerated locker is a smart parcel locker that is temperature controlled. The purpose of refrigerated lockers is to store perishable items for a short period of time. At the same time, refrigerated lockers integrate the same beneficial properties that parcel lockers bring to the table. That is, refrigerated lockers offer the security and convenience of a parcel locker, along with a temperature control component that allows for cold storage or warm storage.

Why Refrigerated Lockers?

If you aren’t deeply connected with the forefront of the grocery delivery industry or how the retail landscape is changing, you might be wondering why refrigerated lockers are appearing now. First, let’s start with the basics. Online grocery sales are a booming industry that is only in the nascent stages of growth. While today’s online grocery sales, including for pickup and delivery, are only a small portion of the total grocery retail market, they are expected to grow up to 20% of the total grocery retail market by 2025. This would make online grocery sales a market worth $100 billion dollars within the next six years.
According to a recent Gallup poll, roughly 9% of Americans order groceries online. 4% order groceries online once a week. This number is only expected to grow in coming years as the technology supporting grocery delivery matures. Alongside grocery delivery is a rise in Americans ordering meal prep kits, which offer a fusion of fresh groceries with convenience. The polling provided by Gallup illustrates that use of online grocery purchases and meal kit orders are predominantly the realm of the busiest among us: parents. As more millennials begin to become parents and settle into careers, the use of services that offer convenience, like online grocery shopping, will continue to grow. Read more in our related blog article about the future of grocery retail.

BOPIS for Groceries

The use of buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) services is becoming increasingly commonplace in retail environments of all kinds, including within the grocery industry. What is BOPIS in retail? BOPIS for groceries works by having in-store pickup as a shipping option for grocery purchases made online. For example, you have a grocery retailer that has an online store. The customer goes to the online storefront, selects all of the grocery items they need, and completes the purchase choosing in-store pickup.
Once an order is received, a store associate will go out onto the store floor and collect each of the items on the list. Once the order is assembled, a notification will go out to the customer letting them know their order is ready for pickup. When the customer arrives at the grocery store they will work with a store associate who will verify the order and retrieve the items for them.
BOPIS for groceries capitalizes on the convenience that in-store pickup options have for online shopping. For groceries, in-store pickup makes total sense. Groceries are a perishable item that must be consumed within a short period of time after purchase. On top of that, visiting a grocery store is something that most people do on a weekly basis. BOPIS for grocery allows individuals to add items to their cart throughout their week, or quickly re-purchase staples that they use every week. They can then place the order on a day they are available to run by the grocery store, without having to worry about spending time going through the actual grocery shopping process.

How Lockers Improve Grocery Pickup

Although the current way that BOPIS systems function in the grocery industry has been designed to enhance convenience for regular grocery shoppers, there are some fundamental drawbacks that must be addressed. Foremost among these is the pickup process itself. How BOPIS currently works is an individual picking up an online order must either go to a sales associate or the customer service desk to actually pick up the order. The store associate must then go in the back to a refrigerated compartment reserved for online orders, retrieve the order, and hand it over the customer. Related to this is the amount of time it takes for the employee to notify the customer that their order is ready for pickup, store the order, and retrieve it once the customer has arrived.
The use of refrigerated lockers addresses each of these deficiencies in turn. Refrigerated lockers make the pickup process more seamless, resulting in a shopping process that is largely frictionless from beginning to end. When a customer is picking up an order that is stored in a locker, they simply arrive at the store, go to the locker, enter the verification information, and retrieve their groceries from the locker that opens. It’s that simple. For the employee, using a refrigerated locker system simplifies the process as well. Their role in the process begins when an order is placed and ends when an order is entered into the locker system. At that point, the locker itself notifies the customer that their order is processed, verifies the purchase when the customer arrives and facilitates the handoff of groceries to the customer.

What About Grocery Delivery?

So, refrigerated storage lockers sound great for in-store pickup of groceries, but what about grocery delivery? After all, grocery delivery is one area that is steadily growing. One concern that many people have with grocery delivery services is how to keep perishable items fresh between the time that the order is delivered and the time they get home to retrieve it. On top of this, there is a very real concern over security. Whereas package security is important for all orders, grocery orders, in particular, must be secured against tampering and theft.
One way that both of these issues are being addressed is through the use of refrigerated lockers in multifamily homes. Property managers have recently begun incorporating parcel lockers for all shipments into their facilities, in an effort to improve security for their tenants and reduce the workload for front-office staff. The use of refrigerated lockers within a residential environment is a natural outgrowth of this, especially in light of the rising number of grocery deliveries occurring today.
The use of refrigerated lockers in multifamily residences has numerous benefits for both the end recipient and property managers themselves. For the customer placing an order, refrigerated lockers offer an added layer of convenience and security. Lockers are convenient because they allow the customer to choose when they retrieve their delivery. No longer will a customer have to rush home early to be sure they are home when the grocery delivery arrives. At the same time, customers will be assured that their perishable delivery is secured, intact, and hasn’t been tampered with.
For property managers, the use of a refrigerated locker system to handle grocery delivery streamlines front office operations by reducing the amount of time front office staff must take time out of their normal tasks to handle and route deliveries. This is no small task in today’s day and age, where any given individual may receive one or more packages a week. Security is improved for both the tenant receiving the package and the residence as a whole.
Thieves are less likely to target a residential complex where packages are secured immediately upon delivery. Additionally, the staff doesn’t need to directly input packages into the system. The carrier themselves can enter packages into the system, making the process hands-free from end-to-end for front office staff. Learn more about the benefits of parcel lockers for multifamily homes and innovative property management solutions in our related posts.

Not Just for Grocery

While grocery pickup and delivery have been a central focus of this article, it is important to keep in mind that refrigerated locker systems have been flexibly designed to accommodate the needs of a variety of different industries. The fact is, any delivery that has temperature controlled considerations can be entered into a refrigerated package locker. Common industries where this applies are pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, florals, and beverages. Each of these industries has certain products that require specific environmental considerations. Product spoilage can be especially problematic for pharmaceuticals, as it introduces a health and safety consideration. The same goes for certain beverages, which, if they aren’t kept at or below a specific temperature, may pose a health concern.

Final Thoughts

Refrigerated locker systems allow for frictionless delivery of a wide array of products. Although the predominant focus within the grocery delivery industry has been the application of refrigerated parcel lockers to grocery pickup and delivery, a number of industries can benefit from temperature controlled lockers. Refrigerated locker systems offer a number of tangible benefits for consumers. These benefits include enhanced convenience, security, and efficiency, regardless of whether an order is picked up in-store or delivered to a locker.
For grocery retailers, refrigerated locker systems and smart lockers just make sense. They streamline the entire in-store pickup process by eliminating the need for staff to handle everything from the notification to order verification and retrieval. For grocery delivery, refrigerated lockers eliminate the need for redeliveries, while ensuring that products are delivered fresh and in the same condition they were when they left the store. As online grocery shopping continues to grow, keep an eye out for refrigerated lockers in stores and multifamily residences near you.