More POPStations as SingPost eyes rise in e-commerce

A user collecting a parcel at a POPstation.
A user collecting a parcel at a POPstation.PHOTO: SINGAPORE POST

SingPost intends to double the number of "POPStation" parcel-holding facilities over the next few years from 100 to 200, as demand for e-commerce delivery services picks up.

The facilities, averaging 80 separate lockers a station, are open at all hours - allowing online shoppers to pick up parcels whenever they like.

The company also intends to offer online shoppers and businesses more delivery options.

POPStations were first set up by SingPost two years ago, Ms Lim Ann Nee , a senior vice-president at SP Parcels, a wholly owned subsidiary of SingPost, told The Straits Times.

"We realised 15 per cent or 20 per cent of our parcels could not be delivered to Singaporeans because customers were not at home," she said

To prepare itself to service the increased parcel load, SingPost has started building an e-commerce logistics hub in Tampines. The facility will include parcel-sorting machines to handle volume growth.

SingPost has built about 100 POPStations at public places such as department stores.

Online shoppers receive a notification and PIN for their secure locker via a smartphone when their parcel has been delivered. They can return parcels and make payments onsite as well.

Retailers with a partnership with SingPost may deliver to these lockers. SingPost does not impose additional charges for delivery to the POPStation.

The high rate of take-up and positive feedback from customers convinced SingPost to establish these stations across the island.

About 50 per cent of parcels are collected the same day and all are collected within two days. Since they were first set up, usage levels have shot up 150 per cent.

In order to raise the appeal of POPStations to retailers and consumers, SingPost has also offered other delivery related services .

Customers also have the option to make payment to some e-merchants at the POPStations only upon parcel delivery. This is to cater to customers who are not comfortable giving their card details online to make payment, or would like to be sure the parcel has been delivered before paying. Payment can be made in the form of Nets, ez-link and credit cards.

They can also return purchased goods to certain retailers by placing these parcels back in the POPStations.

Also, they can make personal shipments by placing their own parcels in the lockers after making payment online.

In addition to these, SingPost is looking to extend more delivery services through POPstations.

"Some businesses have asked us, 'can I leave something in the locker (for pick-up by my customers) rather than meet with them at (say) 3pm to exchange goods'," Ms Lim said, giving an example of a request SingPost hopes to cater to.

SingPost has begun to intensely focus on providing e-commerce logistics services in the past few years, with mail volumes declining, she said.

There is plenty of room for the e-commerce market to grow. In European countries such as Switzerland, Austria and France, an average household receives about 13 parcels a year. Singaporean households, on the other hand, receive only about three parcels a year on average.

To prepare itself to service the increased parcel load, SingPost has started building an e-commerce logistics hub in Tampines. The facility will include parcel-sorting machines to handle volume growth.

"Reliability and scalability is key for e-commerce. You want (to run the business such) that even during peak periods, even as volumes grow, you can still deliver the volume," Ms Lim said.

Jeremy Koh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2015, with the headline 'More POPStations as SingPost eyes rise in e-commerce'. Print Edition | Subscribe