The Rise of E-commerce and Its Impact on Multifamily

It’s no secret that online shopping continues to see tremendous growth every year. In 2017 alone, Americans spent roughly $453 billion on products ordered on the Internet, which accounted for nine percent of all U.S. retail sales. Experts expect that growth rate to accelerate more than a third in the next two years, pushing e-commerce sales to 12.4 percent of all retail sales in 2020.

More online shopping means more packages, and those packages need to get delivered. Not only does this affect retailers and package carriers, it also has a profound impact on apartment communities charged with holding and handing off these packages to more than 39 million apartment residents every year.

Apartment residents rate package delivery as very important to them, and building managers and owners are investing an increasing amount of staff time, resources, and space to manage parcels for their residents.

To better understand how apartment firms are managing the growing demands of package deliveries, the National Multifamily Housing Council and Kingsley Associates recently partnered on a 2018 Package Delivery Survey. The new study represents responses from more than 2,000 properties across 44 states and is an update to a previous study from 2014.

Pump up the Volume

According to the survey, nearly 150 packages are received each week by the average apartment community, and 61 percent of property managers have noticed an increase in deliveries year-over-year. During the holidays, the average number of deliveries skyrockets to 270 per week—an 81 percent increase. This can cause major issues for some managers. More than one-third report their building’s package storage solution is not adequate during these high-volume periods. The communities that report the highest number of package deliveries? Newer, high-rise buildings in urban areas.

Strained Staffs

Property managers report that the growing number of packages being delivered are putting a strain on them and their staff. Thirty-two percent of community teams spend more than four hours a week dealing with packages, and this number jumps to nearly 54 percent during high-volume periods. The team members responsible for this task range from leasing agents and community managers to maintenance and security staff.

Delivery Goes Digital

While some communities still notify residents of deliveries by notices on residents’ doors (six percent) or phone calls (18 percent), the industry is making a rapid conversion to more electronic notifications via package check-in systems (45 percent), alerting residents by email or text when packages arrive.

Properties are also embracing technology when it comes to package storage. Most buildings (77 percent) now have a dedicated space, and 85 percent of package rooms are secured. Camera systems and controlled access touchscreens are the most common ways property managers are ensuring package safety, coming in at 58 percent and 50 percent, respectively. 

Keep it Fresh

Forty-four percent of property managers with refrigerated package lockers report they are used daily, yet only four percent of communities offer them. With the growing popularity of services such as Hello Fresh (with 1.5 million customers globally) and Blue Apron, this could be a sticking point for potential residents considering whether to join an apartment community. McKinsey reports that 15 percent of online shoppers have signed up for one or more of these services, so architects and building owners may consider adding this amenity to attract new residents.

Lockers aren’t Just for School Anymore

More than half (57 percent) of community managers rated package lockers as the best method for handling resident packages. However, less than half of the participating communities actually use them. This reveals that if lockers are available at a community, they are heavily used. The majority of respondents claimed the main reason they don’t use package lockers is because they are too costly (33 percent), with not enough space (25 percent) and no good location to put them (22 percent) also listed as reasons. With package lockers popping up all across the country, increased demand will likely lead to this feature being built into designs of new communities in the future.


Rick Haughey
National Multifamily Housing Council
1775 Eye St. NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20006



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