(A Review of Community Mail Boxes (CMB), Parcel Pick-up, Drop-off (PUDO) and Smart Lockers)

by Martin Sarch

Online Shopping’s Exponential Growth

E-commerce is exploding in the developed or advanced countries of the world and in some countries with transitioning economies. Currently, less than 25% of the countries in the world are considered to be ”developed or advanced”, so this means that over 75% of the world is considered “developing” or is among the 25% “least-developed countries (LDC)”. These countries are not significantly participating in e-commerce. Additionally, over half the world’s population does not even have a civic address!


E-commerce is growing within the developed countries and countries with money. E-commerce and international ‘Customs’ regulations dictate the requirement and technology of the developed countries. This makes e-commerce even more difficult and excludes much of the rest of the world.  Developed countries will continue to get richer, trade will become more integrated and trade deficits in most of the world will increase.  If a country is not actively developing its own e-commerce industry now, they will be left further and further behind.

Developing and LDCs are at a Clear Disadvantage

While the Internet and low-cost smart phones are available throughout most of the world, access to international market places can be extremely difficult to navigate. Additionally, in some cases, established banking conglomerates, long-established cash-preference societies and other factors inhibit the acceptance of mobile money and electronic payments. Finally, many Posts, in countries with developing and least-developed economies, have under-developed postal delivery systems.

Delivery is a very important component of the e-commerce experience.  Posts are currently managing mail as it is quickly moving from letters to parcel and operational costs are skyrocketing. The methods to deliver mail are evolving. Track & Trace is a very important component of the parcel delivery process. Secure, Track & Trace delivery requires a robust Postal System with integration into the UPU’s IPS with its local scanning of all parcels.  Therefore, the “Focus” for the developing world’s delivery capabilities must be within their means and be sustainable, economical and secure.

We must remember that there is no one solution for all countries.  Any solution is a function of volume. The less the volume; the less you should spend on delivery. Posts require a combination of a number of methods of delivery, the main focus of developing economies needs to be setting up a system that is achievable, is reliable, economically sustainable and can support a defined USO.

Five Major Delivery Categories


Delivery Type Cost Considerations Low Cost to High
Post Office, Post Office Box Delivery
20 – 25%
No additional costs.
PUDO or Agent / Franchise
Track and trace required.
Centralized point, CMB’s, Cluster Boxes
Start-up Capital, plus track & trace required.
Smart Lockers
Start-up Capital, integration required, plus ongoing costs and parcel management.
Home Delivery or requested location
Most expensive form of delivery.

Post Office, Post Office Box Deliveryhas been used for 100’s of years and is generally available at all Post Offices, virtually all Post Offices have this form of delivery.

Pick-up Drop-off (PUDO) or Agent / Postal Franchise:is generally arranged within a local business. For the integrity of the system, it relies on Track & Trace to monitor and report parcel status. The Post Office requires a Postal System integrated into IPS and each PUDO site requires a Personal Data Terminal or a simple Smart Phone. Capacity can generally expand and contract based on the season or volumes.  The PUDO agent is generally paid a small fee and further benefits from the increased foot traffic to their host business.


Centralized point, Community Mail Boxes (CMB), Cluster Boxes:are capital intensive to start, but are low tech, located close to the recipients, with a centralized delivery for
efficiency.Additionally, they can have attached parcel lockers that can be accessed by a key that is returned to the CMB in the letter mail slot. Initial capital cost and installation can range from $50 – $200USD per delivery address, dependent on sourcing and labour costs.


Smart Lockers: require a Postal System integrated into IPS and further integrated into the locker’s computer management system and the customer notification system. They need to be situated in a location which is secure as they are known to hold many parcels. Smart Lockers are finite, so if you install 100 and have 200 parcels you need to have an alternate solution.  Smart Lockers are capital intensive, require upfront purchase, space, need ongoing maintenance and systems integration. Smart Lockers generally cost upwards of $100/ delivery box plus real estate rental, system access fees, security and maintenance.

Home delivery or requested location:There have been experiments with delivery to car trunks, in home with the carrier having access to the house, delivery to garage, but most people are not comfortable with delivery to their place of work or residence. People are generally comfortable with delivery to a Mail Box directly to the customer. Home delivery required a carrier or agent to physically deliver the product to each address. This is very labour intensive. Many Posts have no or limited home delivery so daily delivery is by far the most expensive form of delivery.



Posts in countries with developing and least-developed economies should first focus on national e-commerce growth, then regional growth and, as expertise grows, go international. E-commerce is a ground-up process and will support MSME’s, foster financial inclusion and bring more people into the formal economy. Delivery for e-commerce is a very important part of the process but Posts must develop the required infrastructure to support the various types. Smart Lockers can be part of the solution, but they are more of an end-game, once the volumes and infrastructures make it viable.