Patricia Starling, commercial director at DHL Express Brazil. Photo: DHL / Courtesy

DHL Express launches project to bring e-commerce to lockers in Rio de Janeiro

A partnership with Brazilian firm Clique Retire aims to solve bottlenecks in the last mile of logistics services and contribute to social inclusion in digital sales

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DHL Express, a unit of the German logistics group Deutsche Post DHL and a world leader in express mail, has partnered up with Brazilian company Clique Retire to overcome challenges in one of the main bottlenecks of e-commerce: the so-called last mile of delivery services.

In August, the two companies started a pilot project in Rio de Janeiro to integrate DHL services with the 40 Clique Retire smart self-service equipment installed at the city’s subway stations. In practice, consumers will be able to pick up their orders in lockers located in these busy spots.

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To a consumer, e-commerce’s fast delivery seems like magic: a few clicks and, in a short time, a package arrives at your door. Behind this, however, there are huge investments, engineering and problem solving. Increasing expectations of quicker and cheaper delivery and the sudden boom in the volume of online sales, driven by the pandemic and measures of social distancing, have further strained distribution networks. From January to June, DHL saw an increase of over 100% in the volume of e-commerce carried over the same period last year.

In emerging markets, the challenges are even greater, and not even a growing army of delivery people may be able to solve them in an economically viable way. For virtual stores, parcel delivery is an operational node, especially in the city of Rio de Janeiro, where most residents of risk areas have restricted access to mail or do not have a postal address. Other factors, such as the absence of concierge services at residential buildings or a lack of availability to receive orders, also prevent shipments from reaching the final consumer.

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Many people and communities are, in practice, beyond the reach of e-commerce. According to DHL, about 47% of the population of Rio de Janeiro faces some kind of logistical restriction and, in São Paulo, the rate reaches 25%.

“A major focus of our project is on inclusion,” says Patricia Starling, commercial director at DHL Express, in an interview with LABS.

In Rio de Janeiro, particularly, over 70% of zip codes are not covered by  the delivery service, and the Clique Retire project offers a way to integrate these people into e-commerce.

Patricia Starling, commercial director of DHL Express

Through the project, retailers integrated with DHL services will be able to offer consumers the option of picking up orders from Clique Retire’s e-Boxes. In addition to inclusion, therefore, the partnership offers a good deal of convenience. Starling explains that lockers ensure that goods reach recipients quickly and that parcels can be collected at the most convenient time.

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“Customers who choose to buy on the internet value convenience. For example, young people who return from work and use the subway can pick up items from the lockers. It is a very interesting model ”, says Starling.

Besides being interesting, the model is already popular in some international markets. The executive says that DHL Express in Brazil carried out previous studies with the company’s divisions that already operate the locker systems, such as Hong Kong and Germany.

A Clique Retire point of collection with smart lockers. Photo: Courtesy

Clique Retire is a pioneer in smart lockers

Clique Retire is a pioneer in the operation of smart locker networks in Brazil both for B2B and B2C segments. Users can collect their products using QR Codes received on their cell phones.

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The pilot project that has started in Rio de Janeiro counts with “10 to 12” prospecting e-commerce clients. “We are in talks with clients of all sizes, because that was very important for us. Both larger retailers and small companies that want to offer new delivery options in Rio de Janeiro”, says Starling. “The mix is ​​important at this stage of the project.”

The initiative should be expanded soon to other regions of Brazil, following demand for it. According to the commercial director, in 2021 the system may be expanded to the main state capitals of Brazil.

“We and Clique Retire are not stuck with an expansion schedule. In a first phase, we will make the necessary integrations and adjust,” says the executive. In addition to lockers, DHL will integrate its own stores and 340 collection partners into the project. Clique Retire plans to have between 500 and 1,000 lockers installed in the country by the end of 2020.

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Gustavo Artuzo, CEO of Clique Retire, also believes that innovation will benefit consumers and online retailers, and goes even further by considering that the partnership may even stimulate the economy. “Clique Retire’s platform facilitates the delivery of everything that can be purchased online and that fits into a self-service terminal”, he points out.

The partnership will also benefit people who face difficulty receiving orders, such as those who are not at home during business hours or live in buildings with remote concierge. This makes the service attractive to 75% of the country’s population.

Gustavo Artuzo, CEO of Clique Retire

Digitization process already took place before the pandemic

DHL had already been aiming at digitization, and even the project with Clique Retire had been in talks since last year. The pandemic accelerated some steps. “In a week or two, we had to readjust things due to the speed at which everything happened,” reports the DHL director.

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She says that, in March and April, the company was affected by the decrease in cross-border e-commerce and the reduction in the number of commercial flights. On the other hand, e-commerce within the country grew tremendously during that period. “As of May, there was a strong reaction in the volume of international trade, and since June and July business is going very well.”

Globally, DHL was able to count on its own airplanes, and even though they do not operate in Brazil, they helped the company in the process of reorganizing the flow of packages.