Austin Maddox: Managing Student Package Deliveries and Ensuring a Secure Solution

by Katie Sloan

Amid the online shopping boom, college students rely on deliveries for everything from basic necessities and room furnishings to textbooks and medicine. Whether living on or off campus, students (and their parents) subjected to late, lost or stolen packages quickly become disgruntled — and are likely to share those negative experiences with university leadership, property managers or worse yet, publicly on social media. 

Mismanaged and stolen packages impact brand reputation

E-commerce has become the way of the world. U.S. Census Bureau data indicates the e-commerce sector nearly tripled its retail market share in the past decade. Package deliveries for college students will only continue to rise. A 2023 Bloomberg Intelligence report indicates that e-commerce will grow at a 10 percent CAGR to $2.55 trillion over the next five years. 

Package theft is a growing headache. According to, package thieves nabbed more than $8 billion in merchandise over the past year. Multi-unit housing is an especially challenging environment for managing deliveries and, with today’s tuition costs, parents and students have high expectations for their investment. Parents expect university and housing leadership to prioritize the safety and security of students and their belongings. An undelivered package results in a loss of time, money and peace of mind. Moreover, consumers are often at the whim of retailer policies, which may not always issue a refund for undelivered items.

Student housing leaders are looking for new ways to manage the overwhelming influx of package deliveries at on- and off-campus housing. Intelligent smart lockers, which safely store packages by employing the latest technology, meet student’s expectations for secure, on-demand access to their deliveries. For student housing or property managers, an intelligent parcel locker system is an affordable, efficient way to attract and retain student residents with an elevated living experience. 

Smart Lockers: not just a nice-to-have amenity

Smart parcel lockers are no longer perceived as an optional feature, but instead rank high on the wish list of multi-unit residents. In a 2023 apartment resident survey conducted by the National Business Research Institute, residents ranked parcel lockers as the second most important offering after secure parking — even beating out popular amenities like a gym, pool and clubhouse.

Concern for security is not surprising, since nearly a third of respondents say they’ve experienced a package theft. Unlike amenities used by only a small segment, parcel lockers are used by 90 percent of residents, and 72 percent indicated they receive one to three packages weekly. The majority of residents (75 percent) prefer smart lockers over other less secure methods like direct-to-door delivery, mailroom pick up or on-site office pick up. Residents cite the most important locker features include security, service and accessibility. 

Tips for covering costs and optimizing a smart locker investment 

Parcel lockers can play an integral role in your housing marketing strategy. When assessing ROI, consider that smart lockers are a highly marketable amenity that builds goodwill among students and improves mailroom staff efficiency. Because a locker system is tied to recruitment, you may want to consider tapping into your auxiliary services budget alongside any current housing or mailroom spending.

With off-campus housing, you can purchase lockers up front or opt for a subscription model, where properties can bill back student residents to cover the monthly costs or include it as part of an amenity fee to generate an incremental revenue stream. Another way to improve staff efficiency at off-campus communities: Verify that your locker provider has strong relationships with carriers to assist in the delivery duties, which removes the burden of logging and processing packages from your staff. 

Considerations when selecting an intelligent locker system

When vetting options for a smart locker system, choose a direct supplier of lockers that controls the features and can offer the latest innovations. Locker quality and durability matters when it comes to handling heavy usage and avoiding the cost of replacements. Also, check if the provider offers specialty lockers, such as refrigerated lockers to help keep temperature-sensitive medications or food cool and notify recipients about time-sensitive pickups.

Integration capabilities and smart features are key considerations. Look for intelligent lockers that work in tandem with your property management software for a seamless experience. For example, if a new student moves in, that data is integrated automatically to notify that student about how to register to pick up their packages securely. A locker system should also integrate with your current package tracking software system or come with an integrated system. 

Select a provider with deep expertise and an established record of live customer support. Responsiveness matters when it comes to supporting a more vulnerable population like students, especially for urgently needed items like books, food or medicine. The right locker provider also can recommend the most efficient way to configure your system with a mix of sizes, as well as establishing the best timing for notifications. 

How colleges leverage parcel lockers to improve student experiences 

Colleges and universities are getting creative about managing student deliveries. Because intelligent parcel locker systems are customizable, housing teams are finding economical ways to streamline the process and improve student satisfaction. Here’s how three colleges solved their delivery dilemmas: 

  • The State University of New York’s (SUNY) University at Buffalo, serving 32,000 students, was struggling to process nearly 100,000 packages annually using a traditional mail system. By implementing a smart locker system, the university now processes the majority (82 percent) of packages through lockers, which has transformed its mailroom efficiency. Students gained 24/7 access to retrieve secured packages at their convenience. Through an integration between the locker provider and the college’s student housing software solution, the university established four new package workflows that save staff time and reduce manual data entry. The program’s success at the first three campuses has prompted a rollout at the remaining six campuses.
  • As the largest community college in Massachusetts, Bunker Hill Community College serves 16,000 students, some of whom struggle with food insecurity. The college wanted a more flexible, efficient and dignified way for students to pick up food from the food pantry. The college installed three locker towers, including two that are refrigerated, and has since installed more lockers at another campus. Students appreciate the privacy and ease of use, while staff can better fulfill orders and check on locker inventory from anywhere through the lockers’ cloud-based software.
  • At the University of Florida, on-campus housing staff was overrun by a constant stream of up to 4,000 packages arriving daily at its residence halls. To better control the influx, the university implemented an intelligent locker system to support its 8,100 undergraduate students at 26 residence halls. The new solution decreased human capital required to process packages by 20 hours weekly and mitigated the problem of lost and stolen packages. Students now enjoy convenient access and can retrieve items anytime instead of only during desk operating hours.

Student housing managers are not resigned to outdated package management solutions, inefficient mailrooms or overburdened staff. For both the on- and off-campus housing ecosystem, it’s now possible to ensure a consistently positive experience throughout the housing transaction cycle with a fully modernized package system that delivers students’ goods safely and securely every time. 

Austin Maddox is executive vice president of North American parcel locker solutions for Quadient and is passionately committed to helping higher education and apartment communities address their unique student experience challenges as they relate to increasing volumes of inbound and outbound packages. Maddox has helped lead Quadient to support more than 200 higher education institutions across the U.S. that have installed Quadient smart lockers. 

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