The use of the box has many advantages. The second-generation model has a built-in camera, for example, which allows both the retailer and customers to check if the order has been damaged. It is also equipped with a variety of sensors that measure the temperature and pressure inside the case, as well as the pressure, shocks and movements to which the goods inside are subjected. If you are ordering something that is delicate or that can be damaged by excessive heat or shock, it can prove invaluable. In theory, a delivery person could be informed halfway through that the package is not secure and needs to be moved to another location inside their vehicle.
In addition, the second generation case comes with a speaker and microphone. This means that the recipient and the delivery person can communicate with each other without being face to face. LivingPackers increased the size of the E Ink screen and added an electric locking system that prevents strangers from opening it. (The recipient uses a companion app to securely unlock it.) Like a traditional cardboard box, it can also be folded to save space in warehouses and at recipients. In its unfolded form, the box measures 495x360x180mm, with an internal capacity of 32 liters. Once broken down, the height drops from 180 to 10 mm.
Obviously, a cardboard box is cheaper to produce. LivingPackets believes its replacement can pay off, however. For one thing, the box can last up to 1,000 trips before needing to be repaired or recycled. Businesses should also spend less money on damaged orders – an expensive process that involves sending in a replacement item and funding a tracking delivery. LivingPackets plans to make money by charging retailers a nominal service fee for each box delivery. “We offer flexible packages for e-commerce businesses,” says the official LivingPackets website. “The basic offering doesn’t cost e-commerce companies more than they would pay for traditional cardboard boxes.
A big problem, however, is the recovery of these boxes. No one wants to leave their home just to make a box reusable, for example. On its website, LivingPackets explains that its ultimate goal is to create a “circular economy”. You can use the box for a future return, for example. Or, through the LivingPackets app, use the packaging for any regular delivery – a donation to charity, perhaps, or sending a birthday present to a loved one. Otherwise, users will receive some sort of “reward” if they make their box “available to everyone”. They will also be rewarded if they return the packaging to an affected store or give it to a nearby merchant who needs more boxes for their own deliveries. Finally, the logistics partners will earn money if they agree to collect the box from your home.
LivingPackets has a long way to go. He tested a first version of the box with other companies, notably Cdiscount and Chronopost. The pilot with Boulanger, however, could be an important springboard for the start. The one who shows that their idea and business model deserve to be taken seriously. The company has always had a problem with cardboard, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – which has forced many people to ditch their purchases from physical stores – has highlighted it. If enough retailers get on board, LivingPackets could help the company move away from boxes, packaging tape and sticky shipping labels that often get thrown away after just one use.