Blockchain May Facilitate the ‘New Normal’ of Contactless Parcel Delivery
The spread of Covid-19 has transformed the handover of online purchases to customers. With severe anxieties about possible infection, contactless delivery, with no signature for goods collected, has become the norm. FedEx and UPS discontinued signature requirements for deliveries in March, without any reported backlash. While this seemingly eluded infections, it raised another difficulty for merchants: chargebacks have developed rapidly.
According to Nuggets, a payment and ID platform provider, they have increased 60%-80%, posing a severe headache for online merchants. Nuggets founder and CEO, Alastair Johnson, sees biometric verification as the best solution. The concept adopted by his outfit has digital biometric data burdened by the customer and stored utilizing blockchain technology. When the final-mile provider approaches the given address, he pings the customer from a mobile device to confirm the identity and accept the goods.
Mr. Johnson states this works better than solutions such as taking photos, which may run into privacy issues. The technology could also be utilized to access parcel lockers, he said in a statement. The technology can also decrease failed deliveries, he claims, as the contact is made with the customer regardless of his/her location at the time of delivery. If the customer is at another location, delivery can be redirected there.
“The cost of failed parcel deliveries in the UK is reported to have surpassed £1.6bn,” he added. According to Mr. Johnson, the application of the technology is free to customers, who can sign up within two minutes if they have a digital piece of biometric identification. “The economic drivers are all on the business side, namely chargebacks and failed deliveries. For the consumer, it is about privacy and data control,” he said in a statement. With their digital ID safely stored, there is no requirement for passwords or security questions about the name of their mother’s first pet, he noted.
The consumer’s information is stored in “zero-knowledge storage,” by first hashing on the blockchain and collecting them in IPFS decentralized storage, which nobody other than the customer can access, including Nuggets. And for couriers, the system is seamless, Mr. Johnson claimed. “We supply the line of code the courier needs to ping the consumer.” Merchants can adopt technology alongside other payment channels on their websites. While they have been the primary target group for Nuggets’ offering, couriers have also approached the provider, Mr. Johnson said in a statement. “There’s been a lot of interest, from companies of different sizes,” he added.
The roll-out of the service is driven by Nuggets’ clientele, numerous of which are based in the UK. “It’s effectively available in Europe. We have relationships in Europe. One of our key partners is based in Australia,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement. He anticipates the service to be up and running in Australia and New Zealand shortly. Firms based in the US and Asia have also shown interest, he added.
Of the new technologies, blockchain has been one with muted proliferation so far, as many potential users have used a wait-and-see attitude while prioritizing investment in another technology. Mr. Johnson does not see an obstruction there. “In the early days, we had to explain blockchain. Now we talk about problems and solutions for customers. Recently we had talks with a bank, and we realized afterward that we didn’t talk about blockchain. It’s about problems, not the technology,” he said in a statement.