The Case for PUDOs

By Rachel White

As ecommerce becomes an increasingly important part of the retail experience, it’s vital for both consumers and retailers that the parcel delivery journey works well. IMRG recognised this in its 2018/19 Consumer Home Delivery Review:

“Customers perceive delivery as a vital element of their digital experience – for many, it’s the final piece of the puzzle. Retailers increasingly need think of the seamless end-to-end digital journey rather than individual touchpoints. Delivery, collection and returns all play a vital role in delivering a digital experience that boasts long-lasting loyalty.”

Citizens Advice research indicates that this is not always the case (unless otherwise noted, the findings in this article are drawn from two online surveys from 2018: one of 3,948 adults in the UK who had sent a parcel in the last year, and one of 4,166 consumers in GB aimed at exploring consumer experience of PUDOs).

While consumers are generally happy with parcel sending and delivery services, problems do frequently arise. When they do, they are frustrating for consumers and can lead them to take out their anger through customer service channels and on social media. This is both unnecessarily complicated for consumers, and costly for retailers.

Increased use of parcel pick-up and drop-off points (PUDOs) could be the answer to many of these problems. PUDOs are physical places, such as shops, lockers and post offices, where a parcel can be picked up once delivered or dropped off for sending.

We see PUDOs as beneficial for consumers and retailers. It can be a win-win that leads to a seamless parcel sending or receiving journey, improving customer experience of ecommerce and reflecting well on retailers. They can be convenient for most consumers, and our research shows that consumers who have used them rate them higher than home delivery when thinking about important factors such as personal safety, convenience and security.

Why isn’t PUDO use more common?

Last year, Citizens Advice mapped the full range of PUDO points in the UK.  We found that there is a good PUDO coverage across Britain, particularly in urban areas where 8 in 10 (79%) residents live within 1 mile of 5 distinct carriers.

Despite this, 1 in 5 urban residents were not aware that they existed, and across Britain, 35% of consumers were not aware that they can send and return parcels at places other than the post office.

Retailers play an important role in raising consumer awareness of PUDO points: our research showed that the most common reason that people had used a PUDO point was because they’d been given the option by the retailer. Our desk research confirmed this. We systematically reviewed the websites of the top 50 retailers in the UK and found that most major retailers either don’t offer PUDOs as an option, or do offer PUDOs as an option, but do not advertise it clearly.

We’re calling on retailers to address this shortfall and provide access to the potential mutual benefit associated with PUDO use. These benefits are:

  • Delivery benefits
  • Returns benefits
  • Sustainability benefits


Delivery benefits

Our research showed that 7 in 10 consumers had experienced a problem with parcel delivery in the last year, with the most common problems being having to wait in at an inconvenient time for a parcel, the parcel being left in an insecure location, and receiving a ‘sorry you were out slip’ when someone was in.

Waiting for parcel deliveries can be a time-consuming process for consumers, impacting on many areas of their lives.  A third of people say they’ve missed work and 1 in 8 (13%) have cancelled social plans to wait for a parcel. Similarly, having parcels left in an insecure location can put either goods or consumers at risk. When these things happen, it is frustrating for consumers and contributes to a digital journey that reflects poorly on retailers.

Giving consumers a range of PUDO options when they check out can help address these problems. If the parcel is delivered to a PUDO point, the customer doesn’t have to wait in for their parcel: they can collect it at a time that fits around their schedule.  PUDOs have, on average, longer opening times than post offices or Royal Mail depots, and some, like parcel lockers, are available 24/7.  Consumers will therefore not have the hassle of rushing to reach the PUDO before it closes. While not everyone will choose PUDO delivery, consumers will be able to choose the delivery option that is convenient for them.

PUDO delivery can also ensure parcels will be stored securely, which isn’t always the case when a parcel carrier drops off a parcel in a “safe place”.  PUDOs are particularly useful for those who don’t have a safe space, for example because they live in flats or on a busy road, or for people who don’t want their parcel being left with a neighbour. 

A better delivery experience can also reduce customer contacts. Because consumers know exactly when and where their parcel has been delivered, they are less likely to contact customer service to find out where their parcel is, cutting down on the traffic that these channels see, and therefore the costs associated with running them.


Returns benefits

Using PUDOs can also speed  up the returns process. Our research on returns shows that 1 in 5 consumers take over 10 days to return unwanted items. This means many items will be back with retailers more than 2 weeks after they were first sent out.  This time can be crucial for retailers, particularly for fashion retailers, who make up the majority of the returns market, as items can be out of date and therefore un-sellable if they are returned too late. 

Our research showed that 2 in 5 consumers didn’t return their item sooner as there wasn’t a convenient time to drop it off.  This process could be sped up if the consumer has a range of PUDO points to pick from and can choose one that’s conveniently located  with opening hours that fit in with their busy life.

This will benefit both consumers, who will have more convenient access to returns, and retailers, who won’t be burdened with late returns.

Stack of boxes

Sustainability benefits

Finally, PUDOs can also be a greener option than home delivery. Sustainability is an increasing concern for consumers. According to our research, 21% of people aged 18-24 say that the impact on the environment is one of the main things they consider when sending a parcel.

However, home delivery of parcels is often not environmentally sustainable. 1 in 5 people (19%) state that they frequently have to reschedule deliveries, including 1 in 3 (30%) of those who work full time. These missed deliveries potentially have a huge cost for the environment. Each time a package is redelivered, either to the home or to a PUDO point, the delivery driver makes another journey which means more emissions.

Offering a wide range of PUDO options to their customers is a simple way that retailers can respond to consumer desire for a greener delivery process. If more consumers have their parcels delivered to a PUDO point, delivery drivers can stop at one central location rather than many disparate locations, reducing the number of journeys they take and therefore the emissions they emit. Reducing the number of delivery journeys also reduces the number of delivery vehicles on the road at any one time, and therefore the traffic, particularly in urban areas, which will again help to reduce emissions.

If these sustainability benefits are communicated well to consumers, retailers will be able to fulfil consumer demands for greener retail through increased use of PUDOs.

Green lightbulb


It's clear that PUDOs have a wide range of benefits for retailers, consumers and the environment, and have the potential to make parcel delivery work with the grain of consumers’ busy lives.  Rather than having to change their work and social schedules to receive parcels, consumers are able to take control of the process, giving them the freedom to send and receive parcels at times that are convenient for them.

Crucially, PUDOs can make receiving and sending parcels an easy and hassle-free process for consumers, resulting in higher customer satisfaction.  Offering a wide range of PUDO options to consumers, and advertising these options effectively, is the key to greener, more cost effective delivery and happier customers.

Rachel White, Policy Researcher, Citizens Advice

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