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UPS deploys AI to prevent parcel theft: using data to fight ‘porch piracy’


The shipping insurance division of UPS has introduced a new predictive analytics solution that enables merchants to assess the level of delivery risk associated with addresses across the US.

Using UPS and proprietary data sources, DeliveryDefense analyses address characteristics and historical loss information. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms, the solution generates a delivery confidence score. This score indicates the level of uncertainty associated with each address, allowing merchants to gauge the likelihood of a successful delivery.

If the address has a low score, retailers can then recommend an in-store collection or UPS pick-up point before the dispatch label is even printed.

“DeliveryDefense empowers merchants to select optimal approaches for seamless and successful deliveries, prioritising the customer experience,” said Mark Robinson, president at UPS Capital.

“By proactively identifying and addressing potential shipping issues, DeliveryDefense data ensures a smooth customer journey. Merchants can leverage alternative options, such as nearby UPS Store locations or other convenient access points, to optimise delivery outcomes.”

In beta mode, DeliveryDefense has already been successfully tested with a select group of retailers, including Costco.

The rise of ‘porch piracy’
A solution of this nature could be increasingly needed with a rise in parcel theft or ‘porch piracy’. A recent study found 73% of consumers believe that more parcels are going missing during the cost-of-living crisis.

As people return to the office but continue to shop online selecting home delivery, many parcels are being left in a ‘safe space’. It is estimated that £110bn worth of items are being dropped off at unoccupied houses.

Furthermore, Citizens Advice reported more than 23,000 visits to its lost and stolen parcels webpage.

“Online shopping should be quick and convenient – but problems with delivery create unwanted hassle. Waiting at home for an item that doesn’t arrive is frustrating and time consuming – but our research shows many people aren’t taking action to resolve delivery issues, and others are running into problems if they do.

“Retailers are responsible for getting the parcel to the customer – and making this clearer to customers at the checkout could help them sort out problems quicker if deliveries go astray,” said Gillian Guy, former chief executive, Citizens Advice.

Communication is key
Guy’s recommendation to retailers regarding clear delivery information is one way they can limit Where is My Order enquiries, it also improves the overall customer experience.

Not all retailers and carriers will build an AI-powered tool to prevent porch piracy, but many will turn to tracking technology and notifications to reassure consumers.

Furthermore, as UPS has done, giving consumers the option to redirect parcels or even select a collection option at check out could be a solution to this parcel theft trend.

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