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Parcel delivery and no one at home - what to do?


Published on: August 29, 2019

Updated: September 8, 2023

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Finally, the long-awaited package is supposed to arrive. But that’s exactly when no one is at home. However, there are a few ways in which a parcel can still be delivered safely.

In addition to home delivery, the majority of delivery services also offer alternative methods of parcel delivery. The parcelLab E-Commerce Shipping Study 2018 examined the top 100 online retailers in Germany. 15 of them offered home delivery only. At 41 stores, customers could have the parcel delivered to a branch of the store. 96 retailers offered parcel delivery to a Packstation, while 32 also sent parcels to the nearest post office on request.

Most stores alternatively offer delivery to a Packstation.

Parcel delivery options

There are some options that customers can use if they are not at home when the parcel is delivered:

Install your own parcel box

Customers have the option to install their own parcel boxes or parcel boxes in front of their house. These can either be free-standing in front of the house or attached to the front door. The parcel deliverer can then open the box using a key chip or smartphone app and deposit the parcel there.

The bonus: Parcels to be returned can be pre-franked and placed in the box. When the parcel carrier opens the box, he can take the returned parcel with him and place the new parcel inside.

Use neighbor delivery

Another option is for the parcel carrier to deliver the parcel to a neighbor. With DHL, even desired neighbors can be deposited, with whom the package can be delivered. However, many parcel carriers often drop off the delivery at the neighbor’s anyway if they do not meet the target person. They then leave a message in the mailbox with the location of the parcel. The disadvantage of this method of parcel delivery is that the neighbor often cannot be found promptly and the customer has to wait for his order.

Granting permission to drop off

Customers can also arrange parking permits. In doing so, they specify where the parcel carrier may deposit the parcel without a signature. For example, the garage can serve as a drop-off location. However, if the parcel is stolen or damaged at the selected location, the customer is liable.

Determining a packing station

DHL offers the possibility to have the packages delivered to so-called Packstations. This service is possible at any time and is additionally free of charge. However, customers must first register for this delivery option and select the desired Packstation. As soon as the parcel carrier has deposited the parcel in the Packstation, the customer is notified.

Using the post office branch and parcel shop

Those who are not at home during parcel delivery can also have their parcel delivered to a post office branch or a parcel store. However, the opening hours must be observed and the seven-day pick-up period must be adhered to. An identification document must be shown when collecting the parcel. If a customer does not have time to pick up the parcel within the seven days, he or she can create a parcel proxy and thus authorize another person to receive the parcel.

Test trunk delivery

DHL and VW have teamed up to develop trunk delivery. Car manufacturers Audi and Skoda also offer the service. Here, the parcel carrier can place the packages in the trunk of the car. Customers must first register with the car manufacturer and the delivery service and download the associated app onto their smartphone. Customers can then specify precise details for depositing the parcel in the trunk. However, this service is still very rarely offered and used. In Germany, consumers are still skeptical about parcel delivery via the trunk. According to DPD, only 2 percent of respondents have their parcels delivered to their trunks. This was the finding of a study from 2018. Home delivery is the most popular option.

Only two percent of respondents said they used trunk delivery. (Source: Statista/DPD)

Use parcel box for family homes


The parcel box for family homes works similarly to the own parcel box. Here, the box is only used by several people. In front of apartment buildings, a large parcel box with several compartments is installed. There the parcel carrier can deposit parcels and take away returns.

DHL offers the possibility of parcel boxes for apartment buildings. (Source: DHL)

Important: Inform customers!

With all variants, one thing is particularly important: shipping communication. Because not only is the ordering process an emotional experience for the customer, the shipping process is also important. Because the shipping is the key to customer loyalty. Customers want to know where their package is and when it is expected to arrive. Especially when the package is dropped off at another location, it is important that retailers proactively notify their customers. Therefore, retailers should not leave the shipping communication to the delivery service, but take this into their own hands. You can integrate track & trace pages directly in the store and inform customers about the status of their order with personalized messages. A good post-purchase experience is of particular importance.

This service is not yet commonplace among German mail order retailers. Out of 100 retailers observed, 53 do not communicate with their customers at all during shipping. In 32 stores, shipping communication is handled by the logistics provider, and only 15 retailers communicate with customers themselves.

The majority of retailers do not communicate during shipping.


Consumers need not worry if they are not home when the package arrives. There are now numerous options that allow the parcel carrier to deliver the package safely anyway. Whether it’s a Packstation, car trunk, parcel box, neighborhood delivery or another drop-off location, customers are usually free to choose the delivery option. In these situations, it is particularly important for retailers to regularly inform their customers about the status of the order with the help of shipping messages and track & trace pages.

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