In July b2b smart access startup Latch announced a partnership with ecommerce platform Jet.com to install 1,000 of its smart locks on residential apartment buildings in New York. It’s now announced the first “secure, unattended deliveries” enabled by the installations.
Writing in the customary Medium post, co-founder Luke Schoenfelder says Latch-enabled unattended deliveries kicked off on Monday — and are currently available for “thousands” of New Yorkers (though installations attached to this partnership are still continuing, so it’s not yet completed the full batch).
“Thousands of people in New York City are able to order anything they want from our partners online and know that they can return home to their packages without the threat of theft, inclement weather, or the dreaded ‘sorry we missed you’ door tag,” says Schoenfelder.
“While it may seem like a straightforward idea, executing on this user experience has been surprisingly complex. It has taken us just over four years to perfect and actualize this experience for customers, building owners, and partners, including countless hours of product research, hundreds of people, and millions of dollars in development to make this moment possible,” he adds.
Some of those Latch development dollars have been spent part-funding installations of the smart lock hardware. And it’s clearly hoping the product will get to work marketing the benefits of smart access to convince more building owners to sign up.
On the smart lock front, it’s always looked like a challenge for consumer targeting startups in the space to convince masses of individuals to manage the risk and complexity of a smart lock installation in their own home. (See: August Home selling to a veteran lock giant earlier this month, for example.) And indeed, those living in rented accommodation or apartment buildings likely don’t even have the option to swap out traditional locks themselves.
Latch’s b2b positioning sidesteps that problem. Though it does mean the company still has the challenge of convincing building owners to upgrade a key piece of infrastructure that they might otherwise be happy to leave unchanged for years.
Hence its strategy of part-funding some installations itself to try to get thousands of tenants chattering about the benefits of unattended deliveries — and generate market pull for smart locks to be installed by landlords. Whether this approach pans out the way they hope remains to be seen as Latch is just kicking things off.
“This is just the beginning,” writes Schoenfelder, sketching out his wider disruptive hopes. “We believe these new delivery capabilities will create a fundamental shift in consumer shopping behavior, where people increasingly order more and more products to their urban building (and suburban home) without ever going to a store.”
The startup’s big ambition to shift even more shopping activity online does also carry some risks too though — as the backlash against the messaging from a startup like Bodega shows.
Add to that, when your target customers are building owners, chances are they might also be in the business of renting real estate to commercial clients too (who may not be so happy about the prospect of reduced footfall to their bricks-and-mortar stores… ).
How Latch manages to pluck all these variously tensed threads will be interesting to watch. So far the 2014-founded startup hasn’t broken out overall sales metrics for its various smart access products. When/if it does will be key.