The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced significant changes on how we live, how we shop and now it seems it could impact how we build houses. The home of the future might be built with e-commerce in mind, and the trend already appears to have started — at least in Hollywood.

Wealthy, single-family home buyers have begun adding rooms in their homes built specifically for the drop-off and storage of Amazon
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packages so that they can be decontaminated before brought into the house, according to what one real estate brokerage CEO told Hollywood Reporter. Packages delivered to single-family homes tend to be left on the porch or near the mailbox, which can lead to theft. This new amenity, dubbed an “Amazon Room,” has an analog in the mail receiving rooms in many large, high-end multi-tenant buildings.

Though touching contaminated surfaces is no longer believed to pose a significant risk for the transmission of the novel coronavirus, some maintain the belief that it is safest to sterilize incoming packages.

In an online discussion last week, the Hollywood gloss of the Amazon Room concept left some on the RetailWire BrainTrust thinking of it as a home innovation solely for the mega-rich.

“If you have the resources to build a room just for deliveries, it would be far cheaper to just have your butler get the package,” wrote Gary Sankary, retail industry strategy at Esri. 

“It’s hard to think of this as a ‘thing,’ wrote Ryan Mathews, CEO of Black Monk Consulting. “So will your Walmart
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key work in your Amazon Room? And will you also need a FedEx
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foyer, a UPS UPS (Un-penetrable Package Station), and — possibly a DHL Deck to accommodate all deliveries? And what makes the rich think the pandemic will last forever? Do they know something we don’t know? Hard to take this one seriously.”

Not all were convinced, however, that such rooms are an indulgence.

“While this has been positioned as a nice-to-have for the wealthy, I do think it should be taken seriously and will play out over the years in ways we can’t imagine but in ways Amazon and Walmart have already patented or are working to patent,” wrote Raj B. Schroff, principal at PINE Strategy & Design.

Given home building costs, some saw a room dedicated to e-commerce packages as more affordable than one might expect. 

“Do most new homes today have two-car garages?” wrote professor Gene Detroyer. “What would be the increase in cost for such an ‘Amazon Room’ to add on to two-car garage? It would be de minimis compared to the cost of the new home. This isn’t a cost issue. This is a convenience issue. This is an issue that can be easily solved with technology as the delivery providers work together to have a system that allays the concerns that people now experience with the accelerated move to online buying.”

Before the pandemic, both Amazon and Walmart had been testing solutions that would allow for delivery directly into customer homes, as e-commerce grew more popular and package theft grew alongside it. Some characterized the problem as hitting epidemic proportions during recent holiday seasons.

Amazon launched a service in 37 cities in late 2017 called Amazon Key, which allows customers to have packages delivered directly into their homes by Amazon associates. In 2019, Walmart began testing a service that went even further. Walmart’s InHome Delivery allows customers to have groceries delivered directly to their refrigerator. 

“With fast home delivery expected from all retailers [a home e-commerce receiving room] is a brilliant idea,” wrote Ian Percy of the Ian Percy Corporation. “But let’s not make ‘Amazon’ the ‘Kleenex’ of delivery. This would be a heck of lot safer and easier than letting someone into your house with your phone. Now sure, there will be a luxury refrigerated version for perishables for those who can afford it. Why would we resent that?”

RetailWire BrainTrust member Mohamed Amer, independent startup adviser, looked beyond the concept as it’s now being implemented in Hollywood to a time when such rooms could represent the next evolution of IoT. 

“If homes of the future were to have an Amazon Room, it would be one that showcased the connected, experiential home in competition with Apple
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, Google
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, and possibly Walmart as they compete for a share of life (not just wallet or mind),” wrote Mr. Amer. “It will not be to be a receiving room for packages… Technology solutions that provide limited access to specific spaces will be far more popular than dedicated rooms for the ultra-wealthy.”

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