The future of retail: Drones and autonomous deliveries are the answer to tackling delivery problems

Stefan Spendrup
19 June, 23

With global events causing delays in deliveries and stock availability, shoppers are now demanding alternative and futuristic shopping methods from retailers so they can be assured of a delivery. Shoppers want more when it comes to their customer experience, despite supply chain chaos, warehouse issues and rising delivery prices.

When it comes to delivery processes, traditional methods are now facing several issues. Inflation is causing businesses to increase delivery charges so consumers can receive their packages on time. Recently, online brand ASOS increased the minimum spend for its Premier members to secure next day delivery from £10 to £15 – which frustrated many of its consumers. Changes like these reflect the challenges being faced by retail, in an attempt to battle rising costs across the supply chain.

Data from SOTI’s 2023 retail report, “The Tech Effect: Strengthening the Omnichannel to Meet Consumer Demands,”echoes consumer pain points, their post-pandemic preferences and where they expect improvements in the hybrid shopping experience. Unprecedented times for retail and transportation and logistics (T&L) industries mean shoppers are facing unreliable and unpredictable deliveries for products purchased online.

As a result, new data shows that consumers are turning to alternative, in some cases more futuristic delivery methods as a way of controlling how and when they receive their packages. The report found that 33% of shoppers said delivery times have been slower than usual, with 34% stating delivery has become more expensive.

SOTI’s 2022 retail report found that 53% of shoppers agreed that shipping and delivery times are the most frustrating aspects of ordering online. Supply chain issues are causing consumers to lose faith in traditional delivery methods. With the constant stream of issues arising, retailers will experience lack of consumer loyalty if they don’t take quick action to enhance the omnichannel experience.

In the 2023 report, 46% of UK consumers would consider delivery drones as an option to receive their small packages, and 53% state they would consider autonomous vehicles as an option to receive their larger packages. The rise in popularity of technologically advanced delivery methods suggests retailers could provide a solution in tackling disrupted delivery processes.

Drone and autonomous delivery methods may appear farfetched for some, but there are reasons behind them. Drones give shoppers control over deliveries, particularly when it comes to timings and arrivals, as well as collection for returns.

Control and flexibility are the two factors driving changes in consumers’ shopping habits. This fact is reflected in SOTI’s 2023 retail report as 75% of shoppers said they would consider buying online and picking up purchases in-store. When shoppers go and collect products themselves, it completely removes issues caused by deliveries like increased charges or delayed delivery.

There is an increasing amount of pressure being placed on retailers, logistics partners and suppliers from these heightening consumer demands. Consumers are now asking all parties in the delivery chain to ensure they are providing high-quality, inexpensive and alternative delivery methods. Customers are warming up to the notion of drones and autonomous vehicles managing package deliveries, indicating more acceptance of increased digital and technological processes within the supply chain.

To begin introducing these increased digital measures, businesses must have the right infrastructure and digital backend processes in place so customers can see every step of their package’s delivery journey and be regularly informed of its progress. Streamlining and innovating business processes will preserve and grow retailers’ customer bases, and as market demands evolve, retailers must stay up to date.

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