We’ve been talking about them for a while now, but it seems that drone delivery might soon become a possibility. This week it was announced that the government will be collaborating with online retailer Amazon to test new drones that might one day deliver parcels. What's more, parcels could be delivered within 30 minutes of ordering! The government are hoping these will come into action by 2020, but current regulations present major concerns.
As well as public worry over safety and security, the tests will need to overcome three major issues. Firstly, any drones will need to operate ‘within the line of sight’ to meet current regulations. This means the pilot of the drone has to be able to see the aircraft at all times. Secondly, there’s the more obvious question of how you ensure a drone does not bump into anything. This would involve using inbuilt sensors as a minimum safety requirement. Something which isn't exactly cheap! And lastly, is it possible for one pilot to manage several drones at once?
There is also the sheer amount of potential deliveries involved if solutions to these problems are eventually reached. The types of parcels the drones would carry would weigh less than 2.2kg, which equates to 80-90% of everything Amazon sells.
But in the unlikelihood of finding safe solutions to these issues, what are the best delivery options online customers have available right now? And can retailers and couriers improve current delivery services further to meet customer demand and satisfaction?
Better Time Slots from House of Fraser and AO.com
Retailers have come on leaps and bounds in addressing this problem in the last couple of years. The main issue related to home delivery is that many parcels get delivered when we’re not actually home. Plus, going to pick something up from a different location doesn’t end up being any more convenient.
As well as a number of couriers providing tracking information and more specific time slots, retailers such as House of Fraser have expanded their delivery options to include same day and pre-9am the following day to ensure customers can receive their goods before they leave for work.
Companies like AO.com have also shown that this sort of delivery service doesn’t have to be limited to smaller items. Using AO.com discount vouchers, customers can get same day delivery on their large electrical appliances. This is a service that now forms a central part of the company’s advertising.
Larger companies are clearly in a much better position to offer these sorts of flexible options, but there are a few other ways for smaller online retailers if they want to improve their delivery services.
Click and Collect
This delivery option is being used more frequently by all sorts of online retailers and it involves having your order delivered to a collection point. This doesn’t have to be a local branch of the shop you've purchased from either. It could also be one of many convenience stores or corner shops that have signed up to the scheme. This not only makes this service perfect for online-only retailers, but also customers who prefer to pick up their parcels at a more convenient time. In some cases this could be any time, day or night, with a number of convenience stores offering a 24-hour pick up point.
Many customers have said they much prefer this option to shopping in-store because you can be sure your order is ready for you. Plus, many click and collect services are free, so you'll be able to save on that pesky delivery charge.
Click and Commute with Argos
Similar to click and collect, this is more a move by larger retailers such as Argos. The aim being to open smaller hubs in commuter stations so customers can pick up their items on the way to or from work.
Using their own logistics model, stores can get items to this smaller store in time for customers to retrieve them when convenient. Using Argos promo codes, shoppers who regularly commute to Cannon Street station can now arrange to collect their goods from here instead of their local branch.
It is clear retailers are now taking delivery very seriously indeed, making customer satisfaction a priority. Will delivery drones become the future of online sales? We don't know. However, if a solution to the many issues can be found, perhaps we’ll can expect drones on our doorsteps sooner than we think.
By Anna Scott, 28th July 2016