Like many aspects of modern e-commerce and omnichannel retail, delivery is constantly evolving as businesses look to gain a competitive advantage by tailoring the delivery experience to customers’ expectations. The evolution in delivery trends is also driven by a need to meet enormous customer demand in a more cost-efficient way.
In this article, you will find out about six important trends that will dominate the retail delivery experience during 2019 and beyond. These trends include technological innovations, customer-centric delivery options, and more.
Drone Delivery to Reach Rural Customers
One of the more interesting innovations sparking big changes in delivery is the use of drones to get goods to customers. China is currently leading the way in this regard: its largest retailer, JD, now offers drone delivery, primarily targeting rural areas.
Rural customers present a significant challenge to retailers. It is costly to use traditional modes of transport to deliver goods to people in rural locations, however, it is also costly to ignore such a large geographic segment. Drones offer a cost-efficient and viable solution to the dilemma of getting goods to people who live far from urban areas.
Expect to see more Western retailers piloting drone delivery during 2019. One caveat is that the recent high-profile drone incidents at Gatwick Airport in London might deter British retailers from adopting drones until their safe use is firmly established.
Better Last Mile Visibility
From the perspective of retailers, the last mile is the most important part of the delivery experience because it is traditionally the most expensive stage. The “last mile” is a metaphor about the final phase of delivery, from a distribution center to the customer.
Retailers want to optimize their last mile logistics to reduce costs and drive profitability. Last mile delivery tracking is a promising trend that provides real-time visibility into the location of drivers during the crucial last mile journey.
This visibility enables retailers to improve last mile efficiency while also improving customer satisfaction. Last mile tracking can facilitate customer needs in a number of ways, including real-time alerts providing order updates, and communication with delivery drivers.
Customer-Centered Delivery Options
There will be an even greater focus in 2019 for retailers to offer more customization in their delivery options. Next-day delivery is pretty much an expected service at this point, however, as customer expectations surge, people will want faster delivery.
It’s likely you’ll see more retailers adopting a same-day delivery option this year (for an additional fee, of course). According to a Mckinsey survey, 50 percent of customers would be willing to pay an additional 10 or 11 percent fee on top of their product’s cost if it meant they could avail of same-day delivery.
Nominated delivery slots are another option that could enable retailers to provide more convenience to customers by letting them choose specific one- or two-hour delivery windows. It is also possible for nominated delivery slots to span a specific day rather than a time window. The use of last mile tracking can help retailers provide these nominated time slots in an operationally efficient way.
Smaller businesses, particularly local restaurants and bakeries, often find that the cost of hiring their own delivery staff and implementing a logistics solution is too much to handle.
The influence of third-party delivery in the food services sector is expected to grow even more in 2019. Companies like UberEats and Foodpanda are reputable services that can handle delivery logistics.
There is also scope for third-party delivery to make headway in the retail sector. Small businesses can partner with third-party delivery companies who can handle the logistics of getting goods to customers on time.
As the general public becomes more aware of the environmental struggles facing the planet, people are starting to expect a movement towards eco-friendly delivery. Retailers can approach this issue in a number of ways, starting by using environmentally friendly product packaging.
The use of delivery drones (previously mentioned) will help to reduce the environmental impact of emissions from delivery vehicles. Another innovative option is the use of delivery robots during the last mile. These unmanned ground vehicles can deliver small packages around urban location in a way that is much less harmful to the environment.
Augmented/Virtual Reality to Reduce Returns
High return levels are a huge pain point for retailers, particularly in the fashion and beauty sectors. It is difficult for customers to be absolutely certain that they will like their item of clothing or makeup without first trying it. If the customer doesn’t like the product, they return it, which is costly for the retailer because they have to re-process the returned item and put it back into stock.
Thankfully, new solutions in augmented and virtual reality are addressing this pain point. Brands such as L’Oreal are now using innovative smartphone apps that enable customers to virtually try on their makeup products before purchasing them, using their phone’s camera. Similar options are becoming more widespread in fashion, with virtual fitting rooms that can assist people with ordering the correct size for their desired clothes.
In the UK alone, online returns are predicted to increase by 27.3 percent in the next five years and hit a total of £5.6 billion by 2023. Expect to see more retailers attempt to address these high return levels through virtual “try before you buy” innovations.
These six trends will help retailers to meet rising customer expectations while also improving the profitability and efficiency of their delivery logistics. With more people expected to move towards ordering goods online, the delivery experience is one of the main touchpoints in which companies have the opportunity to interact with customers, impress them, and ensure repeat orders.