Retail drone delivery will be dictated by consumer attitudes

Retail drone delivery will be dictated by consumer attitudes
August 9, 2022  |  BY

Americans may be divided politically and culturally, but there’s one area where we can find 100% agreement. We all love convenience. From the TV dinner in the 1950s to self-checkout at supermarkets today, we’re always looking to get what we want quicker and easier. We treasure our leisure time and want as much of it as possible.

Drone delivery has promised to provide even more convenience. In a recent survey of over 1,000 consumers, nearly 60% of respondents liked the overall concept of drone delivery, while 64% are actually ready to try it out. Indeed, there’s genuine enthusiasm for this new delivery option.

Of those itching to have their next online order delivered via machine through the air, 32% believe it could happen by 2024. A smaller number, 18%, think drone delivery will take flight by 2026, with an even smaller amount, 14%, believing it could take up to 2032 for drones to be fully viable.

As with any technological innovation, there’s a contingent of drone naysayers. 36% of them don’t think that the drone delivery promise will ever become a reality. And they have a legitimate reason for their skepticism: Regulation. Whether it’s from pressure from the general public or governmental legislation, this segment believes that drone delivery won’t be approved on the massive scale required for it to be successful.

Interestingly, 16% of respondents simply wish that drone delivery never occurs in the first place. I say “interestingly” because drones have been heavily criticized for their potential to increase noise and violate privacy. Those fears would lead one to assume a higher amount in the anti-drone camp.

These statistics may spark occasional debate at dinner tables and bars, but they’re driving daily meetings among executives at retail brands. Drone delivery is the next big thing among the battle of retailers for consumer loyalty. Those who jump on the drone bandwagon early have a good chance at capturing the hearts of minds of consumers who favor drone delivery.

More and more, Americans like to have groceries, clothing, household goods, prepared meals, and prescriptions delivered to their homes. And based on the survey, how the order arrives has become increasingly important. That’s why 54% of Americans now perceive drones as “the new corner store”. For them, it’s no longer good enough to have same-day delivery – they want same-hour delivery.

But consumers haven’t blindly fallen in love with drones. In fact, according to the survey, 43% of respondents believe drones might break down and be unable to deliver their order accurately, on time. Another 19% feel uneasy about the lack of human interaction with their delivery professional. People also have some of the same general fears as they did for other forms of delivery, such as getting the wrong order, not being able to get refunds for damaged goods, and too much noise in the sky (as opposed to too much street noise, which was the fear when car and truck delivery began to explode decades ago.)

Retailers not only have to consider what consumers like and don’t like about drone delivery, they must also account for what consumers will pay for the service. The reality is that free delivery has become the norm, making it difficult for retailers to compete when they charge standard shipping costs. And according to the survey, 59% of respondents want free drone delivery, which may prevent retailers from passing on drone costs to their customers.

When balancing the cost of doing business with generating and maintaining customers, something will have to give. Consumers want convenience while business wants profits. It may be the age of tiny aircrafts dropping off orders, but nothing has really changed. Retailers still have to conform to consumer demand.