3 years ago, if a delivery person arrived at your doorstep with an order that you had placed 5 days prior, it would be considered on-time delivery. That’s no longer the case.

Customers are no longer satisfied with waiting for their deliveries to reach them two days after the order has been placed. In fact, today, the demand for same-day delivery has picked up pace. Research by Deloitte suggests that while in 2015, 63% considered delivery within 3-4 days fast shipping, by 2016 this changed, with only 43% looking at it from the same perspective1. Unsurprisingly, 97% consumers believe that same-day delivery is the benchmark for fast shipping1.

Until a couple of years ago, the pre-operational arrangements necessary to mobilize this was unthinkable. That’s because large-scale fulfilment and shipping of products is a time-consuming process with complexities that many companies are still trying to work out. All that is changing, especially for big players like Amazon that have pushed the envelope with same-day delivery, forcing other e-tailers to look for new ways to manage the competition this has created. While large-scale shipping continues to be a cost-effective process for the big companies, the last-mile continues to be a challenge even for them.

Drones Enabling Same-Day Delivery

This is where drones come in. Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), are relatively new technology that companies are experimenting with, to make deliveries to customers. One of the first such attempts was undertaken by Domino’s Pizza along with their delivery partner Flirtey in November 2016, to airlift a pizza to a customer in New Zealand. Flirtey is just one of the tech companies that are working in this space. Others, like Amazon and Zipline are investing heavily to accelerate the innovations that will help make the tech that powers drones ready for extensive use. These investments are bound to bring great benefits, like cost savings to businesses.

Drones will not just help reduce the amount of money businesses spend on shipping expenses, but also what they charge the customer to avail it. This cost saving is passed on from the business to the customer, which will add to the latter’s experience. However, businesses needn’t worry about customers demanding cost benefits for availing drone-enable same-day delivery, just yet. Based on data released by PwC a couple of years ago, 61% respondents stated that they would be willing to pay an extra fee for same-day delivery2.

When Customers are in Distress

In most cases, same-day delivery is a value-add. However, there are occasions when it is critical. And that’s when customers are making distress purchases. Reports reveal that close to 55% expect their distress purchases to be at their doorstep the same day. Most of the distress purchases are medicines, food supplies, and critical provisions like bottled water – items that customers are likely to need urgently. The same research uncovered that only 16% were willing to wait for their purchase to arrive in this situation. 45% stated that they would cancel the complete order if they had to wait beyond a day. This just goes to show that convenience surpasses price.

What’s Next – New Tech Integration

Even though it will be a while before every retailer and e-tailer uses drones for delivery, there is much that we can look ahead to, as far as innovations in this space go. I believe that like much else in the retail industry, what’s next will be driven by customer demand. Customers are increasingly seeking visibility and control, especially over the parcels they have ordered for. To meet this need, retail businesses will have to partner with drone providers who are focused on making deliveries personal.

One such tool that will empower both the business and the customer with what they seek are chatbots or conversational interfaces. They can give businesses the power to share information with customers for greater transparency. While many businesses are already using chatbots to provide customer support, the technology is only slowly gaining traction in the context of drone delivery. The next step in this, which I believe will be truly liberating for the customer, will be when voice-enabled shopping and drone delivery blend in seamlessly with voice-enabled customer support and parcel tracking requests. Is that future far away? I think not. Especially not if the customer has anything to say about it.

Eventually, the more a business manages to meet their customers’ demand – in this case, for same-day delivery – the more they are likely to maintain customer loyalty by increasing customer satisfaction and see a rise in sales. Based on a report released by BI Intelligence, merchandise delivered through same-day delivery is set to reach $4.03 billion by 2018, from $620 million in 20242. And that’s a market growth that retailers will be able to capitalize on, by interfacing with the right technology.