Imagine a sky full of drones, carrying small packages to speedily deliver to customers in their backyards and driveways. The drones can fly over congested streets and take the fastest routes over buildings and other obstacles. They can deliver to remote areas that cars can’t reach efficiently.
This is a future some companies, including technology giants Amazon and Google, already support.
Drone delivery remains only available to a few communities in the U.S. but could expand in the future. In late 2019, for example, Wing, a drone delivery service owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, started testing delivering packages by drone in the rural town of Christiansburg, Va.
Drone delivery offers both benefits and challenges for retail and e-commerce companies. What do online shoppers think about drone delivery service, though?
Clutch surveyed 528 online shoppers to understand their opinions on drone delivery.
The largest percentage of online shoppers are unsure of their opinion on drone delivery. When asked to think about the benefits and challenges of drone delivery, though, online shoppers expressed optimism about drones’ potential cost and time savings but are anxious about their packages getting damaged during delivery.
- The largest percentage of online shoppers (39%) say drone delivery won’t impact their purchasing decisions, but 25% say they would be less likely to order a package if they knew a drone was going to deliver it.
- Exactly half of online shoppers (50%) are uncertain of their opinion on drone delivery, while nearly one-third (31%) are excited about the potential of delivery drones.
- When asked about the benefits of drone delivery, online shoppers believe it may be faster (33%) and cheaper (21%) than other shipping methods. Drone delivery could improve delivery time and cost but only in certain weather conditions or if companies properly scale their drone delivery programs.
- Online shoppers are worried about their packages getting damaged during delivery (20%) or the drone getting stolen or hacked (19%). Companies will need to conduct extensive testing to minimize these risks as they roll out drone delivery.
Drone Delivery Does Not Impact Purchasing Decisions for Most Online Shoppers
Drone delivery may make headlines, but the option to receive an item by drone does not impact how likely most online shoppers are to order items.
Nearly 4 in 10 (39%) online shoppers say they are neither more nor less likely to order a package if it will be delivered by drone.
However, 36% of online shoppers say they are more likely to order if they will get their item via drone. One-quarter (25%) say they are less likely to order.
Companies should consider how drone delivery will impact their particular audience’s purchases.
For example, Clutch found that 41% of 18- to 34-year-olds are more likely to order via drone delivery, compared to 34% of 35- to 54-year-olds. Only 18% of people 55 years or older say they are more likely to order via drone.
Drone delivery does not currently impact purchasing decisions for the largest amount of online shoppers, but companies should pay attention to their customers’ specific preferences and demographics.
Most Online Shoppers Are Unsure How They Feel About Drone Delivery
Drone delivery is largely a hypothetical for consumers because of how new the technology is and regulatory restrictions. As a result, when asked about their emotions toward drone delivery, most online shoppers aren’t sure how they feel.
Exactly half of online shoppers (50%) say they are uncertain about receiving packages by drone, while 31% are excited.
Approximately one-fifth of online shoppers (19%) are anxious about the negative impacts of drone delivery.
How does drone delivery work? People’s mixed opinions on drone delivery may be because they haven’t experienced anything like it. Due to strict Federal Aviation Administration regulations, most drone delivery testing can only happen in rural areas, away from large population centers and airports.
Companies such as Amazon and Alphabet will need to battle some of these regulations if they want to develop large-scale e-commerce drone delivery programs. Consumers may develop more firm opinions on the technology as more experience drone delivery for themselves.
Overall, online shoppers are uncertain about drone delivery, but nearly one-third are excited about the option.
Online Shoppers Are Excited About Drone Delivery’s Potential Speed and Cost Savings
The potential benefits of drone delivery include a decrease in the cost and time of online deliveries. Companies may need to grow their drone delivery programs first to see significant time or cost savings, though.
Online shoppers are most excited about drone delivery being faster (33%) or cheaper (21%) than other delivery options.
“Drones will offer a higher-end … option for deliveries,” Radovic said. “Drones will improve those delivery times further, bypassing traffic congestion or queues of deliveries.”
How quickly a drone can deliver items, however, may be impacted greatly by:
- Location of the warehouses they are launched from
- Airspace they are legally allowed to fly through
- Weather, including rain, wind speed, etc.
Dan Khasis, founder and CEO of Route4Me, a route optimization software, discussed how weather can impact drone delivery.
“On a perfectly sunny day with no wind in the middle of nowhere, there’s certainly many benefits,” Khasis said. Drones, however, may be a better choice than trucks or planes only in certain environments, he continued.
“How do you incorporate a headwind?” Khasis said. “Is it going to reduce the possible efficiency [of the drone] by 40-50% on that specific date? Will you have to go back because it’s too windy, rainy, or snowy? All of these factors contribute.”
For now, Radovic says that drone delivery cost will be higher for most items.
“Drones will, at least for now, be an investment rather than a savings for both the delivery company and consequently the consumer,” Radovic said. “But, as companies scale their drone programs and as the technology improves to allow fully autonomous solutions, costs are likely to go down.”
“Drones will, at least for now, be an investment rather than a savings for both the delivery company and consequently the consumer."
Drone delivery services may be faster, but companies will need to grow their drone delivery programs before seeing significant time and cost savings in shipping.
Online Shoppers Fear Damaged Items or Theft With Drone Delivery
Drone delivery poses potential challenges, too, including damage to packages or theft. Companies, however, are actively working to alleviate these issues.
Online shoppers are most anxious about drones damaging packages during delivery (20%) or getting stolen or hacked (19%).
To minimize damage to packages, companies plan to conduct extensive testing before officially rolling out drone delivery to large populations, such as Wing’s pilot program in Christiansburg, Va. This testing allows companies to understand how their drones react to carrying different types of packages or flying through different weather situations.
Package theft is an issue that customers will face with both normal delivery and drone delivery. Solutions for drone delivery theft include:
- Scheduling delivery times to meet the drone in-person.
- Allowing packages to be delivered to a person’s current GPS location as opposed to only their home or office address.
Finally, Amazon patented anti-hacking technology for its future drone delivery program in 2018. With the technology, as drone will halt its delivery and look for a safe place to land if it stops receiving a specific signal.
Can Drone Delivery Impact Jobs?
As with many new technologies, the rise of drone delivery has led to fears about drones replacing human workers.
Online shoppers ranked “drone deliveries may cause people to lose their jobs” as their third-most-common worry about drone delivery.
Drones replacing significant numbers of jobs isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, though.
“Vans are still far cheaper and more effective means of delivery than using a drone,” Radovic said.
A 2016 PwC study, however, found that drones could replace $127 billion of human labor in the future, including $13 billion in the transportation industry.
Yet, as drones replace jobs, they may also create them. “It’s a myth that automation destroys net job growth,” said an Amazon spokesperson, referring to automation in the companies’ fulfillment centers. “In fact, because we’re able to fulfill more customer orders … we’re creating even more new jobs to meet growing customer demand.”
Drone delivery may replace certain types of jobs, but growth from drone delivery could also create new jobs.
The Future of Drone Delivery Offers Both Solutions and Challenges for E-Commerce
Drone delivery is an unknown concept to many online shoppers. Most online shoppers are unsure how they feel about drone delivery and are neither more nor less likely to purchase an item if a drone will deliver it.
Nearly one-third of online shoppers (31%) are excited about drone delivery, though. Specifically, consumers are excited about the potential shorter delivery times and cost savings they think drone delivery offers.
Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) online shoppers, however, are anxious about drone delivery. They worry about drones damaging packages during delivery or getting stolen or hacked.
As companies continue to roll out drone delivery options, consumers’ opinions may change.