There was a time when free shipping was all the rage. The year was 2000, and Amazon had just introduced the novel concept for orders over $100. Widely seen as a gimmick, it nevertheless became a catalyst for the type of out-of-the-box thinking that has accompanied the rise of e-commerce.
Over time, getting a package from A to B has become a creative endeavor.
These days, consumers expect to pay next to nothing to ship online orders. They have grown accustomed to getting their packages with increasing speed (if only yesterday was an option!), and they take for granted the ability to track online purchases from the moment they hit “order.”
But the courier industry is not one to rest on its laurels. The race to get a growing number of orders — e-commerce accounted for 60.4 percent of total retail sales growth in 2015 — to their end destinations is spurring innovation that, at times, sounds positively sci-fi.
Here are three future scenarios that intrigue our imagination:
1) Delivery by drone
When Amazon in 2013 announced it was developing small unmanned vehicles to deliver packages within minutes of orders being placed, it initially seemed, again, like a gimmick. Now Prime Air is in good company.
Google’s Project Wing is apparently set to launch as early as next year if regulatory hurdles can be overcome. And DHL recently tested its third-generation “parcelcopter” by having it fly from a small town in Germany to a nearby mountain plateau. (It took eight minutes to complete the journey.) FedEx also is experimenting with the technology, and so is UPS, which recently partnered with Zipline, a startup that is using drones to deliver medical supplies to remote areas of Rwanda.
But how soon will we see drones zip around the neighborhood sky? Amazon answers: “One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road.”
2) Delivery by robot
Are you ready to share the sidewalk with a delivery bot? Starship Technologies, founded by two of the Skype creators, is developing a self-driving buggy, marketed as “your personal courier.” The bot, which looks like a miniature R2D2, is supposed to solve the last-mile delivery problem, getting small goods into suburban homes.
With a top speed of — hold onto your hats — 4 miles an hour, the delivery bot will have a range of up to 2 miles. A smartphone application will give the customer access to the bot’s content before it trundles back to the warehouse. The bot is scheduled to arrive in the United States next spring to be part of an experimental delivery system.
3) Delivery by prediction
In 2025, you may receive items before you have even ordered them. That is one of four scenarios envisioned in the study “Global E-tailing 2025” by Deutsche Post DHL. In delivery by prediction, artificial intelligence rules. Intelligent avatars act as your virtual shopping advisers, and they don’t hesitate to act on their own if there is something they sense that you need. Same-day delivery is standard, and drones zoom across the sky. Can you picture it?
If you cannot wait for the future, eShipper can help you find the best logistical solution today. Click here to find out more about eShipper, or contact us if you’d like to speak to someone about your options.