Do e-shops in SA offer a better choice of delivery options than available elsewhere? A recent report by Parcellab from Germany analyses the strengths and potential capabilities in checkout, shipping and returns based on orders placed with the 100 largest German e-shops. The study (carried out in August 2018) found that consumers have almost no choice in shipping services. Only 21% of e-shops allow consumers to choose between different delivery service providers. In addition, the majority of e-shops only give an estimated delivery date, which can in some cases cover a few days. The study pointed out that online retailers are wasting opportunities to inform consumers about the status of their delivery, leaving it up to customers to seek the information rather than the other way around. According to the study, this lack of customer centricity after the checkout causes online retailers a loss of millions of euros in potential sales every month.
Recently I have had a few disagreeable experiences (yes I do practice what I preach!) with a couple of online orders. A book bought from a second-hand bookshop in the US via Amazon didn’t arrive and appeals to both the bookshop, which initially admitted fault, and Amazon have failed to get my money back; and FedEx failed to deliver another book and sent it back to the seller without informing me. Both left a sour taste in the mouth and a greater desire to work for greater trust between buyer and seller (see our Trustmark above).
Perhaps in my case FedEx should have used their new delivery robot, the FedEx SameDay Bot! The ‘Bot will facilitate same-day and last-mile deliveries and was unveiled on 26 Feb in the USA. Reaching a speed of 16 kph, the SameDay Bot can travel autonomously on pavements and along the roads giving way to pedestrians (and hopefully cars as well!) by using a combination of LIDAR sensors similar to those in self-driving cars and by following road and safety rules. It is equipped with a screen at the front and at the back that allows it to communicate with other road users, indicating for its direction of travel and if it is about to stop. In contrast to other delivery bots, the SameDay Bot ensures a real door-to-door delivery experience as it can also navigate unpaved surfaces and even climb stairs. FedEx plans to test the ‘bot this summer in select markets. It will be interesting to see how the Bot will interact with South African taxis-drivers when (if) it is launched in SA!
In Kenya, Amazon has rolled out a service, called “Amazon PayCode” that will allow customers to purchase goods and then pay for them at a local Western Union retail agent. During checkout, a special QR code will be generated that will be used to verify the customer’s identity and matched to the order confirmation for payment. The cross-border payment option has also been launched in 9 other countries in Asia and Latin America.
Meanwhile, in February, Microsoft received a patent in the US for a new delivery method that offers a distinctly new delivery experience – drones which deliver packages into driving cars. The idea is the following: customers would be able to order on the road using their car smartphone to place their order. The product would then be delivered during the journey. The drone would be able to identify the car by its number plate, adjust its own speed to the speed of the car and either drop the package through a roof opening or lower the product next to a side-window of the receiving vehicle to enable the occupant to reach out and retrieve the product. It is unclear when or where this method will be road tested!