The pandemic has called attention to a number of essential jobs that many overlooked pre-lockdown. Shop workers, teachers, and those working in the delivery and logistics sector – all of them carried out critical work before COVID-19 hit, but it’s now that we can truly understand and appreciate their role in keeping the world going round.
I’ve never had to queue on the internet. But when lockdown started, I was queueing online for grocery deliveries alongside everybody else. Delivery drivers kept the country fed and made it possible to keep away from supermarkets.
The trade-off: Convenience at the cost of interference
However, does this newfound appreciation of this sector’s importance mean we’ll be willing to trade increased intrusion into our personal space for increased convenience? To solve the perennial last-mile problem (getting the package to the door is the most expensive and time-consuming part of the whole process), logistics wants to know more about you. It even wants to come into your house.
A confession: I’ve already bought into this. I was giving a presentation in Poland last year. I’m on stage, and my Ring doorbell calls my phone to let me know Amazon is attempting to deliver a parcel. I opened my car remotely, which was parked in front of the house, and the driver left the parcel in the boot.
That’s why Amazon owns Ring. That’s also why Ring works with smart locks and why Amazon has an app that links them, so you can remotely open your front door for a delivery.
Ring has sparked a debate over privacy and the level of involvement a company the size of Amazon should have with what is effectively a home security issue.
But, these issues are unlikely to sour our taste for convenience and speed. We’re going to have to find a balance between making it easier for logistics companies to do their job and maintaining trust between giants such as Amazon and customers.
And for the customer, it’s often a less than perfect experience. Those costs mean that if you’re out, it’s cheaper and faster to leave low-value items outside your house rather than re-delivering. It’s worth taking the risk of having to compensate you for your £9.99 parcel if it gets the parcel out of the system.
Customer behaviours, attitudes, and expectations have changed
There’s a need for a change, and technology has the ability improve the customer experience. But, does making it work require a new level of trust or a recalibration of how we see things?
Six months ago, my 81-year old dad did not ‘do’ the internet. Today, he’s an online-shopping guru. The habits of a lifetime have been broken by lockdown restrictions, and now he’s happy to trade information for the convenience (and safety) of getting things delivered. It’s not much of a step up to imagine him allowing a delivery company to open the front door.
His experience and a newfound familiarity mean he now trusts the retailers. Like all of us, for decades he’s been handing his money to a bank and his future to a pension provider, industries that have often proven untrustworthy. Regardless though, we all continue to use banks and pension funds. We’re familiar with them, even if they’re not always working in our best interests.
That isn’t to say that retail and logistics don’t need to earn and keep our trust – they absolutely do. And I’m not advocating a decade-long erosion of privacy so gradual that we’d never really notice it. In fact, conversations around data and privacy are likely to move faster, not slower, as we accelerate towards the next normal.
From service to product: The evolution of delivery
Delivery is now about more than getting a purchase to a customer. Delivery is a purchase and it often matters more to the customer than the price of the item they’re buying.
Peloton, maker of celebrity-endorsed exercise bikes, knows this. It runs its own delivery operation and calls its delivery drivers Brand Ambassadors, because they’re the only face-to-face contact many customers have with the brand.
Instead of sending bikes to customers via a third-party, Peloton uses the delivery process to create what will hopefully be a positive customer experience. The Ambassadors deliver and setup the bikes, building a rapport and, crucially, trust with the customer.
It’s this sort of thinking that will put brands like Peloton ahead of its competition. Hopefully, with so many lessons learned during lockdown, our newly-discovered respect for people working in logistics won’t diminish in the coming months.