The Drones Are Coming!
Jan 04, 2016
The drones are coming! If they aren’t, the hype surrounding their impact on consumer marketing and package delivery certainly is. At least this is what Amazon, Wal-Mart and now Google would like us to believe. In fact, Google is predicting that drone delivery of consumer goods will be an important component of package delivery by 2017. (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/google-drones-delivery-2017_56380649e4b00a4d2e0ba5b7).
Although drones are featured prominently on the cover of my book “Marketing Direct: Breaking Through The Clutter,” the book is not about drone delivery. “In fact, I chose the cover image as a metaphor for the logical or illogical extreme that direct marketing, marketing direct, can be taken. Actually, I think there are major drawbacks to drone delivery outside of the privacy and other issues that have been part of this discussion. Number One among them is one of the most important precepts of direct marketing and that is “convenience.” Drone delivery sounds like the ultimate convenience until you realize that a drone can’t deliver a package to your door and ring your doorbell. It sounds like a great idea, especially to tech savvy early adopters, until you realize that you’re the one that has to go outside and remove the package from the drone. That’s not convenience, that’s a major pain in the butt, especially if the weather is terrible…rain, snow, etc.
Aside from the potential weather issues, there are lots of other factors that have an impact on drone delivery. How many of us live in neighborhoods where we feel comfortable leaving a package sitting in our driveway or on the curb until we come home from shopping or work? Not me, or most people, unless you live in a gated community. What about age and infirmity? Not all people are physically able to go out and get their packages. And, there is the issue that not all products lend themselves to this kind of delivery. With human delivery, none of these factors are generally an issue, because the driver will unload the package from the truck, ring your doorbell, leave the package between your front door and screen, put it some place that you have specified, or hold it for delivery until you can be around to accept it. I don’t see drones doing this.
Drones have lots of very good uses. They can be camera platforms. They can drop explosive charges in avalanche prone areas to start controlled avalanches. They’ve more than demonstrated their usefulness in security and military applications. And, they have more than demonstrated their ability to haul stuff.
But how they play as a delivery vehicle for that new shirt, those flowers, books, etc. that you bought from your favorite online or offline retailer is a question that deserves further exploration and a lot of testing before home drone delivery can become a viable distribution solution.
Delivery is part of distribution and as such it’s only one of the areas that you need to concentrate on to successfully expand your business. Drone delivery isn’t going to make your business a success, but bad delivery certainly can hurt it, so any discussion of the use of drones as a delivery option should revolve around their ability to help you improve your customer service and/or reduce operating expenses.
But, the drone discussion distracts us from the real issues facing Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, Zappo or any other on or offline retailer/direct marketer trying to capture or expand their market share.
Focusing the discussion on drone delivery loses sight of the fact that achieving success depends on other more important factors such as planning, audience, product, pricing and promotion. Bad planning, bad audience targeting, bad product, bad pricing and bad promotion will hurt your business far more than any positive benefit gained from adding drone delivery.
Drone delivery could also produce negative results. Whether you acknowledge it or not, drone delivery pushes package deliveries into the self-service realm; because, that drone is not going to unload itself, drop the package on your doorstep and ring your doorbell. You’re going to have to do that yourself…thus eliminating one of the key factors affecting the convenience of “to your door step” delivery. Given the choice, most consumers are going to choose the human over the drone, at least until that drone can transform itself into a robot that can carry the package to your door and ring your doorbell. And, that probably won’t happen by 2017.
Whether you’re a proponent of the “4 Ps” or “5 Cs” of marketing, marketers need to focus their energies in those areas that are going to help them generate the best results for their business, and fulfillment, and potentially drone delivery are only a very small part of building and executing a successful on or offline retail business.
In fact, I have to ask the questions, “Why bother with drones, when the next true step in ultimate convenient delivery is transporter?” “Beam me up Scotty.”
Dudley Stevenson, founder and CEO of DWS Associates, has over thirty-five years’ experience in consumer marketing, business-to-business marketing, and direct marketing, including developing, planning, and implementing go-to-market strategies. He's also the author of "Marketing Direct: Breaking Through The Clutter." Working with organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, he and his team have helped clients such as IBM, Sony, Neiman Marcus, Arizona Highways, Marshall Field & Co., Mrs. Field’s, UNICEF, and Patagonia implement successful direct marketing programs. A longtime member of the Direct Marketing Association and the American Marketing Association, Stevenson is also a sought-after speaker. He’s given hundreds of presentations and workshops on marketing and direct marketing. His “Marketing Planning 101” workshop alone has reached more than 100,000 marketing and sales professionals.