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Drones and driverless vehicles – UK shoppers want technology-enabled deliveries, study finds


A growing number of UK shoppers want alternative delivery methods such as by drone and autonomous vehicles, as deliveries become more expensive and fraught with issues, research from SOTI has discovered.

According to a new report from the Enterprise Mobility Management company, consumer attitudes to how they receive their items are changing. There has been a shift from the traditional options to more technology-enabled methods and experiences.

The Tech Effect: Strengthening the Omnichannel to Meet Consumer Demands found that 46% of UK shoppers would consider delivery by drone a 7% increase from the 2022 report, whilst more than half (53%) would choose delivery by autonomous vehicle – an 8% increase from 2022.

Compared to the 2022 report, in-store click and collect also grew as a preferred option for UK shoppers, rising by 9% to 13%.

From this data, consumers want different delivery methods from retailers to enhance the online shopping experience. Retailers need to respond to this shift through the deployment of digital technology to support elevated consumer demands, particularly with ecommerce.

When consumers considered delivery options in 2023, 37% of UK shoppers (38% globally) would choose in-home delivery where a driver would have access to their homes via a smart entrance and leave the product inside.

Additionally, 63% of UK consumers (61% globally) are happy to choose to have their items dropped off at a designated location to collect later. Lastly, 32% (37% globally) would be happy to have items delivered to the boot of their vehicle.

“It is widely known that the retail and transportation and logistics sectors have been battling challenges and disruption to the supply chain for some time now, while trying to provide the best customer service possible all whilst maintaining customer loyalty,” said Stefan Spendrup, VP of Sales, Northern and Western Europe at SOTI.

“However, it appears that shoppers are losing faith in traditional delivery methods and are now more open than ever to trusting technology and digital processes – such as drones and driverless vehicles.

“It is a real indication of where the industry is heading, what the future holds for the ways individuals now shop and how consumers are enabled to shop. The days of ordering an item online and then waiting patiently at home for it to arrive are over – consumers want timely deliveries, and more control of how they can receive their items. For this to enabled however, the right infrastructure and digital back end must be in place, so that consumers are well-informed and can access data easily at every touch point of their shopping journey.”

A loss of faith in traditional delivery methods
SOTI said the reason for this shift to technology-enabled delivery methods come as many shoppers report ongoing difficulties in receiving items they have ordered. Compared to 2022 report, 33% of UK shoppers agree deliveries have become slower, with 30% saying items from orders are arriving separately, and that they needed to go to different retailers due to stock availability issues. Also, 17% reported that they had paid for an item, only to then be informed that it was no longer available after purchasing.

And relating to the cost of delivery amid the ongoing cost of living crisis, 34% of UK consumers said that delivery charges have become more expensive, with 60% saying items have increased in price.

In the 2022 report, 85% of UK shoppers surveyed by SOTI said they have experienced issues when ordering and receiving items, compared with 92% in 2023 report. This indicates a sharp decrease in customer satisfaction in just 12 months. When asked what delivery option consumers now typically select, 56% choose front door home delivery. This has dropped by 6% since 2022 retail report.

Providing a seamless delivery and retail process
While shoppers want more control over the delivery process, SOTI’s report also shows that consumers want more of a hybrid experience overall. More than half (51%) still prefer to shop online, and 46% prefer to shop with retailers who offer an experience based on their individual preferences.

There is major pressure on brands and retailers to get deliveries and the entire hybrid shopping experience right, with 23% of consumers saying if they must wait more than two days for an item, they will look elsewhere.

And when it comes to returns, 15% said they want to be able to make returns via email for good. Regarding purchase behaviours, with an almost 10% rise in people using apps for purchases, (39% compared to 28% last year), 80% also agree they want to continue using social media sites to complete their orders.

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