2021 Delivery Trends: How to Implement Them and Maximize Profits

By  //  June 2, 2021

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The year 2020 has been engulfed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the same trend seems to be following in 2021. With government guidelines indicating in many countries to maintain safety protocols like social distancing, the online shopping trend has and will continue to grow.

This means businesses will continue to increase their fleet of delivery vehicles and given the driver, vehicle, and general worker shortage, fleets will need to optimize driving directions for maintaining on-time customer ETA’s and fast delivery times..

It is beneficial to keep track of the analytics and demographics to make use of it to boost your business. Here are a few delivery trends of 2021 which you should know about.

1. Continue to Invest in Delivery: In the post-COVID-era, delivery is here to stay and will only increase in demand as consumers have become accustomed to the luxury of on-demand ordering and fast delivery times. That trend is unlikely to reverse and continues to accelerate and has been continuing will prior to COVID-19. Even after the vaccination levels rise, consumer trends have shown continued growth for online shopping. The pandemic accelerated the trend and businesses that continue to meet customers, where they want to shop, will prevail.

2. Embrace it; Customers Are Expecting A Better Delivery Experience:

As delivery has become routine for most people, it’s not good enough to just get a product to the customer’s doorstep to call the job done. The entire experience needs to be great, not good, but great. Starting from the ease of placing the order to faster delivery options, easy tracking of the package with continuous updates, and great delivery personnel smiling in the field and willing to go the extra mile to make a customer smile.

Of course, an easy to reach support team and flexible return policies are essential to building a thriving and happy customer base. Customers don’t just want all of this. They now expect it. Successful businesses are making this experience greater by using innovative ways to delight customers like adding a surprise gift to the package or offering customers extra discounts on repeat orders and subscriptions.

3. Play-up the “Small Business” and “Buy Local” Effect

Before the pandemic, many customers ordered online solely from big companies like Amazon, in part due to the reliability and reduced worry in wondering “when will I get my package?” However, businesses that have shifted to online shops have won the hearts and minds of customers’ trust with reliable and fast delivery of their products. . A local brand can showcase a certain uniqueness and generate local buying support, which major brands can’t easily replicate or compete against.  Make sure to invest in packaging that displays and conveys the story of being a “local” or “small business”. People love stories and resonate with your brand if they can connect the story to the brand. Got a family business? Weave that story into your products at every possible angle.

4. Build to scale:

The volume of deliveries is soaring and the trend is expected to continue. In 2020, delivery volume peaked, primarily because consumers wanted to stay safe during the pandemic. For a number of reasons, this trend will only continue in the years to come. What was once considered a luxury is now considered a necessity. In less than 10 years the concept of grocery delivery went from a luxury to a necessity. Concepts like “smart cities” and “local delivery hubs” will continue to fuel consumer demand for goods delivered reliably and fast.

It will be important for businesses to remain agile and able to scale with both the changing technologies and volume of demand. The business that invests in its own people will find scaling easier. If businesses take care of their people they will find their people taking care of their customers. It’s a simple trickle-down effect.

Investing in solid hiring procedures, onboarding and ongoing training to employees will net long-term positive results. The happiness of your people is an often overlooked indicator of a business’s ability to scale. A simple and anonymous NPS survey to existing employees will give you a great benchmark metric to work from. Make “continuous improvement” a core value and make sure to lead by example. 

5. Get Ahead of the Curve…but Don’t Go Out On a Limb Opportunity to Give Smart Deliveries a Try will Enhance:

Since 2012, the standard delivery time for free shipping has decreased by over 50%. Free shipping back then took 5 plus days but now the norm is less than 2.5 days! Trends tell us that contactless delivery, electric vehicles, green energy offsets, and many more opportunities are on the rise. This is the best time to push forward with innovation. Think about this; delivery can be automated with the help of drones or the use of automated vehicles. Prior to the accelerated adoption that COVID caused, people may not have accepted these changes, but now could be a great time to invest and get ahead of the curve.

A word of caution here. Although it may sound exciting and may seem like the best time to use technology, that doesn’t mean every technology is readily available or accessible or even legal. For example, Government regulations may be a hindrance to drone deliveries. Many of these innovations are still at a very early stage and may need a few years more to come to reality. For example, the electrification of fleets is underway and in parallel, the cost of solar is coming down…so knowing when to buy and timing of that investment will always be important.

6. Delivery is Becoming a Necessity: 

10 years ago, for most brick-and-mortar retailers, delivery was either non-existent or made up a small percentage of overall sales. Now, online ordering with options for store pickup or delivery has become common. Consumers are presented with a choice, the option to pick up items in-store now, or the option of free or low-cost delivery that is made later (but not that much later).  Smart retailers are even leveraging subscription-based models. 

Deliveries for grocery subscriptions will continue to see an increase in volume and what better way to capture a customer than to offer them more choice, flexibility, and less hassle. Why should someone have to write a grocery list for milk every week when they can make that decision once and be done with it. Successful retailers are attracting more and more repeat customers through delivery.

7. Older Generations Have Learned to Order Online:

It may seem counter-factual but online ordering is still a relatively new technology and really hasn’t reached peak adoption. Older generations were somewhat forced into the adoption of a variety of technologies due to the pandemic. The in-person human touch and physical buying experience were nearly outlawed overnight. COVID forced them to switch to zoom meetings with the grandkids, online shopping, and once learned it appears they have gotten used to the convenience of it all and Post pandemic, that will continue.

A good rule of thumb is that the best technology doesn’t necessarily win. The best user experience wins. If grandma can’t use that app or gets frustrated in doing so, then that’s not true adoption. Build technology for people who aren’t “tech-savvy” to capture a wider customer base. It’s ok if it doesn’t have every bell and whistle. What matters more is that it’s easy for your customers to use and interact with.

8. Don’t be the Tortoise; The Quickest Delivery Wins the Race:

The pandemic has taught most people to plan ahead, but sometimes you may need things immediately. When ordering online, customers prefer to get it delivered at the quickest speed at the best cost which is ideally free in their mind. A few may be ready to pay extra for same-day delivery, but most want free and fast.

Seize this opportunity to stand out, as delivery time is a powerful parameter to keep you ahead of your competitors. This may demand you to work out a better delivery model, but putting in that extra effort will pay off in terms of profitability if you can get the process right. Any delay in delivery is going to either result in cancellation, bad reviews, or worse, the loss of a customer.

If you want your business to grow, keep in mind that fast delivery times today will be considered slow tomorrow so keep changing and investing in the technologies, people, and processes that help you serve your customers better. If nothing else, 2020 and 2021 have taught us all that we need to change with the times.