With the pandemic accelerating the use of e-commerce and online delivery services – even for items customers would have previously only ever bought in-store – it can often be hard for retailers to keep up. 

Unless the right delivery processes are put in place, next day and same-day delivery can become a huge challenge, especially in a country as vast as Australia. So if you’re a retailer that wants to stay ahead of the delivery curve, here are the biggest delivery trends to watch out for over the next 12 months and beyond. 

Micro warehouses

With much of Australia’s distribution centres currently centred in Melbourne, there’s a real need for the country to embrace the growing trend of micro warehouses. 

Let’s say a customer orders something to be sent to the Inner West in Sydney. Despite the very same item sitting in a retail store just a few kilometres away from their house, many brands will insist on sending the item from their main distribution centre in Victoria. 

On the other hand, with the right micro warehousing system in place, the retailer can simply deliver the closest product over the shortest distance, saving both time and money. 

Retailers are in the perfect position to jump on this trend since retail stores themselves can act as micro warehouses for delivery. Micro warehouses dotted in multiple locations around the country will not only help delivery times, but fewer fuel miles means they will support a more sustainable planet, too. 

Shopping centre transformations

Ordering from individual stores or micro warehouses is all well and good, but the current physical shopping centre set-up is a maze for drivers, with multiple floors and units. In order for the micro warehousing trend to take off, things need to be simplified. 

To future-proof their businesses, shopping centres should focus on designing one main collection and delivery port – or loading bay – in which retailers can coordinate all of their online orders. This would help retailers take full advantage of the space provided by shopping centres, and dramatically improve the customer experience when ordering online. 

It will also help to streamline jobs for drivers, who in turn will no longer need to waste time trawling through multiple levels and units to find their pickup point. Less time wasted means more time focused on completing other jobs. Efficient jobs make for happier drivers, and satisfied customers. 

Customers are willing to pay for same-day

Up until now, little thought has been given to the estimated time of arrival on deliveries from e-commerce sites. In general, an attitude of ‘it’ll get there when it gets there’ has prevailed. Once the retailer hands things over to the delivery partner, they believe their end of the bargain has been fulfilled, and anything that happens next is down to the delivery partner. 

The problem is, the customer doesn’t see it this way. From the customer’s perspective, every single step of the process – from order to delivery – is down to the brand. That’s why it’s high time brands took back control over their delivery options and started offering a service that’s not merely acceptable, but one that exceeds expectations. 

As online shopping becomes the new normal, online shoppers are increasingly interested in faster delivery options – even if it means paying more. Now that consumers are more accustomed to online shopping, most retailers believe they will demand more in terms of delivery, according to KPMG’s recent Australian Retail Outlook report. Almost half said consumers will expect more in terms of delivery speed and 35% said customers will want more delivery options available to them.

A shift in driver attitudes 

With the UK and US making big strides towards making the gig economy better for workers, and ongoing union battles here in AU, there’s no doubt that driver sentiment is set to drastically change in the near future. Drivers are preferring to go with high-tech platforms that make their jobs easier, more efficient and provide the flexibility to work across multiple providers without being stung by admin fees and aggressive algorithms that rate their performance.  

Up until recently, the gig economy has been something to ‘fall back on’ instead of a long-term career option. But with more advanced delivery platforms taking centre stage, drivers are increasingly able to design schedules and build up a customer base that fully supports them and their families.

Delivery robots

Last-mile robots provide more flexibility, improve delivery times and are cheaper than their human counterparts. In Northern California, DoorDash has started using food delivery robots to drop off local food orders. When the robot arrives, DoorDash sends a text message with a link to the recipient, who then clicks the link to unlock the robot filled with their food.

In Australia, we’ve had less of an uptake, despite the fact that it is legal for similar robots to operate on our sidewalks. They’re the perfect option for fast deliveries within a 5km radius and are generally a lot cheaper than human delivery. They also run on electricity, making them far better for the planet. 

If you’re still sceptical about delivery robots appearing in Australia anytime soon, all I can say is: watch this space.

Steve Orenstein is founder of Zoom2u technologies.