In order for drone delivery to be viable, it needs to offer customers something they can’t get elsewhere — whether it’s greater convenience, speed or price. For companies it needs to offer something new too — more savings, more revenue, or new customers. And so far in tests we’ve seen, customers have to pay for drone delivery — making it financially viable for companies to offer (and perhaps also putting a cap on what otherwise might be mega demand).
But in the long term, will consumers be willing to pay for drone delivery? Nearly half of Americans — 48% to be exact — say they would pay more money for drone delivery versus the cost to have it delivered via more traditional means given one caveat: it needs to mean getting their products within an hour.
That’s according to a survey conducted on behalf of online shopping customer Smarty, which is best known for its browser add-on that searches for coupons and offers, in theory saving you money. That survey was conducted online by Propeller Insights and asked more than 1,000 U.S. adults about their thoughts on drone delivery in March 2022.
With drone delivery, it seems as though consumers are less interested in the novelty of it and aren’t even particularly passionate about the technology inside, but are most concerned about the practicality.
And if drones can make deliveries especially practical by sending them faster than what human couriers can do, then customers are ready to pay more for it.
“Consumers don’t seem concerned about technological advances as much as they are about receiving their purchases, especially if it means they get their products faster,” said Vipin Porwal, CEO and Founder of Smarty in a prepared statement.
And if the past few years of the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we love having things fast — perhaps conditioned by the increase in shelter-in-place takeout orders,
These days, 60% of American consumers order takeout or delivery at least once a week, and a still-impressive 31% of American consumers use third-party food delivery services at least twice a week, according to Fundera. Additionally, online ordering is growing 300% faster than in-house dining.
But there’s one thing to remember about delivery times. Fast promises typically have to do with the time needed to load and operate the drone itself — and not the time needed to actually prepare the items (such as cooking the food).
“When people have the ‘3 minutes delivery time’ in their mind, they often forget that this does not include the time needed for the restaurant or shop to prepare the meal and for the meal to then be loaded to the drone,” Liang Feng, a delivery operator for drone company Manna told the Drone Girl in a spring 2022 interview. “We do a lot of customer education and engagement to bridge this gap.”
How much will drone delivery cost?
Given how new drone delivery is (and how little it has rolled out to the general public), it’s hard to predict just how much drone delivery will cost. However, Walmart is currently running fairly significant tests to members of the public around the U.S, where it can ship items sold at its stores, totaling up to 10 pounds. For now, Walmart drone deliveries are offered at a fixed delivery fee of $3.99.
For drone deliveries made by Google-sibling Wing, fees are displayed in the app and can vary by location. Sometimes — especially when Wing launches in a new area — deliveries are free.
But don’t get your hopes up, as companies might be eating the high cost of early-day deliveries as they develop their products. Amazon predicts it will cost the company $63 per package to fulfill orders via drone by 2025, according to an article published on Business Insider.
Other drone delivery concerns besides speed
Speaking of practicality, consumers are thinking through all components of drone delivery — and they have some concerns. Here were top concerns that Americans cited in the Smarty survey, accompanied by how many respondents checked off that item as a concern:
- items being ruined by drone travel (51%)
- the drone breaking down so consumers won’t receive their items (58%)
- drone delivery to the wrong address (58%), the drone breaking down and consumers not getting a refund (54%)
- the drone leaving items unattended, making it easier for porch bandits to steal packages (54%)
- lack of human interaction with delivery people (31%)
For what it’s worth, human delivery workers also typically leave items unattended (and occasionally make mistakes in delivering products to the wrong address too). Such a fear seems to be often attributed to drones, though almost all deliveries are never fully watched. But hey, that’s how Americans responded.
In fact, 37% of the poll respondents said they were either “worried” or “extremely worried” about having packages stolen. But at least humans are being rational about solutions, saying they would be willing to pay more for delivery protection. About 63% of survey respondents say they would pay for shipping insurance to cover theft or damage, and 52% say they would pay for some sort of product protection service to ensure that packages didn’t get stolen or damaged.
Would you pay for drone delivery beyond standard delivery fees?