People are naturally social, but 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that practically overnight. We began distancing ourselves from family and friends. We also began avoiding any person-to-person interaction to protect ourselves, loved ones, and the community, changing everyone's lifestyle drastically in the process.
For a time, consumers had to find ways to get everything done without having any face-to-face interactions. Contactless delivery was already on the rise before the pandemic started, but these circumstances seriously accelerated it, and it quickly became a must-have offering for many businesses.
This article will answer an important question: what is contactless delivery? We'll also discuss its challenging aspects and how enterprises can offer this service with the help of technology.
Why Contactless Delivery Matters
In just a matter of days, contactless deliveries went from being optional to necessary, especially for food and medical supplies.
Lockdowns and social distancing guidelines forced consumers to avoid heading into stores. A Techomic survey revealed that around 32 percent of consumers were avoiding leaving their homes and dining out frequently. 13 percent of consumers also said they were getting food from restaurants via delivery more often than usual.
According to a survey by research adviser Gordon Haskett, online grocery shopping also rose significantly. 30 percent of survey participants said that they used online grocery delivery or pickup services when stay-at-home orders were enforced mid-March of 2020. The figure is considerably higher than the previous online grocery adoption rate recorded.
For consumers buying online more, it's highly likely that they'll prefer not to be in close contact with the delivery personnel. This is where no-contact delivery comes in.
What is contactless delivery? It's the practice of ordering goods and having them delivered without face-to-face interaction with the delivery driver. U.S. companies such as DoorDash, Postmates, Uber Eats, and Grubhub have already started offering no-contact drop-off services like curbside pickup and leaving orders by the door, and retailers and other businesses need to take notice.
How to Offer a Safe, Contact-Free Delivery Service
Contact-free delivery isn't just about ensuring the absence of any contact between delivery drivers and customers. Businesses must also find ways to limit face-to-face interactions among employees. Hence, businesses that are contemplating whether to offer contact-free delivery should first think of which processes they need to improve or change to ensure a safe, no-contact delivery service.
In some circumstances, order preparation also be contact-free. This means moving packaged orders to a staging area rather than having one employee hand the order to another employee. Likewise, warehouse teams must ensure that packages are sorted out by loading bays.
Many consumers worry about the logistics of no-contact deliveries, often questioning how the business will communicate to them once the order reaches them. Enterprises need to address customers' doubts on the contactless delivery process by communicating clearly their safety measures and keeping customers in the loop throughout the process.
Businesses must inform customers of what to expect with their contact-free delivery offering. Many customers automatically assume that the delivery personnel will simply drop the orders at their doorsteps—if this isn't the case, then it should be communicated to the customer.
Simply put, any person-to-person communication between drivers and customers has to be replaced with digital communication.
Restrictions on Goods
Some goods, such as alcoholic drinks, prescription drugs, or expensive items, require identity or age confirmation. Normally, customers hand over their identification cards to drivers. The process of identity and age verification should be digitized in no-contact deliveries.
Masking of Numbers
Not all consumers want to provide their contact numbers to delivery personnel. Businesses then must find a way to mask customers’ phone numbers.
Contactless deliveries have ended the usual knocking on doors or ringing of doorbells. Businesses should instead find other means of informing customers that the order has arrived. Text, email, and call notifications triggered automatically by your last mile delivery system is the preferred way of communication.
Proof of Delivery
Most businesses require delivery drivers to ask customers for their signatures as proof of delivery. This, however, isn't possible with contact-free delivery. So what can you do? You can offer contactless proof-of-delivery, in which customers are sent a link that lets them sign for their order from the comfort of their own device.
What About Contactless Pickup?
It’s not just expectations around delivery that changed as a result of the pandemic. New fulfillment methods like buy-online pickup-in-store (BOPIS), which had been coming into their own before 2020, suddenly exploded in importance when in-store shopping began to feel less safe. Here, too, consumers demanded contactless options—e.g. associates bringing orders out to their cars and then taking proof of delivery contactlessly.
It might seem like this is an easy alternative to incredibly costly delivery operations—and it can be—but it’s also a process that requires careful planning and optimization to get right. If you roll out a contactless pickup process without a clear understanding of your store and warehouse capacity, associate capabilities, customer check-in flow, and more, you run the risk of ticking off your customers with long wait times at your store or pickup site.
To optimize contactless pickup logistics, you need to follow a defined flow, e.g.:
- The customer places an order—the order quantity is checked against real-time inventory, and the customer is given potential pickup time slots based on your capacity parameters.
- When the pickup time gets closer, store/warehouse associates receive automated alerts to their mobile phones that it’s time to pick the customer’s order.
- When the customer arrives at the pickup site, they check in online via a link sent out by your system. They indicate which parking spot they’re in and the make/model of their vehicle.
- Associates are notified with that information, and they bring the order out to the customer’s vehicle. They capture a picture for proof of delivery, and the customer is sent a link that lets them sign for the order and rate the experience.
Implementing a workflow like this requires a number of connected systems, but the payoff is that you can open up store pickups as a potential avenue for contactless fulfillment.
Automation Is Key
Having complete visibility on every aspect of delivery logistics is necessary to orchestrate a contactless last mile delivery or pickup service. Automation helps you leverage digital processes to eliminate manual ones in order to reduce face-to-face interaction across the delivery flow.
Automation helps businesses communicate the process of no-contact deliveries during the ordering process and throughout the delivery. It also minimizes interaction among drivers, dispatch, and other teams within the organization.
Plus, automation power the integration of driver apps responsible for handling proof of delivery and prompting automated delivery notifications to consumers.
In the end, contactless deliveries are simply not possible without automation. As businesses continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic, it's crucial to be able to quickly make the necessary shift to automated technologies and processes. Otherwise, there's a real risk of losing out to competitors that have already updated their delivery offerings.