Drone Delivery Is Coming to Wal-Mart. But Are Consumers Ready?
Wal-Mart is hustling to deliver your package to you with a drone. Are you ready?
The world’s largest retailer has already been flying drones indoors, but is now seeking permission to fly drones outside in residential neighborhoods to drop packages to customers, according to a letter sent to the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday.
The company argues drones would make for more efficient delivery. “Wal-Mart’s distribution system could become more efficient and consumers could be better served, benefitting the public interest,” Shekar Natarjan, the company’s VP of logistics delivery, wrote in the letter.
Still, as companies prepare for this next phase of shipping, what about the consumer? Is all of this research and development the fantastical dreams of a handful of engineering masterminds embedded within these retail giants, or is there real demand to have a zooming robot drop off one’s Wal-Mart socks?
Consumers are, for the most part, ready -- especially if it means getting their orders faster. Almost 80 percent of consumers say they are more likely to shop at a retailer that offers drone delivery to their doorstep in under an hour, according to research from the 2015 future-of-retail report from Chicago-based Walker Sands Communications.
About half of consumers would be willing to pay at least $5 for drone delivery in under an hour. Nearly a third would be willing to pay more than $20.
While Wal-Mart is just now getting into research and development, consumers expect the drone delivery fantasy to become reality sooner rather than later. Two-thirds of consumers expect that they will get their first drone delivery in the next five years, the report says.
To be sure, there is still resistance to the idea of drone delivery. For those who say they are anti-drone, about three-quarters feel that drones aren’t safe. Expense, privacy concerns, and theft concerns were also among the issues cited by the anti-drone consumers, according to the report.
People also aren’t willing to trust a drone with their most valued, expensive purchases. Where almost 90 percent of consumers are cool with a book, item of clothing or pet supply to be delivered in a drone, only 15 percent are okay with the idea of a drone dropping off luxury purchases, according to the report.
To drone or not to drone, that is the question. Well, kind of. “Since such a small percentage of consumers distrust drones, it bodes well for the technology playing a major role in the future of retail,” the report says.
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.