The US Postal Service helps small online sellers stay competitive with retail giants when it comes to shipping. But when delivery by drone becomes a reality, small sellers may find themselves at a significant disadvantage.
Amazon is forging ahead with Prime Air, announcing this past week a partnership with the UK government that "brings Amazon closer to our goal of using drones to safely deliver parcels in 30 minutes to customers in the UK and elsewhere around the world" (for packages up to 5 pounds).
A company called Flirtey is also working on drone deliveries, and this past week, it announced a milestone - it used a drone to make two deliveries to a 7-Eleven customer in the US. Here's how it worked:
"At a Reno, Nevada 7‑Eleven store, two deliveries were successfully completed. 7‑Eleven merchandise - including hot and cold food items - were loaded into a unique Flirtey drone delivery container and flown autonomously using precision GPS to a local customer's house.
"Once at the family's backyard, the Flirtey drone hovered in place and gently lowered each package. The purchases were delivered to the family in the span of a few minutes. Products included Slurpee drinks, a chicken sandwich, donuts, hot coffee and 7-Select candy.
"In the future, both companies expect drone packages to include "everyday essentials" such as batteries and sunscreen."
Companies who want to win in the space know it's important to be early, and patents also play a key role, helping to determine which retailers and shipping carriers can offer drone delivery and how costly it will be for them.
Sellers face pressure to offer shoppers fast and inexpensive or free shipping, and some are already wary of the possible challenges posed by drone delivery. In a recent thread on the eBay UK discussion boards
, a seller wrote, "Soon eBay will be forcing drone deliveries and expecting the sellers to offer for free."
Do you think countries' postal services should be leading the charge in the development of drone delivery - or will they be caught unprepared? Do you see drones as an opportunity for your business to help get your items to shoppers faster, or do you think the cost of drone delivery will be out of reach for small sellers?