As McKinsey reports, the drone activity value in the United States rose from $40 million in 2012 to $1 billion in 2017. It is estimated that drones would annually impact the USA’s GDP with $31 to $46 billion by 2026.
The eCommerce industry is an incredibly competitive one, where customers will be choosing either by the best experience or by the best price offered. In addition to improved customer experience and shortened waiting time, drone delivery will bring automation to the delivery process, decreasing the delivery time and being able to reach all sorts of destinations despite their location, traffic jams and other similar issues.
Amazon, Google and Walmart have already entered the game and introduced the first drone delivery service back in 2015. Since then, the topic has been gaining popularity among eCommerce retailers, including both industry giants and small local businesses.
Despite it sounds exciting, the question of actual technical implementation is vital. For many, it may seem that drone package delivery is something unachievable both in terms of costs and technology – but the reality is the opposite.
The stages of connecting a smart drone to your store
The process of connecting the drone to the store would require a number of various integrations. Thus, we addressed our technical specialist and asked him about the potential method to integrate smart drones with a Magento-powered store.
An owner of a Magento-powered store has just purchased dozens of smart drones ready for delivering. The challenge lies in connecting the drones to the client’s ERP and sending notifications to the customer about the purchase status. Let’s break down the whole process of Magento integration and answer the burning question: how will drone delivery work?
System 1: Order placement from a client device to warehouse ERP
When the client places the order, the information is transferred from their device to the Magento server.
Magento transfers the information about the order to the store – either to the admin panel, ERP, etc.
An employee puts the order in the drone and sends it off. The employee then enters the information about the drone parcel delivery status into the ERP system. An example would be: order #2 is shipped with drone #1.
The ERM system of the warehouse transfers the information about the order being shipped to the Magento. Magento, in turn, transfers the order status to the client device.
Until now the process of placing the order is the same as with any other delivery type. Now we will have a look at the drone and its interactions.
System 2: Interaction of drone and Magento server
Because commercial drones have preinstalled flight computer and are GPS-navigated, they will be able to share their location. Thus, the drone has to be connected with the server and exchange the information about its location at the current moment. The server can be either on the client side, drone manufacturer side, cloud, etc. As well drone manufacturer would normally provide support with connecting the drone to the server.
Magento checks the server at a definite and preset time interval (i.e. every 30 seconds) and receives the data about the drone location, calculating the distance left till the destination point.
System 3: Integration of external notification service with Magento
As soon as Magento receives the information from the server that the drone is, for example, 5 minutes away from the destination, it will pass the data to the external notification service.
External notification service is needed to send notifications to the user about the package status. Notifications may vary: push notifications, SMS, notifications sent to the browser, etc.
Once the external notification service receives the information about the order status from Magento, it sends a notification to the client.
What would the tasks be for the Magento development team?
- Develop a system of interaction between a customer device and Magento
- Develop a system of interaction between Magento and the drone-side server
- Develop an integration of Magento with notification service
Even though the overall system may seem complicated at a first glance, the development tasks are quite easy to carry out and would not require much time.
What are the benefits of commercial drone delivery service?
According to Business Insider, the last-mile delivery costs count for 53% of the overall transportation costs. In addition, customers complain about long wait and shipping – so companies are trying to come up with a new solution to cut down the costs and ship faster at the same time.
Drone delivery seems to be a perfect solution for the issue. As Deutsche Bank estimated, Amazon would be able to cut down the delivery costs by 80% if using drones – and it would not be the only company, benefiting from drones deployment. While ignoring road jams and similar sorts of problems, drones will be able to get to the areas that are otherwise tricky to reach (like deeply rural areas, for example). In China, drone deployment is growing at an incredible speed, and the ability to access remote areas is seen as one of the key advantages. As Cui Zheng, a manager overseeing JD’s drones program in northwest China, said, “People living in mountainous regions hardly accessible by ground transportation also have the right to shop! We are giving them the same shopping experience, same price, by flying drones.”
Considering that the technical aspect of drone delivery implantation is not complex and available to small and middle-sized companies alongside big players, we may very soon see the reshaped eCommerce industry worldwide.
Add to that unique customer experience, which is another important factor in gaining a competitive advantage. For instance, in 2017, Costa Coffee successfully did a test drone delivery in Dubai, with customers being able to hand-pick the coffee cups right from the drone. As the company’s representative said, the customers were really excited about the possibility to get their drinks delivered by drones, and this is not the only example of positive customer feedback about the new delivery service.
To sum up, the deployment of commercial delivery drones indeed seems as a future of the eCommerce. Despite a few issues (regulatory, for example), this niche seems promising and offers a great competitive advantage. Considering that the technical aspect of drone delivery implantation is not complex and available to small and middle-sized companies alongside big players, we may very soon see the reshaped eCommerce industry worldwide.