Drones Start Delivering

But will they really deliver the goods?

Drone deliveries just got real. We’ve been reading about them for a good while, along with the occasional news story about a prototype drone model making a product delivery to someone’s doorstep.

But drone deliveries have suddenly taken a major step into the commercial mainstream with the announcement that the first home deliveries of packages from Walgreens have started. They’re being handled by Wing, a subsidiary of Alphabet — the parent company of Google.

Wing itself received a special certification from the Federal Aviation Administration recently that allows it to make commercial air deliveries directly to homes in the United States. That’s a first.

In addition to the Walgreens account, Wing is also delivering OTC medication, gifts and other items on behalf of Sugar Magnolia, a Virginia-based retailer.

How do these deliveries work? Customers order products via a special app, and can opt in to receive their items via FedEx Express delivered by drone, which lowers the packages to a designated spot in a yard or driveway.

Wing, Walgreens and Sugar Magnolia aren’t the only people nosing around this method of delivery. Walmart has filed a patent application for a system for retrieving packages delivered by drone, and UPS is also getting into the mix.  The FAA has given approval to UPS’s new Flight Forward subsidiary that will allow it to fly an unlimited number of drones with an unlimited number of remote operations. And right on cue, the first Flight Forward agreement for drone delivery services has just been announced, with CVS pharmacies.

So it’s pretty clear that drones have finally broken through to the point where they can be serioiusly tested for consumer use and acceptance. Next, it will be interesting to gauge consumer reaction.  Will drone deliveries break out into the mainstream, or are they destined to remain more of a curiosity?  Here’s one early read from online business owner Mark Reasbeck:

“[It’s] nice that everybody … has nothing else to do but to order stuff from Walgreens and just sit there and wait for the delivery. What happens if you’re not home?  How much [cost] for that service?  They have to pay for a ‘shopper’ and then all the pilots watching the drone.  This is not needed on so many levels.”

What are your thoughts on this latest transport frontier? Is it a flash in the pan? … or poised for phenomenal success?

Getting Bunky with Retail Marketing

digital circularsAre the days of the lowly printed sales circular numbered?

Judging from the flurry of newfangled activity by key retail marketers, it would seem so.

This past week, CVS Pharmacy announced a complete makeover of its weekly circular.  The new digital version, dubbed myWeekly Ad, incorporates customized promotions focused on the products that are deemed of greatest interest to individual consumers.

The personalized sale items are determined from scanning the trove of customer buying behavior information housed in CVS’s ExtraCare Rewards database, which now numbers more than 70 million active users.

The myWeekly Ad circular determines which items to feature based on the products that each targeted consumer buys most frequently, along with showcasing deals on other products in related categories that may also be of interest based on the purchase history of each customer.

CVS’s digital circular provides other user-friendly options as well:

  • Consumers can scan the savings and rewards currently available to them, and print coupons or digitally send special offers to their card before visiting a CVS store. 
  • Shopping lists can be created, shared and sent to mobile devices. 
  • Shoppers can view their own purchase history showing all products bought at CVS previously going back 18 months.

And CVS is hardly alone in digitizing its MarComm materials.  Thanks to the continuing evolution of rewards cards and the voluminous customer data they can collect, new personalized circular announcements are coming with regularity now.

Here are some of the latest new developments:

  • Shoplocal is a Gannett-owned print and digital circular publisher.  It has gotten together with personalized video firm Eyeview to create a new digital ad promo piece known as V-circular.  This vehicle allows retailers and major brands to target customers on a local level based on geographic, demographic and behavioral data – along with factoring in “real-time” conditions like the weather.
  • National coupon clearinghouse Valpak has introduced a novel “augmented reality” feature for its digital circulars.  Simply pointing a smartphone toward the horizon will enable shoppers to see which nearby businesses are offering coupons.
  • Direct mail media and marketing services firm Valassis has unveiled Geo-Commerce Retail Zone, a new ad-targeting capability that applies transaction and behavior data from consumers to local store trading areas, enabling targeted advertising to be delivered cross-platform.

No one questions the fact that more and more information on individual consumers is being collected, archived and applied on an individualized basis.  Anonymity is fast becoming a quaint notion of the past.

Of course, this couldn’t happen without the cooperation and willing engagement of consumers. 

Considering the benefits – special discounts and even freebies on goods and services – is it any wonder that these programs have been able to grow in size and comprehensiveness over time?

What are your thoughts about the tradeoffs?  Feel free to add your thoughts to the discussion.