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DHL fancies drones and copters as courier options

As DHL is at a brink of a major expansion of its delivery channels, including the wider use of shops where customers can collect parcels, the international courier giant fancies drone deliveries, what company is calling ‘Parcel-copters’.

As per Charles Brewer, routine procedure of having a uniformed courier delivering at the customer’s doorstep is rapidly becoming less popular, simply because customers these days are less willing to sit at home and wait for arrivals.

Keeping this in mind, the company is now in the rapid process of introducing – alternative methods- which according to Brewer will be an innovative step.

Brewer said, “We are going to have a big expansion in the choice of deliveries in some places”.

Putting emphasis on faster, more convenient, internet-based methods, courier and delivery market leaders such as DHL, UPS and FedEx are adapting fast to ever-changing customer demands.

Brewer said his and other firms are increasingly facing what the industry call the ‘parcel conundrum’ – instances when shoppers enjoy the comfort and ease of picking their favourite items and placing their orders online, but are disappointed by the delivery efficiency that follows.

Brewer said, “Their experience quickly begins to sour as the delivery process starts to take over, citing a recent DHL survey result that showed more than 80 per cent of consumers are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their online delivery experience. Many logistics firms only made deliveries to people’s homes within a time-banding, of say between 8am and 6pm, when typically people are at work. Nobody wants to stay at home, waiting and waiting”.

Brewer noted that customers are increasingly asking for what he calls “parcel lockers” and parcel shops, where they can easily collect their deliveries. A tie-up with intelligent locker makers will allow customers to retrieve parcels from lockers using a secure pin.

Since last year DHL has been running schemes in Germany to have packages actually delivered to the boots of people’s cars – in partnership with Daimler and Audi, the carmakers.

The company is also partnering with Deutsche Telekom to launch a joint research into applications of unmanned aircraft for the safe and rapid delivery of parcels in urban areas. The first application is going to be the DHL Parcel-copter, which has been trialing since 2013.

In September, it concluded a test of shipping products including urgently needed medicines via unmanned aircraft called ‘Parcel-copters’ in a Bavarian village of Germany. The planes were equipped with a mobile communications module allowing them to be located through GPS data.

According to Brewer, “One thing that will be very popular in Asia are parcel shops.”

Already logistics companies such as Chinese company S.F. Express have been scrambled to join hands with bricks-and-mortar retailers such as 7-Eleven, to arrange convenient parcel pickup points.

Brewer said that these alternative delivery methods are still in their infancy, accounting for just six per cent of total market share, while in mature e-commerce markets such as Germany and the Nordic countries, they already represent 10 to 15 per cent.