Pros and Cons of Same-Day Delivery

There are a ton of delivery apps out there – a whole menu if you will (we’ve even rated some). Many focus on food, but others, like Postmates, Instacart, Jinn, and WunWun, will bring you pretty much whatever you need. You can use these apps to get anything from shampoo to dim sum delivered almost anywhere in many major cities in less than an hour. Even Uber, that much-maligned unicorn-to-be, conceives of itself as a delivery service first and foremost. Having mastered the delivery of people via car service, it’s dabbled in kittens and is expanding into same-day delivery of personal products with UberESSENTIALS in DC.

The popularity of delivery apps has driven some online retailers to explore ways to get their goods in customers’ hands on the very same day they were ordered. This type of near-instant delivery makes Amazon Prime’s standard two-day shipping seem like a plodding Pony Express, so Amazon itself has experimented with same-day and drone delivery. The aptly named Amazon Prime Air aims to drop packages into people’s backyards within 30 minutes, and robots are helping Amazon fulfill same-day and next-day orders faster.

Why is fast delivery becoming so crucial? Part of it relates to the expectations being set by new services. Online subscription services and streaming media like Netflix and Pandora are instantly available, all the time, so you can watch or listen to almost anything, whenever you want. Mobile devices have further honed our always-on instincts, letting us browse all the world’s information in a tiny supercomputer that fits in our pockets. With this kind of instant access to everything, no wonder we’re demanding everything be delivered that much faster.

It can feel absurd to wait even a day for a product that we know is already nearby in our city, whether it’s in a warehouse a few miles away or on store shelves just across the street. Since we’re all too busy and important to actually walk to a store and interact with a cashier (or, god forbid, wait in line with other humans), the power of technology now coordinates the same-day delivery of said objects directly to us, with minimal human intervention. Business Insider anticipates that “roughly $100 million worth of merchandise will be delivered via same-day fulfillment this year in 20 US cities” – not a massive market, but a growing one.

Amazon already offers same-day delivery on many items (not to mention the whole drone thing), and eBay made a foray into the space with a separate on-demand delivery app called eBay Now. But the online auction powerhouse is adjusting its plans in this area, wrapping the same-day delivery service into its core app and web services. The company plans to focus on its online sales origins, while acquiring or outsourcing the delivery process to other companies.

In a somewhat similar model, several companies recently announced the intention to sell their products through shopping app Wanelo. Smaller companies are increasingly specializing in creating a clothing product or a shopping experience, leaving delivery to the experts like certain apps or delivery companies. It’s a smart move, since delivery is a service that product companies don’t necessarily excel at.

Now that the FAA has announced plans to regulate drones like commercial aircraft, requiring them to be driven by licensed pilots, we may have a slight delay on Amazon’s ambitious drone-driven same-day delivery plans. Still, this requirement is likely just an interim step in the eventual march toward a sky darkened with drones delivering packages across the street. Perhaps we’ll all eventually own our own drone that we can send out to the store for us, wired to spy on what everyone else is buying (and whether others are getting better deals, or faster delivery time, than we are).

It’s still early in the days of drone development, but several drone-specific software companies and communities already exist, working on projects like apps for directing drones. As smartphones become more commoditized and developing mobile apps gets easier, the most ambitious developers may move on to work with virtual reality and drones, giving us even more ways to get stuff (or experiences) delivered.

Drones aside, the fundamental question when it comes to rapid delivery may be: do you really need it now? And how much are you willing to pay – both in currency and privacy – for the privilege of getting your goods fast?