There was a time, when online shopping was a new-fangled concept, to be treated with wariness and suspicion. A time, when if you needed new shoes for a wedding on the weekend, you’d have to leg it to the mall yourself, hop from store to store, until you find the perfect pair. Getting food delivered meant calling up each restaurant, and listening patiently while they rattled off their entire menu, then calling them again 30 minutes later, to check on the status of your order.
Thankfully, such times are far behind us, especially in the wake of the pandemic, which truly established online shopping as the new way of life. But now that online retail, popularly known as e-commerce, is here to stay, it’s time we turn our attention to the new round of problems that have been cropping up.
Last year, one inconspicuous tweet by Grofers (now Blinkit) co-founder, Albinder Dhindsa, led to a whole lot of backlashes, and a heated debate about the questionable morality of promising 10-minute deliveries, as many users expressed concern for delivery executives. Presumably, Zomato missed the memo and proceeded to kickstart the very same debate, earlier this year, when they announced their 10-minute delivery plan on select standardized items.
While it remains to be seen how this new venture plays out, a question comes to mind - aren’t we getting a bit ahead of ourselves?
As it Stands
While food delivery companies compete over who can get to the location the fastest by aiming to reduce time spent on food prep and packaging, there is another aspect to this that is still going unaddressed, one that is not limited to the food servicing industry but constitutes a larger issue across last-mile delivery systems. And if you’ve ever had one of your online orders go undelivered, with an ‘address not found notification’, then you know the problem we’re talking about.
The reality is that there is no set standardized system of addressing to streamline delivery systems. Businesses are still relying on the outdated method of calling the customer 2-3 times to ascertain their location, and frankly, we've had enough of that.
Why is This a Problem?
Sure, having to explain your address countless times to every delivery partner can be an inconvenience. But there is a larger problem here too. The confusion over the drop-off point deliveries considerably leads to increased costs incurred in transportation. Moreover, packages that are returned to the warehouse due to issues in locating the address also contribute to losses, higher costs, and a larger carbon footprint.
Even aside from the business side point, nobody benefits from the current situation, not the consumers, who are caused inconveniences in their purchases, nor the delivery partners, who end up exerting themselves twice as much with no financial reparation.
What are Our Options?
The Indian e-commerce industry is on an upward trajectory. The number of digital buyers reached 289 million in 2021, a number that is likely to increase to 378 million by 2025.
Projections predict that by 2034, we will surpass the U.S. to become the second-largest e-commerce market in the world. This rapid expansion in digital markets can be put down to one factor - digitization. With the growth of online infrastructure across the country, we’ve reached a stage where every third Indian shop online. And if it’s digitization that has got us here, it is digitization that will kickstart the addressing revolution.
The way ahead is clear, businesses need to be proactive in re-evaluating their delivery strategy and last-mile logistics. The delivery chain needs to be a streamlined process, not just for the benefit of the consumer, but for the delivery partners’ as well. A way to digitize addresses in a simplified and universally understandable manner is needed - and tech-based solutions are what will tide us over in this sphere. Not only will this ensure fewer conflicts in the delivery stage, but will also take a great load off delivery partners and enable them to focus on other aspects of their job.
Only once these changes are implemented will we enter a world where you see your delivery partner's face before you ever hear their voice.