13th July 2016

Robot Deliveries: Marketing Flash-in-the-Pan or Brand-Building Genius?

Apparently, your Friday night takeaway could soon be delivered to your door by robot, if Just Eat gets its way.

The online takeaway company – the biggest in Europe – has partnered with personal courier, Starship Technologies, to trial a new delivery service using pavement droids (robots to you and me) on the streets of the capital later this month.

Capable of travelling up to four miles per hour for about 10 miles on a single charge, the robot courier – a six-wheeled automated trolley – uses GPS tracking and nine cameras to navigate around obstacles and find its way to your doorstep. Customers will receive a text message from Just Eat with a unique code to unlock the robot’s pannier so they can get their freshly cooked meal.

The aim of all this, according to the reports, is to bypass traffic issues and overcome driver shortages to slash delivery times, so that customers can enjoy their food as quickly and conveniently as possible.

Just Eat isn’t the first digital brand publicising their research and development (R&D) efforts to create the next generation of courier services, of course. Everyone’s favourite online bazaar, Amazon, raised a few eyebrows in 2013 when it announced it was planning to start delivering packages by airborne drones. Updates on their progress have cropped up a few times since then, but it seems like it’ll be some time before we have Amazon drones landing on our garden lawns.

It’s not often you see articles in the consumer press about R&D in logistics, but the sci-fi fun of robots and drones on our streets and at our front doors has certainly generated plenty of column inches for Just Eat and Amazon – brands that depend on their reputation for reliable, fast delivery. But is it all a communications flash in the pan? A short-lived marketing ploy?

Well, provided the companies follow through on implementing their futuristic solutions, I don’t think so.

The internet takeaway arena and the world of online shopping are both incredibly competitive these days, with start-ups appearing all the time, and it is harder than ever for brands – established or challenger – to stand out from the crowd. It’s crucial that such businesses find ways to differentiate themselves from rivals. For Just Eat and Amazon, that means offering the fastest and most convenient delivery possible, so that customers get what they want exactly when they want it.

More than simply providing a headline-grabbing marketing gimmick, the ongoing trials of automated courier technology help demonstrate the commitment of both Just Eat and Amazon to offering this key USP to consumers. If the new gadgets are successful in offering faster delivery, and they are rolled out nationwide, not just in the capital, delivery by drone or robot can be a fantastic way for them to provide a genuine point of difference for both companies, helping them build and strengthen their brand reputations in the eyes of consumers.

The novelty of seeing an Amazon-branded drone whizzing through the air or a robot trundling along the pavement, Just Eat emblazoned across its carapace, will help to keep the brands at the top of consumers’ mind as well, highlighting the companies’ success in delivering convenience and speed to customers. I, for one, can’t wait to see them.

By Michael Wood, Senior B2B Copywriter