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How to Prepare Your Business for 2021
4 min read

Excerpts from this article were also published in Forbes

With 2021 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to think ahead. From Onfleet’s position partnering with leading retailers, big and small, here’s what our experts expect in the coming year:

Behavior Changes are Here to Stay

It’s now clear that COVID-19—a defining factor of 2020—will follow the economy into next year. Consumer habits are sticky. Even post-vaccine, the pandemic’s influence on buying behavior will largely remain.

While customers are craving a return to normalcy, the coronavirus accelerated an already-rising digital economy. These changes are market-wide, not merely temporary. Next year, expect more demand for delivery, more businesses getting into delivery, and a greater need for retailers to stand out.

The Delivery “Experience” Will Become More Critical

Customers don’t go to restaurants merely for food; they pay for presentation, atmosphere, and experience. As delivery accelerates, expect leaders in every industry to find ways to satisfy their customers with a high-quality delivery experience.

Just as leading chefs are thinking about how to deliver a premium meal, the successful retailers in every area will find innovative ways to deliver a unique experience.

Main Street will Revitalize

Historically, delivery was the domain of big players. Times have changed, with customers now realizing that e-commerce juggernauts like Amazon don’t do everything well. As more small and medium-sized businesses take on their own delivery solutions, expect a customer shift toward smaller shops.

Consumers already appreciate the uniqueness, personal connection, and specialization of a boutique over a global chain. As they’re increasingly able to purchase delivery from these options, expect to see a rise in customized products, personalized offerings, and artisanal brands. These offerings aren’t merely limited to monogrammed handbags or hand-tailored dresses; even large home goods or appliances like printers are seeing this shift. Next year, expect specialty retailers to make their mark.

Delivery Volume will Skyrocket

In 2020, e-commerce delivery volumes boomed. Customers wanted to stay safe during the pandemic while still eating, drinking, and mimicking their favorite social activities. Food businesses are a perfect example of how these habits are here to stay.

In 2021, customers will order more delivery than ever before. Now that customers are comfortable with delivery, expect them to increase their frequency across industries. Once someone’s already ordering food twice a week, it’s only a small psychological shift to start ordering three times. And once customers are familiar with ordering delivery in general, expect them to start ordering in new areas too.

In food delivery, this will lead to businesses optimized for delivery, like combo kitchens or non-traditional preparation spaces. In other areas, too, retailers will adjust, leaning toward low-rent options such as micro fulfillment centers that emphasize deliverability over storefront.

The Beginnings of Delivery Automation…

In delivery, like in many areas, economic conditions favor automation. As the demand for delivery accelerates, the value of delivery automation increases too.

In 2021, expect to see small movements toward delivery automation, such as increased funding for drones and autonomous vehicle companies. That said, these shifts are likely to be small. The opportunities are exciting, but the challenges are large. Government regulation, for instance, is only nascent, and car insurance companies are still unsure how to cover self-driving cars.

Delivery is still in the early stages of this paradigm shift. Amazon, for instance, recently laid off a large portion of its Prime Air drone delivery team, implying less enthusiasm for investing in this area for the time being. On the other hand, autonomous delivery companies Gatik and Nuro recently raised $25 million and $500 million, respectively, the sort of money that will accelerate industry innovation in the coming years.

Next year, be on the lookout for interesting developments in autonomous vehicles (like more Waymo rides and promising delivery news from Tesla), but we’ll have to wait a bit longer before automation takes delivery by storm.

Innovative Delivery Models will Rise

Subscriptions instill loyalty in customers, increasing the likelihood they purchase again. These models both increase efficiency and create reliable revenue. Since a small percentage of customers typically drive a large percentage of sales, the successful businesses in 2021 will create new business models that increasingly revolve around delivery subscriptions.

Successful retailers will realize that delivery isn’t merely a choice between on-demand, subscription, or scheduled; instead, your optimal offering depends on your customer and product. If you find the combination that works for you, you’ll create happy--and profitable--customer habits.

How to Plan for Your 2021

To make the most of your 2021, make sure you:

Create a unique, high-quality delivery experience. Successful companies will be the ones that delight their customers and double down on their unique brand.

  • Turn delivery into a customer habit. Delivery subscriptions and loyalty rewards can make a customer’s repeat business easier, more satisfying, and more reliable.
  • Be efficient in your delivery. If you’re a retailer, you’ll be delivering much more next year. Find ways to optimize your routes and shipping, such as by partnering with a solution that helps you optimize.

If you’re interested in starting delivery, now is the perfect time. Contact Onfleet today to try our fourteen-day free trial: we’ll help prepare your business for success in the new year!