National Trade Shows Indicate Huge Consumer Appetite for Faster Delivery and Continued Reliance on Online Shopping

By Dan O’Toole and Neerav Shah

The DRONEDEK team exhibited at two major national trade shows last month and came home convinced their smart mailbox will be commonly adopted even more quickly than they have been expecting.

Even for these serial entrepreneurs, their experience at the shows was a real eye-opener. The pandemic has really changed consumers’ expectations, and they believe that will drive change faster than anyone has predicted.

The DRONEDEK team first traveled to Las Vegas for CES, a trade show so huge it’s like one-named rock stars: instantly recognizable as iconic in the consumer electronics space. Pre-pandemic, CES attracted more than 180,000 attendees. The 2021 crowd was dramatically smaller in 2022, estimated at about 45,000. But that was almost better for the company launched from Indianapolis with its patented smart mailbox designed for secure package delivery by drone.

After Vegas, we went to New York City for NRF, a smaller but still globally significant trade show focused on retailers and attracted about 25,000 people.

5 Things We Learned at The Shows

  1. Can’t touch this: Dozens of exhibitors were demonstrating processes that allow for a contactless payments and delivery of goods because consumers are demanding ways to communicate, transact commerce and shop without having to deal with anyone face-to-face. The pandemic increased the desire for this kind of distanced dealing, and the convenience of it will be something folks want long after the pandemic is overcome.
  2. Instant gratification rules: The pandemic heightened consumers’ reliance on online shopping and delivered goods as they tried to secure the goods & services they wanted without having to go to crowded stores or restaurants. Consumers are used to package delivery now, and that’s making them want even more convenience. The buzz at NRF was all about the need for more micro-fulfillment centers at the neighborhood level so retailers can get their goods shipped as fast as possible – one-or two-day delivery isn’t going to cut it going forward. People got a taste of same-day delivery and they’re not going to willingly go back to waiting.
  3. Don’t build itthey won’t come: Folks who can work from home but have been told to return to the office have sparked the Great Resignation and are showing the front office that they aren’t going to come back if they don’t absolutely have to. That’s going to mean a greater reliance on stable broadband connections but also will fee into the instant gratification need for delivered goods necessary to complete all that work from home. (Think home offices, office supplies, etc…)
  4. Don’t be evil (but really this time) Another focus of conversation was on companies that have a social conscious and follow environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria
  5. Alexa: Do all my chores: Why expend energy to flip the light switch when Alexa can do that? We saw a ton of examples of home automation and robotics designed to take away a lot of actions previous generations saw as conveniences in their day. (Flipping a switch was easier than lighting lamp with a match and turning up the heat from a thermostat was easier than shoveling more fuel in the heating stove or furnace.)

We’re all suffering from pandemic fatigue whether we’ve contracted COVID or not. We want the world to return to a place where we can gather safely in crowds and enjoy parties without fear of being part of a super-spreader event. But the pandemic will have lasting effects on our consumer behavior.

All of the things we saw at the show only solidified our belief that consumer behavior has been profoundly changed and that the transformation will drive adoption of products like ours.

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