Drones and consumers


You know how some people display a shift in their behaviour just by getting behind the wheel? They ‘become’ motorists, and they can lose perspective in certain situations, letting their stress manifest in attitudes they’d probably not display as pedestrians or cyclists. I believe that a similar thing happens with the consumers category. For the consumer, the first imperative is getting what he/she wants, and everything else, everyone else, is an obstacle, a nuisance. And, much like motorists, consumers too can lose perspective.

Since Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon will work towards the creation of an Amazon Prime Air service, where drones will deliver packages into customers’ hands “in 30 minutes or less”, one of the most fascinating things for me has been people’s reaction to the announcement, more than the idea of using drones as delivery vehicles.

Putting the feasibility of such project apart for a moment[1], I was a little taken aback by the number of people who have no problems with this idea; some of them are actually excited by the prospect. It’s not their fault, it’s the consumer hat they’re wearing.

Consumers seem to have no problems with Amazon drones crowding the sky in their cities: the important thing is that they get their stuff, pronto.

In an era where privacy concerns are on the foreground more than ever, where people get (righteously) angry for being increasingly tracked online and offline, when they wear their consumer hat they seem to have no problems with Amazon drones programmed to know their exact location and show up at their door — er, window — to deliver the goods. (Who cares if a drone gets hacked and stuff like that, right?)

Consumers are excited by having their order in their hands “in 30 minutes or less” and they don’t even wonder how. The first thing I asked myself when I read that, was: how can an Amazon drone be 30 minutes away from any potential customer address?

There are people who already go to local shops to browse, even asking for buying advice, then they don’t purchase anything and order the stuff online (then they mourn when small shops go out of business, trumped by giant retailers… like Amazon). Imagine the scene: a consumer browses a local bookshop for a particular book, he finds it and sees that it costs $20. He doesn’t buy it, he goes home, orders it on Amazon, pays $15 plus a certain surcharge for drone delivery, and he’s all happy because he believes he has saved money and, wow, the book has been delivered by drone in less than 30 minutes! Maybe he’ll even blog about it, gushing about how “we’re living in the future”. You think it’s a far-fetched scenario. I know at least two people who would do something like that. Without even realising the huge, inexcusable waste it all would be.

Maybe it’s true what some tech sites are saying, that Amazon drones have only been an effective publicity stunt and that Amazon Prime Air is a service that’ll never be. Whatever the case, for me it’s been a great insight into consumers’ reactions and loss of perspective. Somewhat predictable, but sad nonetheless.



  • 1. A quote from this article on Inc.com: The thing is, Amazon Prime Air won’t be available for many years. Even Bezos said last night that the earliest Amazon Prime Air could be in service is 2015 because that’s the soonest the FAA could update its laws. But the Wall Street Journal reports that the FAA isn’t planning on beginning the certification of commercial drones until 2020.


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