The Amazon Future

Jeff Bezos revealed something that truly would revolutionize e-commerce and online ordering, should it become widely used: automated air delivery drones that could deliver 86 percent of the goods Amazon ships to customers today (packages under 5 pounds), in less than 30 minutes in many cases. That would be a huge change to business as currently conducted by the Amazon giant, and it would mean the end of retail as we know it.

I’ve had the pleasure (read: horrendous displeasure) recently of having moved house, which as just about anyone knows, is one of the most massively inconvenient things you can do. This was made trickier because it was partially intercontinental, and I’d need a lot of new stuff at the new place including basics like a bed and a kitchen table. What was different this time, compared to when I’ve moved before with very little in the way of personal belongings, was that Amazon was the answer to many problems I’d previously had about how to get a lot of stuff to a new place in a densely populated urban location very quickly.

An automated fleet of Amazon delivery drones makes that even more painless, and greatly simplifies the process of stocking a new place with everyday items like cleaning products, toiletries and all the other random minutiae you forget about when you’re thinking about the big things like couches, TVs and kitchen appliances. And in theory, based on what Bezos revealed tonight, you could even get some of that stuff, like toaster and kettles, winged to you on robot winds, too.

Would this really be “revolutionary?” Already, you can get much of this stuff delivered to you by a good-old-fashioned human, usually within a day or two depending on your area and whether you’re willing to spring for Amazon Prime or expedited shipping. But in the world of home delivery and retail, the difference between getting something within 30 minutes and within a couple of days is not insignificant; in fact, it’s massive.

When I do still shop retail instead of Amazon, the only real reason that I do so is because I need (or think I need) the item immediately. Amazon’s pricing is better in almost every case, and there’s no worry about whether something is in stock or not, and there’s no compromising about models or the type of item you’re after. If Amazon can promise all of that, combined with a delivery system that essentially beats a round-trip journey by car to the nearest Walmart, then consider it bye-bye brick-and-mortar for me, and, I suspect, for a considerable portion of the population, too.

Of course, there’s a mountain of regulatory red tape to wade through before Bezos and Amazon can fly knick-knacks to you with remote-controlled octocopters, so traditional retail has some time to figure out how to respond to this new challenge. But heck, maybe teleporter tech will move even quicker and the Bezos Beam will provide instant gratification for all our petty consumer desires before we manage drone delivery.