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Innovating Delivery with Key Communication Tech Trends

This article was updated on July 13, 2021

From their heavy investment into driverless technology to the app-based business models they employ, ridesharing services such as Lyft and Uber have become disruptive players on the tech scene, as reported in the MIT Technology Review. And while there’s plenty to be said about the innovation these increasingly popular services will no doubt introduce, their continued growth raises a question that has little to do with the business of hauling people: What about meal delivery services?

The third-party delivery model (and the communication tech trends it harnesses) isn’t too different from systems employed by ridesharing entities. The numbers and the audience are both there: The New York Post reports that the average American spends an estimated $70,000 on food delivery in their lifetime. It’s fair to call the market’s potential untapped.

The two business models aren’t identical copies, though, and the innovator that recognizes and builds for their subtle differences is primed to take over the space, even as ridesharing companies themselves move into it. Here are some ways the right service could benefit by combining meal delivery and ridesharing.

Delivery and Communication Tech Trends: Three-Way Communication in Text

Convenience is king in both the ridesharing and food delivery worlds, a fact endorsed by the very existence of both industries. If people didn’t value extra free time and less effort, they probably wouldn’t hire a car to give them a ride or bring their food.

Now consider the husband who forgets to order his wife’s General Tso’s chicken extra spicy or the on-call physician who needs to change delivery from her home to her workplace: When one service requires contact with two businesses, it may be confusing and frustrating to make even minor changes.

In these scenarios, the in-app feature that enables effectively communicating last-minute changes to a Lyft driver could be transcribed to three-way chat capability between the restaurant, the delivery service, and the customer, with the right messaging API changing this situation:

“I messed up my order, so now I have to contact the delivery service so they can contact the restaurant.”

To this one:

“I messed up my order, so I messaged the restaurant through the delivery app and they fixed it before my food left with the driver.”

The difference may seem small on paper, but it’s a huge one in a services world that runs on convenience. Give a customer a sterling experience and they’ll be happy. This is doubly true in a situation where snags had previously arisen—smooth those out, and the customer will be loyal for life.

…and Via Phone

That’s not the only way communication tech trends could improve the delivery world, however. Voice calling has its place, especially for customers who’d rather place the order with the restaurant directly.

Imagine a non-tech-savvy customer who is skilled enough to download an app but not comfortable placing an order through it. Since all smartphones come with geolocation and all delivery services work with a preselected list of restaurants, allowing patrons to find a list of local restaurants, place an in-app call, and have food delivered by the service—as though they’d ordered delivery from the restaurant itself—could open the door to a new class of customer. Including streamlined services for a wide range of tech users is the sort of change with benefits that more than qualify the effort of implementation.

Similarly to using rideshare technologies for messaging capabilities, smart use of communications APIs can make voice calling happen with relative ease. By providing the heavy lifting (managing calls across carriers, for instance, or providing the technical infrastructure that allows the call to take place at all), APIs allow even smaller delivery services to realize a massive differentiator.

Easy Menu Changing

If most of the differences between ridesharing and food delivery come via the introduction of a new party—namely, the restaurant—features that ease the restaurant’s entry only make sense. More than drivers or perhaps even customers, this third party is the grease that makes the wheels turn. Just as a buyer might come away from a bad food experience with a distaste for both the restaurant and the delivery service, customers might hold apps that facilitate such services to an equal standard. That’s why it’s critical for apps to make the restaurant an active participant in the delivery and communication services.

As a form of communication in their own right, menus exemplify this challenge. Restaurant managers and other stakeholders are busy; an app that harnesses communication tech trends to make price changes, menu additions, and other experience-friendly alterations easier is one that appreciates the bridging role eateries play—and one that has the hottest restaurants in town clamoring to use their service, which benefits everyone in the food delivery chain.

Anonymized Communication

When it comes to person-to-person communication, there’s little doubt people are skittish about sharing their private contact details with strangers. Recognizing this fact, ridesharing services across the country have increasingly turned to semi-anonymized in-app contact in recent years. By following suit, delivery services can easily provide a better, safer experience for drivers and customers.

Better, the experiential factor could be improved with a few relatively small upgrades. Take a push-to-talk solution, built directly into the app, as one example of this idea. Drivers could pull over, signaling to the app they are safe to communicate, and use such a system to leave quick voice messages for the customer: “I’m on my way” or “Are you apartment 3A or 3B?,” for instance. On the other end, customers could use the same tool to transmit quick changes such as delivery location, with neither party seeing the other’s number.

Ultimately, these are just a few changes delivery services could implement to differentiate themselves from (or, where relevant, align with) the ridesharing field. Whatever form the industry ends up taking in the coming decade, expect more delivery organizations to implement communication tech trends like these as demand increases and tastes evolve—and, as in the ridesharing industry, expect a small selection of top-level leaders to rise based on their innovative contributions.

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