Supply Chain Shakeup   //   February 29, 2024

Wing CFO Shannon Nash on why 2024 is the “year of the drone”

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In Shannon Nash’s opinion, 2024 is the “year of the drone.”

Nash may be biased, as she’s the CFO of Wing, the Alphabet-owned drone delivery company that’s currently being trialed by companies like Walmart and DoorDash. But there is some data to back this up. For one, Wing announced an expanded partnership with Walmart in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. What’s more, recent changes to FAA regulations will likely make it easier for the company to test out other areas.

Nash joined this week’s Modern Retail Podcast and spoke about the current state of drone delivery and where she thinks it’s going.

Drone delivery isn’t a new concept, but it seems to be taking flight (pun intended) this year. In Australia, currently Wing’s biggest market, one site has approached 1,000 drone deliveries a day. In Texas, where Wing is working with Walmart, the platform has already made 5,000 deliveries over the course of a few months.

“We have some customers that order roughly two times a week,” Nash said. Wing’s most ardent customers, however, “are ordering three times a week.” In her eyes, it points to consumers having “very favorable views of drone delivery.”

Still, the only way to really reach mainstream is to expand to more areas and get more people used to the concept. With that, Nash said, “nothing does advertising and marketing [better] than seeing the drones in the parking lot and [people] going, what the heck is this?” Similarly, with regulations beginning to change to allow for larger delivery areas, the platform has plans to expand at rapid pace.

What will that rapid expansion look like? Currently, Wing customers buy the products in its own app, rather than through the retailers. But there could be a future where it becomes an extension of these businesses.

Nash wouldn’t get prescriptive about what the future of drone delivery ordering looks like. “I think the market is going to determine how that happens,” she said.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

Americans are warming up to drone delivery
“We’re operating in two sites in the Dallas-Fort Worth area seven days a week. Over the last four months, we’ve already done 5,000 deliveries. And at this point, we’ve got some decent data. So we have some regular customers that order roughly about two times a week. And then our top 25% of customers are ordering like three times a week. On average, they are experiencing their delivery in five minutes… We’ve done a study about last-mile delivery, and over 74% of the people we surveyed came back with very favorable views of drone delivery. And what they’re mostly ordering are last minute items that they need to prepare something.”

How Wing is marketing itself
“Nothing does advertising and marketing [better] than seeing the drones in the parking lot and [people] going, what the heck is this? Nothing is better than that. And let me tell you, especially over the holidays, kids will come by and take selfies. We even had several times someone dressed up as a Grinch who would come by and want to take pictures next to [the drones] because it’s fenced in. So it’s a very popular thing that people come and want to see. But certainly, we get out into the community. We spend a lot of time doing that. Texas is football so we go to — especially for Friday Night Lights — a lot of local high school football games. We actually were at the Cotton Bowl over the holidays. So we spent a lot of time in the community.”

What the future of drone delivery will look like
“I think the market is going to determine how that happens. I really do. I think our goal right now is to be the best partner we can to Walmart, DoorDash and our other partners. That is our goal. And so, I think, as we continue to expand — how we expand, how consumers take that expansion, etc — that will determine the answer to your question more so than us doing it. Because, our goal is really to help our partner, and that helps our partner’s customers.”