What Is No Contact Delivery?

March 30, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way delivery services interact with their customers forever. Even though the era of lockdowns and social distancing is over, the demand for no contact delivery options has continued to grow. Thanks to apps like Doordash and Uber Eats, we all got used to the convenience of having deliveries dropped off without having to be present to sign for them in person. And now millennials, who are in their 30s and 40s and short on time as they manage young families, are continuing to choose that convenience, according to research from Zion and Zion.

But how do you make no contact delivery part of your overall delivery management strategy?In this article we’ll look at:

  • What does no contact delivery mean?
  • How do you use no contact delivery for your business?
  • How do you set up no contact delivery?
  • Will the demand for no contact delivery decline post-pandemic?

What does no contact delivery mean?

No contact delivery (also known as contactless delivery) means delivering to your customer without physically giving them the items. This can look different depending on the industry — but one of the most common examples is food delivery drivers leaving orders at the customer’s doorstep and ringing the doorbell before leaving. No human contact involved!

While the concept is simple, it presents challenges for home delivery businesses. Some of these challenges include:

  • Customers not knowing when a delivery has been made.
  • Deliveries accidentally left at the wrong location or address.
  • Disputes about whether delivery orders have actually been completed

All these scenarios are pretty common when businesses implement contactless delivery, and they can be really frustrating to deal with. Your efficiency takes a hit, and the back-and-forth with customers can be wasteful, especially if you have to re-attempt the delivery. Most importantly, it’s a poor delivery experience. Your relationship with customers can be harmed if you don’t meet their expectations for smooth, contactless delivery.

Luckily, there are many home delivery businesses that have learned how to create a no-contact delivery process that works for everyone. Most of the demand for no-contact delivery is related to food ordering, so we’ll take a look at some success stories from different kinds of food delivery services below.

Ways to use no contact delivery for your business

1. No contact delivery for meal prep businesses

Takeout boxes ready for filling. In the background a kitchen staff member wearing gloves chops vegetables.
Safety measures by kitchen staff during food prep are just as important as contactless delivery | Photo by Mikhail Nilov

One of the easiest ways to limit physical contact during deliveries is for delivery drivers to drop off food by the curbside or doorstep.

Even without the coronavirus pandemic, many companies are still strict about their food safety and hygiene protocols. Here’s what meal prep company FreshPrep sent out to their customers to describe their contactless food delivery process. Some of the details are specific to COVID-19, but this could easily be adapted to no-contact delivery in general: 

Delivery drivers are required to use sanitizer after each delivery; clean any touchpoints in their vehicles with disinfectant wipes; are limited to accessing only the loading bay in our facility; and to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms of illness.

Our delivery drivers are being instructed to practice no-contact delivery. This means they will limit their contact with our customers by only knocking or ringing the bell, then place delivery bags in front of your door.

If you communicate clearly, including sending clear notifications to your customers when orders are on the way or completed, you are able to set realistic expectations for the home delivery experience. 

No contact delivery for farm to table and grocery businesses

A table piled high with fresh produce including tomatoes, cabbages, sprouts, radishes, green beans and carrots.
Contactless delivery can help bring farmers’ market food quality and pricing to a wider audience. | Photo by Volker Meyer

The team at Mass Food Delivery use contactless delivery to share the farmers’ market experience with a much wider group of customers.

“There are lots of people who cannot get to the market and do their own shopping,” said Jill Lively, office manager at Mass Food Delivery. No-contact delivery fills the gap for getting fresh produce to the doorstep, while meeting strict requirements for health and safety. 

“We rely heavily on automated email messages letting customers know when to expect their delivery,” said Lively. “Everything is done over the phone or the computers, and our customers have given us the feedback that they love how hands free and easy the entire process has been for them.”

During the pandemic, it is important to meet customers where they are in terms of health and safety. Implementing a system of no contact delivery makes a lot of sense in this respect. 

How do you set up no contact delivery?

A no contact delivery system takes a bit of planning. Your team needs to be equipped to handle several new scenarios that can pop up, such as having to leave packages in locations that may not be secure, or finding ways to communicate with customers, potentially without ever seeing them. 

But the following tools, coupled with route optimization, can help you tackle this last mile problem:

Customer notifications

Communication with your customer is key. Since no contact delivery means there is no physical transfer of goods, your delivery drivers or dispatchers need to be able to communicate with customers about where their order will be dropped off or picked up. 

Automated customer notifications sent from your delivery management software can do the trick. These messages let your customer know in real time when and where to expect their delivery, and they are usually sent via SMS text or email.

Photo capture

While photo capture is traditionally used as an internal feature for route planners and administrators as proof of delivery (POD), it’s also super useful in the context of no contact delivery as well. 

When customers aren’t home to receive a package, they often ask for packages to be left in a specific location. For example, if they know their front porch will be in the sun all afternoon, they may ask for a box full of fresh produce to be left in the shade around the side of the house. The ability to snap a quick photo as proof of delivery can help you communicate with customers when you’ve dropped off their package.

Delivery notes for drivers

With no contact delivery comes an increased reliance on delivery notes and instructions. As we’ve mentioned above, customers might have their own preference on how to receive their package. The ability to share notes and delivery instructions helps to avoid confusion and frustration for your drivers. These notes often have valuable information like gate codes and buzzer numbers, and special instructions detailing when and where to leave packages. 

Driver app

A dedicated driver app can set your team up for success. As we’ve seen, with no contact delivery, your drivers need a lot of information at their fingertips. A dedicated app gives drivers access to that information, as well as a ton of convenient features to make deliveries run smoother, such as:

  • Easy access to optimized delivery routes.
  • A central location for all the delivery instructions. 
  • The ability to send notifications or delivery updates to customers or dispatchers.
  • A simple way to mark whether a delivery has been made so your team can keep track of progress,
  • A place to take photos for proof of delivery.

And they can do it all without making contact with the customer.

Why is there still demand for no contact delivery post-pandemic?

A woman wearing gloves and a surgical mask holds a plastic basket full of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Many consumers now prefer contactless delivery. | Photo by Marco Verch

The pandemic may have kick-started the trend towards no contact delivery, but it’s not going away. This is especially true for delivery companies that deal with food and produce. Food is very personal for the consumer — it’s taken into the home, consumed, and given to family members.  This is true for fresh produce and groceries as well as for takeout. 

The pandemic unlocked what is possible through technology, and consumer behavior has shifted. More and more people are getting comfortable ordering online through companies like Amazon, as well as delivery apps like Grubhub or Instacart. According to Statista, the online food delivery segment in the United States is expected to grow to $24 billion in 2023. Online ordering and home delivery, with appropriate food safety measures, are becoming the norm.

For example, Delivered Fresh, an online grocery store that sources its products from local farms, has a sustainable home delivery system with a focus on no contact delivery. They wash and sanitize reusable Rubbermaid bins for their customer orders. 

In order to have contactless deliveries, Delivered Fresh works with their customers. “We ask that our customers leave a cooler outside on their porch to receive deliveries,” explained David Nowacoski, Operations Manager at Delivered Fresh. “When we get to the residence, we transfer the items from our cooler into theirs. If they don’t leave a cooler out for us, we have insulated zippered canvas bags that we leave and charge them $5 for.”

Implementing no contact delivery for your business

The best way to get started with no contact delivery for your business, or to increase your effectiveness, is to start using tools that equip your drivers properly.

Route planning and delivery management software allows your delivery teams to have access to the tools they need to make no contact delivery, seamless. Whether it is customer notifications, photo capture or access to a mobile driver app, route planning and delivery management software sets your team up for success in the field.

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Portrait of Pam Sykes
Pam Sykes
Pam Sykes has a PhD in History and a background in Journalism. She is the Lead Content Strategist at Routific with a focus on delivery management, delivery experience, route planning, and the last-mile industry in general. She has a passion to help delivery businesses scale with her craft of storytelling.

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