We know, ecommerce has boomed since lockdown began in South Africa.

While this is obvious given that many of us now prefer online shopping instead of risking infection in public, what might not be as obvious right away is how dependent we have become on couriers.

Seemingly overnight South Africans became hungry for online shopping and Dawn Wing Couriers noticed.

However where once a courier only had to contend with getting you your package on time, there are a few more cogs in the machine these days that warrant talking about.

“We have seen our ecommerce revenue more than double. But that comes with responsibility – not just to ensure the parcel arrives safely, and on time ­– but ensuring that there are added safeguards to protect the lives of both our drivers and our customers,” explains chief customer officer at DPD Laser (trading as Dawn Wing), Hilton Eachus.

This is something Takealot and a number of other ecommerce platforms have been cognisant of. Both Uber Eats and Takealot have implemented contactless delivery where you don’t need to sign anything.

Of course this presents a loophole for thieves to exploit so perhaps it’s a good idea to rethink how we could improve the courier space for a South African context.

One of Eachus’ suggestions is for delivery firms to copy Uber.

That’s not to say “treat your employees like contractors”, but rather let customers know who is coming to their home. This can be done with a simple profile letting a customer know who to expect and what vehicle they will be driving.

“This is how Uber has always operated, and Dawn Wing employs this type of technology, critical to personal, business and home safety, in this strange new normal we find ourselves in,” says Eachus.

But that’s about as simple as the suggestion gets.

At this stage of the game “going back to normal” should be a swear word. We hate to break it to you but going back to how things were before a deadly disease is just not on the cards. Especially when “how things were” allowed said disease to spread as rapidly as it did.

With that in mind, your delivery might be about to get complex.

Dawn Wing suggests that delivery personnel and customers now go through what we feel is best described as a dance.

A delivery person will arrive at your home and keep a two-metre distance. The delivery person will then ask for your name and request permission to snap a photo of the premises.

This information will then be emailed to the customer who will then sign a document digitally via a link. The customer can then confirm they received the package or query the delivery.

From there a courier can confirm the delivery and depart.

Is this a bit of a pain? We don’t think so.

To offer a “peak behind the curtain” as it were, at Hypertext we deal with couriers on a daily basis whether it be for review kit or desk drops, we know a few couriers by name.

The trouble is that short of forming a relationship with couriers, you’re left to wonder about whether your delivery will in fact arrive between 8am and 5pm on any given day.

But as you may be able to infer from these suggestions, onus on safety is not just the responsibility of the courier, as obvious as that should be.

“Buying online still means receiving the parcel. This brings into the spotlight the education of consumers, in terms of quality assurance, and the highest levels of attention to hygiene and safety,” says Eachus,

And that is a point worth hammering home.

So many times during lockdown we’ve seen folks just ignoring the fact that cashiers, couriers and waiters are putting their lives at risk to earn a living. The least we could do as the public is wear a mask and sanitise our hands. By that we mean wearing a mask

Finally, we shouldn’t have to say, this but be kind. Everybody is struggling in some manner of speaking and you don’t know what the courier handing your parcel had to go through to get to you.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]