Consumers today are buying more furniture through ecommerce. In fact, 12.9% of total retail e-Commerce sales in the U.S. are for furniture sales, says Statista. If you operate an ecommerce store for furniture, you may be reaping the revenues from this growing interest.
But are you equipped to deliver in an expanding marketplace? Launching a last mile delivery service could be your next step in building capacity and earning customer loyalty. Here are some considerations for making your next move.
Furniture delivery: outsource or not?
First, you need to decide if you want to invest in and build your own furniture delivery operation, or if you want to outsource the service. Maybe you currently use a single distribution center or you leverage a manufacturer’s facility, relying on LTL carriers to pick up your product and deliver it to customers in areas you serve. While this is a great way to get started, it may not be sustainable—and scalable.
If your business model includes scaling up volume and/or expanding geography (Why not? It’s ecommerce), then an in-house solution could require you to add distribution centers. Needs for qualified staff, training, equipment, and technology follow. Will you be ready to implement effective processes? Will you be able to maintain service levels while containing your bottom line?
Answers to these questions sometimes lead furniture retailers to consider outsourcing furniture delivery services. Based on your geography, do you consider one or several last mile delivery partners? There are pros and cons to both, so you have to evaluate and decide. You will want to align your outsourced partner’s network with your showrooms to achieve the efficiencies and services required.
Understand carrier types
There are many ways to move furniture from Point A to Point B. Here’s a quick overview:
LTL: The less-than-truckload model allows you to add palletized goods to a truck and pay based on the freight class of the items shipped and the distance between pickup and delivery locations. It can be a flexible option. However, tradeoffs could include slower service, lack of customization of service levels, damage to products, and lack of in-home services. Tracking may be limited as well.
FTL: Using a full truckload works for large shipments that target one destination can be more cost-effective, but is often cost-prohibitive for retailers. Like LTL, it does not excel in service levels or tracking.
Parcel: Parcel service can be used when weight does not exceed limits (typically 50 lbs). Generally, parcel delivery to a home comes with a cost premium and is cost prohibitive because of excessively high fees for oversized goods. Service levels are confined to ordinary parcel delivery, with no in-home options.
Last mile delivery: Last mile delivery is a natural fit for large and heavy items like furniture, as it is not limited by parcel weight limits, and it adapts to varying service levels, per your choice. For example, white glove delivery to the room of choice with assembly or set-up go a long way in ensuring a customer’s satisfaction. White glove service has been shown to reduce the rate of returns, which are costly.
You do not have to have a dedicated distribution center to implement last mile delivery services; you can choose a partner who allocates the warehouse space from one or more strategically placed locations and orchestrates delivery services. These include specialized driver training aligned with your furniture line, your brand standards, and the service level options you choose to provide.
Tech-driven last mile furniture delivery
There are multiple technologies that are essential for a successful last mile delivery operation: delivery management system, mobile application, integration, and a portal with real-time visibility. You have to decide if you want to invest in purchasing last mile technology off the shelf, build your own, or leverage a partner’s technology.
Behind the scenes, a last mile partner should be able to support you with efficient scheduling, staffing, and mobile-friendly routing to optimize cost control. You should expect these features from a last mile partner:
- Real-time visibility into delivery status, exception reporting, and POD obtained through a mobile app
- Real-time inventory visibility
- The ability to manage returns if needed
- Technologies and solutions readily customized to your business requirements.
Learn about cost savings with last mile technology.
Customer experience (CX)
“93% of shoppers expect their online experience to be equal to, if not better than, the in-store experience,” reports Furniture Today. The option to set your desired levels of last mile delivery service are crucial to maintaining your customer relationships. Two of the most exciting features to seek out from a partner are:
- Self-scheduling and tracking technology, which put customer in control of their delivery experience, while keeping you apprised of delivery status.
- In-home furniture repair, which can prevent returns and reduce the time and expense involved in addressing furniture damage. “A survey conducted by Furniture Today Strategic Insights in partnership with FIDELITONE shows that damage to products during delivery is a persistent pain point, resulting in costly repair and return processes,” according to a recent FIDELITONE blog. This specialized last mile service is a great way to boost the customer experience and earn customers’ loyalty.
Last mile delivery for growing furniture ecommerce
If you operate an ecommerce storefront for furniture sales, last mile delivery offers many customer-friendly and cost-friendly advantages for your business. With the right-fit last mile partner, you can scale your business smoothly, contain costs, and advance customer relationships. Learn more about last mile delivery to the home, and reach out if you’d like to discuss your options.