As more consumers flock to e-commerce, purchasing big & bulky goods such as furniture, appliances, and wholesale electronics online is becoming more common. A Statista study found that in 2020, the furniture and appliance e-commerce global market volume was $383.2B. Larger types of retail goods such as furniture and appliances, also known as oversized, are more challenging to ship than small packages. Big & bulky goods are not usually delivered to the purchaser’s front door since they frequently require installation or white glove delivery inside the home. These goods may also require two-person crews and specialized trucks to make the delivery. The trend of purchasing big & bulky items online will continue to grow, with Statista predicting 35% of furniture sales worldwide will be made online by 2025.
How has last-mile delivery in the big & bulky retail segment changed in the past few years?
Previously, big & bulky items were purchased in-store and had long shipping windows. Consumers waited for the items to ship, expecting a phone call to tell them when they would be delivered. Many steps in the delivery process were unknown to consumers, who might wait weeks to receive their big & bulky items.
Today, consumers want to be able to schedule delivery time slot windows at the time of purchase and not wait for the retailer to contact them post-purchase about a delivery. They want to know when their product will ship and when the product will arrive, and they want notifications throughout the process. Notifications help bring trust between the consumer and the brand. Additionally, they want quick turnaround times from initial order to final delivery, essentially bringing the Amazon effect to the big & bulky retail market.
Why is delivery more complicated for big & bulky retailers?
- On-site delivery experience and cost. The cost of shipping and delivering bulky items is high because it is resource-intensive. Less space is available per truck, two delivery personnel may be needed and installation may be required. On-site delivery may require white glove service requiring specialized labor and personal skills for in-home interaction with consumers.
- Long-delivery windows & visibility. If the delivery requires delivery personnel to enter a consumer’s home, long delivery windows can be tremendously inconvenient. Consumers may need to spend an entire day at home waiting for the delivery to arrive. Consumers want delivery time-slot windows when completing their checkout to plan their deliveries in advance vs. readjusting their schedule around a delivery window that may fluctuate.
- Partial delivery. A common practice with big & bulky delivery is partial delivery, when the delivery of an order arrives in more than one shipment. This can happen when consumers order items such as a set of furniture or a TV and sound system. Different parts of the set may be coming from different fulfillment channels, different manufacturers or some parts of the whole order may be broken or defective. Partial delivery requires flexibility and the ability to orchestrate additional moving parts to ensure that large, multi-piece orders arrive simultaneously or around the same timeframe. Waiting an extra week to complete a furniture set may be inconvenient for consumers.
How do deliveries impact consumer experience?
Providing order visibility is vital to consumer satisfaction. According to a study about delivery visibility-related issues, 93% of consumers want to stay informed throughout the delivery process, and 47% will not order again from a brand with poor delivery visibility. As with other e-commerce retail experiences, big & bulky last-mile delivery is one of the only touchpoints between a brand and a consumer, so getting delivery right is essential.
Big & bulky deliveries arriving earlier than expected are as problematic for consumers as late deliveries are. Scheduling time to be at home in today’s busy world means deliveries must arrive on time as planned. Deliveries made before or after chosen time slots are inconvenient for consumers and can potentially sour a consumer from the brand or product. A Forbes article cites 96% of consumers claim their consumer experience is an integral part of their brand loyalty.
Three Ways Technology Creates Better Big & Bulky Deliveries
Big & bulky deliveries present many challenges to retailers but technology can help provide solutions. According to a whitepaper by Fidelitone, 46% of furniture industry executives say that their delivery technology either needs improvement or needs immediate and significant improvement. Technology-driven platforms can provide fast, flexible and sustainable shipping for big & bulky items.
- Supply Chain Visibility: End-to-end supply chain visibility can provide real-time ETA updates to all stakeholders, including supply chain managers making decisions, drivers completing routes and consumers waiting for their orders, enabling supply chains to become more adaptable, flexible and proactive.
- Consumer Delivery Experience: Big & bulky retailers who give end consumers greater control with more shipping options, lower costs and delivery windows will provide a good consumer experience. Delivery slot windows at checkout will help ensure more consumers complete their purchases rather than abandoning their carts.
- Enhanced Network Management: Route optimization can lead to delivery efficiencies. Digital scheduling and capacity planning tools can allow shippers and carriers to achieve greater fleet utilization. Demand and capacity forecasting allows retailers to ensure they have the people and resources at the right place at the right time.
Technology Enhanced Deliveries – Final Thoughts
As the online big & bulky retail market continues to grow in demand, retailers can utilize technology in the last mile to gain visibility, create optimized routes and provide enhanced consumer experiences. With the right technology platforms, tools and partnerships in place, big & bulky retailers and shippers can improve consumer delivery experiences and gain competitive advantages.
As the CEO, Kushal Nahata is responsible for driving the vision, strategy, and growth at FarEye. A dynamic leader, Kushal drives the culture of ‘customer-first’ at FarEye which enables the team to deliver value to FarEye’s 150+ clients globally. He is an effervescent thinker who is passionate about enabling digital transformation in the logistics industry and making it customer-centric. He is constantly working towards empowering companies to champion operational efficiency and customer experience.
Under his leadership, FarEye has achieved an impressive growth rate with rapid geographical expansion. Kushal enjoys training budding entrepreneurs and guiding them through their journey. He has been mentioned in the coveted 40under40 list by Business World and The Top 25 Software CEOs of Asia for 2020 by The Software Report.