By Dean Jutilla, uShip // This article was originally published by Multichannel Merchant on July 31st, 2018
It can’t be overstated how Amazon has been the engine behind ecommerce’s explosive growth. The 100 million products Amazon claimed it sold during its recent Prime Day only underscore its impact.
Logistically, offering free two-day shipping has completely reset buyer expectations on speed and cost. In fact, 43% of consumers expect “much faster” deliveries in 2018, according to a recent survey by Dropoff.
Meanwhile, Amazon continues to push for massive supply chain control. It knows there’s no such thing as “free” shipping; it’s just a matter of who pays. And it shows in its logistics strategy: Own the supply chain. Squeeze out all excess cost. Maximize revenue.
Along with ships, planes, trucks and the like, Amazon has been building out a network of third-party entrepreneurs to deliver packages while soliciting couriers during peak season, further putting its UPS and FedEx alliances in the crosshairs.
The Missing Link
The “Amazon Effect” notwithstanding, there is one area of ecommerce where online sellers can still compete with, maybe even beat, Amazon and others: Oversized delivery. Demand for low-cost, speedy delivery of bulky items is growing rapidly as consumers get more comfortable with these types of ecommerce orders.
Nobody, not even Amazon, has cornered this market yet. Amazon has been less than clear about it in its logistics strategy, while large online sellers like Wayfair have created proprietary processes and the big carriers are still trying to figure it out.
Why all the hardship? There’s a lot more involved in getting that sofa, armoire, or dining room set to someone’s doorstep, let alone placing it in a room of choice, something many people want.
It matters because the $19.2 billion online furniture and home furnishings market is one of the fastest-growing segments of ecommerce, expected to reach $42 billion in sales by next year, according to eMarketer.
A uShip study with third-party agency YouGov found that nearly 20% of consumers had purchased an oversized item in the past 12 months, and 34% of them are more likely to do so than they were five years ago.
Despite appearances and mind-boggling volumes, it doesn’t mean consumers are exclusively loyal to Amazon. Sixty-five percent said they are willing to shift to other retailers that offer the same fast delivery options as Amazon, according to Dropoff. Those who can figure out oversized delivery can take advantage of a huge market opportunity.
Consumers See Troubles in Oversized Delivery
As ecommerce merchants and logistics companies circle the wagons around oversized logistics, they realize they have to work to win back consumer trust due to poor, slow and overpriced past delivery experiences.
Experience: 20% percent of consumers who have made an oversized ecommerce purchase in the last year said the item arrived damaged, while 15% said it never arrived at all, according to the uShip study. Thirty percent would avoid purchasing an oversized item online due to lack of confidence in a safe delivery. And nearly 15% have missed work while waiting for a delivery.
Speed: It’s not uncommon for a single piece of furniture to change hands 6-8 times between first mile, long haul and final mile. This can mean 6-8 weeks of delivery time, glacial by today’s standards, as carriers worry more about regional consolidation of deliveries than the end consumer’s experience.
Cost: The uShip survey found 44% of adults who have purchased an oversized item online in the past 12 months said high shipping fees prevented them from doing so, while 14% would avoid a brand or retailer because of a bad previous experience.
Beat Amazon and Exceed Consumer Expectations
There’s clearly room to improve the customer experience in oversized delivery. Luckily, ecommerce sellers can take advantage of this opportunity to beat Amazon at its own game.
Here are a few things that consumers who have purchased an oversized item said would improve the delivery experience:
- Choice: More than 24% want a choice in how large items are delivered
- Tracking: 25% would welcome more accurate, in-depth tracking information and 28% would like push notifications on order status.
- White glove: Nearly 18% would be interested in this feature.
So how do ecommerce sellers implement these changes to improve the oversized delivery experience?
First, they can tap into unconventional delivery networks that can get items delivered faster through a dedicated driver. While traditional carriers rely on consolidation for economies of scale, they tend to forget or at least ignore the new normal of delivery expectations. Meanwhile, speed of delivery is a top concern for buyers. That underutilized truck space with excess capacity is out there; technology can help with the matchmaking process.
Second, when you’re ready with delivery infrastructure in place, allow consumers to write reviews of their delivery experiences online.
Lastly, offer additional services such as white-glove delivery, tracking, insurance plans and more that go above and beyond customer expectations.
Be a Leader in Oversized Shipping
While Amazon is constantly pushing the logistics envelope, they only dominate in standard-size shipping. There’s still no clear winner in the historically challenging oversized delivery game. For online sellers, large-item delivery doesn’t have to remain a black hole experience, nor should it be the place where merchants put all their attention.
Those who figure out how to maximize speed, minimize cost and establish trust will win the hearts and minds of buyers and be the most competitive with their peer sellers and Amazon.