February 22, 2022
Unique Fulfillment Challenges for Home Goods Brands and How To Navigate Them
This blog post was originally published by Deliverr, which is now Flexport. The content has been adjusted to fit the Flexport brand voice and tone, but all other information remains unchanged. With the merging of Deliverr’s services (DTC fulfillment, B2B distribution, and Last Mile delivery) into Flexport’s existing international freight and technology services, we’re now able to provide merchants with true end-to-end logistics solutions spanning from the factory floor to the customer’s door.
The marketplace for home goods is booming for eCommerce retailers. Today’s shopper looks online first to preview products before visiting a traditional brick-and-mortar store. This gives sellers an opportunity to attract buyers to their brands by offering competitive prices and the promise of fast delivery.
When it comes to fulfillment, there are many challenges within the home goods sector. Oversized items and fragile materials create obstacles to delivering a seamless delivery experience. Let’s take a look at the unique fulfillment challenges facing home goods brands and how to navigate them.
1. Items Require Extra Protection Against Damage During Shipping
Home decor items can vary from a picture frame to a coffee table to a sofa, making extra protection extremely important when shipping. In order to guarantee fragile items arrive safely, considerations must be made for the unique shape and durability of the unit that is being shipped.
Secure packaging is one way you can meet shoppers’ delivery expectations. Use boxes and filler that allow the item to fit snugly within the shipping container. Consider the use of padding, bubble wrap, and other packing materials to create a cushion from the impacts of shipment.
When choosing items to offer for online purchase, make sure the quality of the product lends itself to being shipped intact. If the item is too fragile for transport, save yourself the headache of damaged items and unhappy customers by doing your homework on how to best prep these products for safe delivery.
2. Extra Planning for the Needs of Various Items
Selling home goods online requires extra planning for how large and fragile items will be delivered to the customer. With a wide range of products that are offered through a home goods brand, retailers must have a plan for items that range from large to small, from durable to fragile.
Retailers must do their research to find carriers that will be able to accommodate large items. Bulky items must be accurately measured to ensure they meet the restrictions for carriers in terms of their maximum weight and length. For example UPS and FedEx accept packages that weigh up to 150lbs with a box length no longer than 9 feet. USPS Retail Ground has a maximum weight of 70lbs.
Freight shipping is also available, with options for Less than Truckload (LTL) and Full Truckload (FTL). You may also consider shipping items unassembled to allow for less bulky shipping and a flatpack that is easier to package securely. Planning is key to finding the best way to package items while providing efficient and economical shipping options to the customer. Partnering with a 3PL can help you to offer competitive shipping rates and fast delivery options.
3. Additional Time To Create Bundles or Kits for Consumers
Aside from large and bulky items, a challenge might arise when you wish to combine multiple items into a single purchase (aka kitting). For example, your team might want to offer a three-pack of throw pillows or a set of decor items with the same seasonal theme. Being able to offer these kits is appealing to the shopper and allows them to put several items in their cart with a single click.
Packaging these items together as a single unit can help decrease fulfillment time. Third-party fulfillment partners like Flexport can help your brand by sorting and kitting items together under a single SKU.
Paired with an innovative inventory and management system, the fulfillment team can ensure your items are properly picked and packaged for shipment.
4. Increased Fulfillment Speed for Larger Items
Larger items require additional time to be prepped for the shipment process. Unfortunately for retailers, shoppers continue to expect fast shipping even for bulky, heavy items.
Larger items such as furniture require specialized equipment and skilled workers to handle in a warehouse. For safety reasons, the logistics of picking is more complex and time-consuming to make sure items are moved safely and without sustaining damage.
Partner with a warehouse network that can help you to localize inventory for faster shipping to its final destination. Make sure your warehouse is equipped with up-to-date inventory and order management systems to ensure items are accounted for within the warehouse.
Flexport offers mobile barcode scanners which allow for handheld scanning throughout the warehouse, helping streamline the fulfillment process. Retailers should also be knowledgeable and realistic about the shipping time frames as it relates to these larger items.
Additionally, consider offering fast shipping when possible leveraging Flexport's fast shipping badges. Having clear communication about how soon the shopper should expect the product to arrive is important to accommodate their expectations and result in a positive shopping experience.
5. Returns Are Difficult for Larger Items
Returns for large home goods items are another unique challenge for home goods brands. Before a shopper makes a purchase, they want to know that they have options if the item doesn’t meet their expectations.
If clear guidelines for returns are not spelled out, it can lead to cart abandonment. If return policies are not reasonable, customers may lack the confidence that your brand is committed to their overall satisfaction.
The best way to avoid the complexities of large item returns? Make sure the items that are being shipped out are carefully inspected to ensure the order is correct and the product will meet shoppers’ expectations. Additionally, be sure to give the shopper as much information and details as possible about the product prior to the purchase. This helps eliminate surprises once the package is delivered. A great customer experience can help to prevent returns for your brand.
Create clear steps for a return to be made. Offer customer service support for every step of the purchasing process, including returns. Make sure your customer service representatives are well-versed in the return policy. Follow-up emails after the delivery can make returns less difficult as you problem-solve to get items shipped back, offer refunds or credits, and ensure a positive experience for your customer.
Despite the challenges for efficient fulfillment, home goods brands can be successful if they take the time to create a plan. Clear communication with your fulfillment team is essential in guaranteeing items arrive undamaged and in a timely manner. With careful planning and consideration, your brand can thrive in the booming home goods market.
The contents of this blog are made available for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any legal, business, or financial decisions. We do not guarantee, represent, or warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the contents of this blog because they are based on Flexport’s current beliefs, expectations, and assumptions, about which there can be no assurance due to various anticipated and unanticipated events that may occur. This blog has been prepared to the best of Flexport’s knowledge and research; however, the information presented in this blog herein may not reflect the most current regulatory or industry developments. Neither Flexport nor its advisors or affiliates shall be liable for any losses that arise in any way due to the reliance on the contents contained in this blog.