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Going the Last Mile: The Best Delivery Solutions for Furniture's E-Commerce Boom

Furniture World News



With online sales skyrocketing, furniture retailers have begun adding new last-mile solutions to their list of delivery providers. Among the most popular is crowdsourced delivery, which uses an on-demand network of privately owned vehicles for same-day, scheduled and urgent delivery — anything from a throw pillow to a whole couch. So, how does crowdsourced delivery compare with traditional shippers, couriers and a store’s own in-house delivery trucks?    


In-house solutions vs. outsourcing

The disadvantages of a furniture retailer using their own vehicles and drivers for customer deliveries may include high overhead costs, limited geographical reach, and limited delivery capacity during times of peak demand. Outsourcing to specialized shippers who are experienced at white glove delivery can often be a better solution


Another solution to add to the delivery mix is crowdsourced delivery. Because crowdsourced providers tap into an on-demand network of independent drivers, they can also easily flex up to meet spikes in delivery demand. Another advantage is the ability to reach customers in less-populated areas. The more remote a destination is, the less equipped a traditional carrier might be to reach it in a timely and cost-effective way. Crowdsourced delivery gets around this problem by connecting deliveries with local drivers all over the country — in cities, small towns and rural areas.


The power of privately owned vehicles

While not every vehicle will be large enough to handle an oversized item, crowdsourced networks are extensive enough that there are always enough available drivers for furniture deliveries of almost any size. At Roadie, for example, around 27% of the more than 200,000 drivers in our national community drive either trucks or vans. More than 40% of deliveries are Large (an item that fits in a back seat), Extra Large (an item that fits in a hatchback or SUV), or Huge (an item that fits in a pickup truck).


For retailers, pricing is upfront and transparent, so retailers know exactly how much they’ll pay to get an item delivered to a particular location. Plus, via a mobile app, drivers can be found almost instantly who are heading in the right direction and who want to take on a delivery. Because drivers are chosen based on their current location and/or expected route, it’s easy and efficient to add a new on-demand booking. The progress of a delivery is also tracked in real-time through GPS and a photographic chain of custody, allowing retailers to be as plugged into the process as they want to be.


Crowdsourced delivery is a good solution when a customer orders multiple items ranging in size — which often happens with furniture and homeware deliveries. For example, let’s say someone buys some side tables, a pair of lamps and some lightbulbs for the lamps. With conventional delivery, they might receive all those items in separate shipments — and if the lightbulbs show up last, it might defeat the purpose of having them delivered at all. Using crowdsourced delivery, though, all those items can be hand-delivered at the same time, which might be more convenient for the customer. Crowdsourcing is also great for out-of-the-box deliveries, saving you money on labor and materials when no packaging is needed.


The agnostic nature of crowdsourced delivery makes the process of delivering a couch fundamentally the same as delivering a box of cupcakes — the same technology matches each delivery with a best-fit driver and best-fit vehicle. Nothing about the system needs to be modified to accommodate different types of deliveries, making it streamlined and efficient.


Combining crowdsourcing with traditional shippers

Of course, there are plenty of areas where traditional shippers excel, and for deliveries over long distances of 250 miles or more, those carriers’ existing infrastructure can be more efficient. Some items might also be too big and bulky for even a pick-up truck or large SUV, and a ground freight carrier will likely be a better option in those cases.


For furniture retailers to best meet all their different delivery needs, there are benefits to working with traditional carriers as well as a crowdsourced solution. Similarly, some traditional carriers are starting to eye crowdsourced providers as possible partners for deliveries that don’t fit as easily into their streamlined models.


As online retail continues to evolve, delivery methods are evolving as well. For furniture retailers seeking a flexible, cost-effective and reliable delivery solution for oversized items, crowdsourcing might be a smart addition to your delivery mix.


About Dennis Moon

Dennis Moon is head of operations at Roadie, an on-demand delivery provider with more than 200,000 drivers covering 90% of U.S. addresses. Roadie works with consumers, small businesses and corporations to provide a faster, cheaper, more scalable solution for scheduled, same-day and urgent delivery.



Furniture Industry News and in depth magazine articles for the furniture retail, furniture manufacturers, and furniture distributors.
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