With the booming e-commerce sector, the need for retailers to ship bulky goods such as furniture or white goods – such as refrigerators or washing machines – to their customers is increasing. However, the fulfillment of these goods brings along challenges in regards to size and weight. Our guide summarizes what you need to know about bulky goods logistics and fulfillment for furniture and white goods.
Table of contents:
- Bulky goods logistics: What do retailers have to consider?
- Challenges of logistics for bulky goods
- Fulfillment for bulky goods, furniture and white goods
- Determine shipping costs for bulky goods
- Find a service provider for bulky goods
Bulky goods logistics: What do retailers have to consider?
It was not only with the onset of the pandemic that the importance of e-commerce in global consumer behavior increased already before the pandemic.But with it, the industry experienced a further boost. What followed was a growth in the number of retailers and an expansion of their product range. For a long time, furniture was considered something you had to see in a store first and couldn't simply order online. Seating comfort, spatial perception and the feel of the product should first be experienced in person before rushing into such a major purchase decision.
Digitalization has long since created new opportunities here, and e-commerce retailers, as well as furniture manufacturers, are smartening up. Today, it is possible to bring a piece of furniture into your own living room with the help of augmented reality – even before it is ordered. Fabric samples help in choosing the right material. And a free return policy – in some cases of 100 days – takes away any fear of making the wrong decision.
Ordering furniture or white goods online is no longer a red flag to consumers. For retailers, however, the fulfillment of bulky goods is a big challenge. And: it's getting even bigger. As a result of the pandemic, shortages of materials and skilled labor, rising energy prices and political conflicts, fulfillment costs are rising and demand is becoming greater than the resources available.
Challenges of logistics for bulky goods
This affects the entire logistics sector – and bulky goods logistics in particular. Due to the dimensions of bulky goods, their fulfillment requires a particularly large amount of effort for storage, packaging and shipping of the goods. Accordingly, the lack of resources is particularly noticeable here. First of all, storing bulky goods proves to be difficult. Individual products take up a lot of space. If they are also not in a standard rectangular shape but round, for example, it becomes more difficult to stack them and accordingly more costly to store them.
When a product is ordered, it must also be packaged. On the one hand, furniture and white goods require particularly good protection, and on the other hand, due to their size, they need a lot of packaging material – and personnel to take care of it. The shipping that follows is expensive and often cannot be handled by companies like DHL but requires the use of specialized forwarding service providers.
And: all of the above only applies to the shipping itself. Due to the high level of competition, more and more retailers are offering free returns within a period of 14 to 100 days. If the customer doesn't like a piece of furniture, they can simply have it picked up again from home. Again, a freight forwarder will pick up the bulky item and deliver it to the retailer's warehouse – incurring further costs.
Coordinating all these processes involves a great deal of administrative effort - in planning on the one hand, and in responding quickly to customers’ needs and requests on the other.
Optimize fulfillment for bulky goods, furniture and white goods
Yet, e-commerce retailers can make an active contribution to reducing the effort put into bulky goods fulfillment and thus keep costs comparatively low.
1. Store bulky goods on pallets
Bulky goods often have special dimensions that can rarely be accommodated in classic storage structures to save space. In such cases, individual solutions are often necessary, which in turn cost time and take up more storage space than would actually be necessary. It therefore makes sense to palletize bulky goods. By storing on a pallet, it is easier to standardize the fulfillment process and reduce effort. High racks in particular are ideal for storing pallets with bulky goods efficiently.
In addition, high-lift trucks, forklifts or other machines are required here to store the goods on the one hand and to lift them out again and prepare them for shipping on the other. With the help of intelligent software, the right storage area for a piece of furniture can be found and documented, so that the right product can be accessed immediately during the sale.
2. Find the right packaging
To save costs, especially on shipping, e-commerce merchants should try to ensure that their goods are not declared as bulky goods by the shipping service provider. The service providers define goods as bulky goods when they exceed certain dimensions or weight – or in the case of a special shape. If the product itself already exceeds these dimensions and weight, classification as bulky goods cannot be avoided.
However, it is often the packaging that pushes an item over the threshold. Keep an eye on dimensions and weight and reduce the size of your packaging, if possible, so that your products are not identified as bulky goods. However, the appropriate protection for your goods, be it in the form of bubble wrap, edge protection or sturdy cardboard boxes, must of course not be forgotten. After all, the product should reach the customer safely.
3. Reduce returns
If the customer decides against the product after it has been shipped or discovers defects, they initiate a return process – which is expensive for the retailer. To save costs, it is therefore important to keep the number of returns as low as possible.
For the retailer, this means: They must present his products so realistically that the customer sees exactly what to expect and does not experience any unpleasant surprises upon delivery. The product should be shown from every perspective, the colors displayed true to the original, and the information about the product as detailed as possible. In the case of furniture, the retailer may even provide fabric samples in advance. What's more, they can provide a tool that allows customers to bring the products into their own living rooms through augmented reality. This provides ideal support for their purchase decision – and reduces returns.
Determine shipping costs for bulky goods
There is no simple answer to the question of shipping costs for bulky goods. Depending on the provider, they are tailored individually and to the needs of the customer. The fact is: bulky goods exceed the costs for conventional shipping many times over. Those who otherwise rely on courier express parcel service providers such as DHL, UPS, or FedEx can often save on bulky goods by relying on forwarders instead. After all, as soon as parcels can no longer be processed by the companies’ automated sorting systems, employees have to get involved manually – causing additional costs. Forwarders and fulfillment service providers such as Warehousing1 are ideally positioned for such cases.
The costs are made up of various factors: What shape is the package? What are its dimensions? How heavy is it? Other factors include the recipient’s location and the level of insurance cover. The fulfillment costs that arise in detail can be inquired about and determined individually with the corresponding service providers.
Find a service provider for bulky goods
Fulfillment in e-commerce involves a lot of work: from order processing to warehousing and packing goods to shipping and returns. It takes a lot of people, costs and resources to provide your customers with the best possible shopping experience. At the same time, it's difficult to accommodate peak sales periods, such as Christmas or Black Friday. If interest in your products stops, you have to keep paying for employees and warehouse space.
That's why it makes sense to outsource fulfillment to a fulfillment service provider. This provides your customers with an ideal shopping experience and allows you to fully focus on your core business. At the same time, you always keep an eye on your costs. Feel free to let us know what your fulfillment requirements are and we'll send you quotes offering competitive rates – even for bulky goods.