Customers have come to expect quick and seamless delivery experiences for everyday purchases, and big and bulky purchases shouldn’t be an exception. Unfortunately, many retailers struggle to provide excellent delivery experiences for these goods, largely because of outdated technology.
Research shows that aspects of the delivery process, like final-mile delivery, are crucial: Customers are 21% more likely to repurchase if they’re satisfied with just the last-mile logistics. To that end, delivery experience can be a determining factor in gaining a buyer’s trust and building loyalty to a brand.
The shopping experience doesn’t end when an item is purchased — it has just begun. What happens next is critical to customer sentiment toward a brand, and whether that customer will recommend or purchase again from the company in the future. While rates of in-store and curbside pickup have stabilized after dropping sharply during the pandemic, home delivery remains very popular. Companies are obliged to ensure that customer expectations around timely shipping times, transparency and true white-glove delivery are met — or pay the price in customer dissatisfaction.
To investigate the effect of the delivery experience on customer satisfaction and brand sentiment, my team at Deliveright analyzed almost 500 reviews from four major furniture retailers over a four-month period. We found that one in five reviews overall mentions a negative delivery experience. These negative reviews often mention long delays, incorrect tracking information, damaged furniture and missing orders.
To further test this theory, we created the Delivery Misery Index to represent the percentage of overall orders for each retailer that report a negative delivery experience. Our research found that the retailer with the highest star rating, indicating the greatest customer satisfaction, on online reviews platform Trustpilot also had the lowest Delivery Misery Index. Meanwhile, the retailer with the lowest star rating on Trustpilot had the highest Delivery Misery Index.
So what does this say about the state of furniture delivery? And how can retailers improve the delivery experience — and their overall customer satisfaction ratings?
Like most problems, transparency and visibility into what actually occurs is a great first step to improvement. Shoppers want to know how and when their orders will arrive — 83% want proof of delivery, 80% want easy-to-use tracking and 68% want flexible delivery times. While parcel delivery companies can typically manage these requests, furniture (and other big and bulky) retailers may struggle because of manual processes and outdated systems.
Next, logistics need to be addressed from an operational viewpoint. It’s not uncommon for the transportation partners of the country’s most popular big and bulky retailers to be using Google Maps, pen and paper to plan routes and pickups. This is wildly inefficient and prone to expensive errors that range from scheduled items being left behind at the warehouse to inaccurate — or nonexistent — delivery windows. Implementing modern logistics and delivery technology is imperative to remaining competitive, increasing internal efficiencies, and providing the level of visibility into the shipping process that customers have come to expect.
Customers also want control over when an item arrives — this applies equally to deciding on an Amazon order delivery as it does to a sofa. Self-service tools can boost efficiency and improve the customer experience. Dynamic scheduling enables customers to schedule deliveries of big and bulky purchases at the time of checkout, instead of waiting days or weeks until their order arrives at a local hub to do so. As 2024 unfolds, I expect that big and bulky retailers will increasingly partner with logistics companies that have invested in technology platforms that enable options like dynamic scheduling to boost customer experience.
For many retailers of big and bulky merchandise, technology that has built-in integrations with major e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, BigCommerce and CommerceHub can streamline the operations and delivery processes for customers. With these built-in integrations come real-time order updates and top-of-the-line customer success teams. Customers want to feel supported every step of the way and the right technology, customized for the needs of both the buyer and the retailer, can give them the powerful tools and visibility they desire.
As the adoption of logistics technology grows across the big and bulky industry as well as the delivery networks that serve it, I think we’ll start to see customer satisfaction scores improve radically. In the meantime, we’ll continue to watch the Delivery Misery Index to determine what positively rated retailers and delivery experiences likely have in common — I’m willing to bet technology is a key factor.
Doug Ladden is chief executive officer and co-founder of Deliveright.