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21% of Oversized Online Purchases Arrive Damaged

By Dan Alaimo, Retail Dive / Dive Brief: The retail industry has yet to solve the challenge of shipping oversized products such as sofas, mattresses and treadmills, according to a report from uShip. The study found 21% of U.S. adults who have bought such a large item in the last year had it arrive damaged, and 15% said the item never arrived at all. After making a purchase, 16% were left to their own devices to find transport for the oversized item.

  • Calling them “dissatisfied customers” is an understatement as 11% said they fought with customer service while the delivery process unfolded; another 11% reported wasting an entire day tracking down shipment of an oversized product; 15% said they missed work while waiting for a delivery; and 13% reported keeping an item because of an overly complicated return process. The effect on sales is predictable, with 28% saying they are hesitant to buy an oversized item online due to shipping uncertainties.
  • But the problem is fixable, said uShip, which provides an online logistics platform. The report said 28% would be satisfied with proactive updates on the progress of their shipment rather than having to research it themselves; 24% would like more choice about how their item is delivered, like being able to select a carrier; and 19% said the process would be improved by having the oversized item delivered directly into their home.

Dive Insight:

In the Amazon age of retailing, customers have come to expect their online purchases fast and free, with shipping reliability a given, according to research from uShip. But when it comes to oversized items, that’s not so easy — not even for Amazon.

The big carriers don’t want large packages. UPS and FedEx deliver items up to 150 pounds to residences, but UPS recently announced a $150 fee for the delivery of oversized packages and pallets, Reuters said. There’s also a new fee when UPS receives a package with mislabeled dimensions. Amazon, meanwhile, is recruiting small businesses with “little to no logistics experience” to transport packages for the so-called “last mile” of delivery.

A survey by Radial found that 60% of respondents expected free shipping, as well as the lowest possible price. Only 23.5% were willing to pay up to $10 for shipping. A study by Deloitte found that shoppers were more interested in free shipping than fast shipping for an additional fee.

“There’s no such thing as ‘free shipping.’ It’s just a matter of who pays,” noted Mike Williams, CEO, uShip, in the report.

The uShip report said e-commerce companies can compete logistically with Amazon and other major retailing entities in the delivery of oversized items. For instance, the $19.2 billion online furniture and home furnishings market is “one of the fastest growing segments of e-retail” and will hit $42 billion by next year, the report said. This represents a particular opportunity for smaller e-commerce companies, with the mattress category seen as ripe for disruption by e-tailers like Casper, to take one example. (Walmart also has revamped its furniture e-commerce site and has nearly doubled its home products assortment.)

Amazon has yet to solve the logistics of delivering oversized products, Van Leigh, senior vice president of digital marketing, uShip, said in a bylined article in Multichannel Merchant. “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,” he said.

Factors that can cause friction in shipping large items include pickup and delivery schedules, insurance, assembly and the cost of transportation, uShip said.

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