The biggest shopping window of 2019, from Black Friday through December 26, has come and gone. As a furniture retailer, were you able to meet customer needs with the product you had in stock? How successfully did your end-to-end shopping experience compete with the Internet?
If you would like to improve your sales volume at both holiday and off-peak times, have you considered adding a drop-shipping (direct-to-consumer) channel? Drop-shipping home furnishings can boost sales; bring in new customers; cut the cost of storing, picking and delivering merchandise; shave days off delivery time; and help reduce product handling and potential damage.
Concerned about the complexities and risks of drop-shipping? To lower the stakes and build confidence, you can approach drop-shipping step-by-step, with each step adding greater value.
No matter how you approach drop-shipping, success always starts with an attractive, functional online storefront that makes it easy for buyers to place orders. You’ll need to treat your website like a store location—which it is—in terms of the allocation of time, money and people.
A lower-risk way to start drop-shipping is to leverage your website as an extension of your showroom to reach more local customers more easily. With drop-shipping you can sell products you do not want to keep in inventory by selling against your vendors’ inventory. This lets you sell an extended product lineup without the overhead costs of inventory management and direct delivery.
As you start out, consider limiting your drop-shipping to accessories like lamps, rugs and flat-pack, lightweight ready-to-assemble (RTA) items: anything under 150 pounds/68 Kg. That’s the “line in the sand” that FedEx, UPS, etc. don’t cross. To ship larger items, it’s good practice to start in your established delivery zone with items already in your warehouse, and build from there.
Once you’re selling successfully online, you can build your drop-shipping channel on that foundation by selling your chosen lineup both inside and outside of your current markets. Think of drop-shipping as using your manufacturers as distribution centers. Products of your choosing in their inventory form an “extended aisle” that buyers can pick from on your website. Merchandise moves from manufacturers’ warehouses direct to the consumer without you ever physically touching it.
Of course, to avoid “broken promises” and negative ratings, your website needs to accurately reflect what your suppliers have in their warehouses, ready to ship. A typical workflow is to receive EDI 846 Inventory Inquiry documents from suppliers, and have a dependable process dedicated to keeping your website up-to-date using that data.
Once you’ve made a drop-ship sale, the next critical step is to ensure that the box your buyer opens looks like it came from you, not from whoever shipped it. Invoices, shipping labels, emails with tracking updates, etc. all need to feature your branding. The more this process can be automated through technology integration, the easier drop-shipping will be for you and your suppliers. (Automating the movement of POs, invoices, etc. has similar efficiency benefits.)
How big could drop-shipping be for your business? Online furniture sales are expected to exceed $200 billion worldwide for 2019, and is one of the fastest-growing eCommerce sales categories. For example, here at ecUtopia, we saw a 30% bump in order volume around the holidays. This was almost entirely driven by our retail clients enjoying success with drop-shipping.
If you weren’t ready to drop-ship in 2019, connect with ecUtopia. You don’t want to miss the next big selling window of 2020!