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How to ship furniture

A coffee table pictured among several packages

E-commerce is changing the way that people buy furniture. Your next armchair order could easily be placed on a smartphone while your customer waits for their latte.

Today's tech-savvy shoppers are as comfortable buying a rug online as they are a book - and they expect the same seamless shipping experience for both. Fast shipping, clear tracking and easy returns are the new standards.

As the retail landscape changes, it's also likely that your goods will have to travel much farther distances. An easy, cross-town jaunt on a truck is no longer standard for a furniture purchase. Today, furnishings are often imported from overseas, which means getting them to their destinations (no matter how far flung) in pristine condition is one of the critical requirements of providing an excellent customer experience.

Keeping up with customers' rising expectations when it comes to shipping heavy, bulky goods like home furnishings has become an e-commerce essential. Follow a few simple steps to stay current on customer trends and provide a delivery experience that outshines your competition, no matter if you're shipping lamps or chairs.

1. Choose an experienced carrier.

Experienced carriers ship similar goods together and transport them in a smart way that minimizes damage. Your furniture will benefit from proper stowage techniques, including securing furniture against the truck's walls to avoid movement. Skilled carriers also keep furniture safe with block-and-brace strategies. Trucks are packed with tight, stable loads, similar to the way imported furniture arrives in a shipping container.

Visibility into the shipping process is another significant advantage of partnering with an experienced carrier. You'll benefit not only from tracking services for both you and your customer, but the ability to know exactly where your furniture is at any point in the supply chain.

2. Measure and weigh your furniture.

Make sure that your large or heavy furniture shipment falls within your carrier's weight and size limits. Oversized goods may be subject to a fee and could be better suited for freight.

UPS packages can be up to 150 pounds, and 165 inches in length and girth combined (girth = 2 x width plus 2 x height). Use your size and weight measurements to determine shipping costs.

3. Properly package your home furnishings.

These days, the bulk of home furnishings are manufactured overseas. Imports that arrive in an ocean container have been packaged to withstand ocean transit considerations like roll and lift - not ground transportation factors like vibration and increased handling.

Materials like granite are highly susceptible to damage from vibration, which can cause it to shatter. No matter the material, repackage all imported furniture to withstand the rigors of traveling long distances via ground transportation.

To protect heavy, bulky and oddly shaped goods like furniture, use thicker cardboard for reinforcement, a double box, or a crate when appropriate. Wrap delicate areas like the legs of a chair from top to bottom with material like foam or bubble wrap. Pack ample cushioning material in empty spaces (between chair legs) and surrounding any piece that will be shipped in a box.

Shipping a rug? Roll it up and secure it with rope or twine. If you're shipping a rug that's 6-by-9 feet or larger, fold it before rolling. Wrap the rolled rug in thick, durable plastic, leaving 8 to 10 inches of plastic on each end. Secure the ends of the plastic with zip ties, then fold down both ends and tape them down to the plastic surrounding the rolled rug.

Get more tips on packing heavy goods and consult these customized packaging guidelines for additional help packing furniture and other bulky goods. Always apply a heavy package caution sticker if your shipment weighs more than 70 pounds.

4. Ship your furniture fast.

In a world where same-day delivery is becoming the new norm, customers expect their orders to be delivered fast—especially when purchasing online. In fact, 64 percent of online shoppers expect orders placed by 5 p.m. to qualify for delivery the next day.

Not only that, 75 percent of online shoppers are willing to pay a premium for fast delivery. In order to stay competitive amidst these rising expectations, your best strategy is to offer your customers multiple shipping options, including one for expedited shipping.

5. Communicate with your customer for efficient delivery.

Offering your customers optimal visibility via package tracking is a start, but there are several additional steps you can take to prevent missed delivery attempts and improve customer service.

Today's customer wants time-definite delivery that fits their lifestyle. This can present a challenge with furniture shipments that require scheduling an appointment for delivery. The optimal solution here is to allow your customer to schedule a delivery time when they place their order.

Another good way to ensure first-attempt delivery is to collect more contact information at the time of checkout. Get both an email address and phone number for your customers, and ask for their preferred method of contact. Don't be surprised if it's text message, especially if your customer is a millennial.

Stay in touch with your customer so they can track their shipment. Send an email to let them know when the item has shipped, and when they can expect delivery.

6. Offer easy returns.

Today's online consumer expects returns to be simple. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to return their merchandise, even when a scheduled pickup is required. Consider free shipping for returns as well. No fewer than 79 percent of online shoppers rate free shipping on returns as an important factor when choosing an online retailer.

Make your policy for returns, refunds and exchanges clear and straightforward. Set expectations with your customers by including details about exactly how to process a return (packaging, paperwork, etc.).

Ensure that your returns policy is easy to find on your website, as many online consumers search for this information before committing to a purchase. Not only will a good return policy instill confidence in your customer, it will likely lead to repeat business. One way to better control your customer returns is with UPS Returns® Manager, a platform that helps you create returns policies for the products you ship.

Items you will need:

  • Sturdy corrugated box or crate
  • Cushioning material (foam, bubble wrap)
  • Packing tape
  • Thick, durable plastic (for rugs)
  • Rope or twine (for rugs)
  • Zip ties (for rugs)

Tips:

Customized packing solutions

Difficult-to-pack furniture? Get help with customized package engineering and testing to ensure that your goods stay safe in transit.

Offer free shipping

Free shipping on purchases is the most important option for 74 percent of online shoppers. Build shipping costs into your pricing structure so you can offer customers this sought-after service.

Reduce missed deliveries

Utilize address verification for online orders to avoid delays and missed delivery attempts.

Related resources:

UPS: guidelines for packing your heavy package

Shopify: ecommerce shipping and fulfillment 101

The rise of e-commerce in the furniture industry

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