Thanks to modern logistics, today’s e-commerce furniture merchants can ship sofas, tables, beds, and other large items directly to customers’ doorsteps — no store visits or pushy sales folks required.
However, given the various sizes and weights involved in shipping furniture, managing these logistics can be confusing and time-consuming. Here, we’ll take a look at how to streamline the furniture shipping process using current best practices.
How E-commerce Merchants are Shipping Furniture
Deciding how to ship furniture items depends on several different factors, including the weight, size, and dimensions of the item. Smaller, lighter pieces can usually be sent using parcel carriers’ ground services — FedEx, UPS, and USPS each have their own guidelines for what can be shipped this way.
That said, one of the biggest (and most costly) mistakes furniture sellers make is failing to educate themselves on the restrictions and rules that apply to these services.
FedEx and UPS, for example, limit furniture packaging dimensions to 108 inches (8 feet) on one side and 165 inches (14 feet) overall. Some furniture can be shipped unassembled and flat packed, saving space and, therefore, money. However, these furniture pieces must still need to come in under the weight limit — 150 pounds for FedEx and UPS and 70 pounds for USPS — to qualify for these services.
How to Ship Furniture With LTL Freight
One alternative delivery option many companies overlook is shipping via less-than-truckload (LTL) freight services. LTL freight shipping is excellent for transporting larger items that can’t be shipped using standard shipping, such as oversized furniture or furniture sets.
As you’re only using part of a truckload, it’s usually less expensive than renting an entire truck. But because LTL freight services typically operate on a hub system, your delivery may make several stops before it’s delivered. Not only can this slow down your deliveries, but because your furniture will be sharing truck space with others’ shipments, it’s important to ensure your items are packed securely to avoid damage.
How Much Does it Cost to Ship Furniture?
Understandably, the cost of shipping furniture depends on the size and weight of the item, the distance you’ll transport it, the dimensions of your packages, and the delivery service you use.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can save on shipping these big-ticket items. Flat-packing and vacuum-sealing compressible items — such as pillows, mattresses, and cushions — may make it possible to take advantage of the major carriers’ less-expensive ground shipping services, as can dividing items into multiple packages that meet their dimension and weight limits.
You can also lower your furniture shipping costs by accessing deep discounts from top carriers through partners like Shippo, which can save you up to 90% compared to retail rates.
For example, imagine that you need to ship a chair that weighs just over 100 pounds from your New York facility to a residential address in Georgia. Assuming your package falls within UPS’ size requirements, your retail rate for the shipment would be roughly $430.00. With Shippo, you’d pay just $97.00.
Similarly, suppose you planned to ship a smaller piece of furniture, such as a lamp, to a nearby customer in New York via UPS Ground. In this case, your estimated cost would drop from $37.00 to $3.70 using your Shippo account.
Furniture Shipping Tips and Best Practices
Shipping furniture is far from straightforward, yet one ruined shipment can damage your reputation with customers and cost you thousands of dollars. The following tips can help ensure your furniture arrives at its destination in one piece and that you get the best possible shipping rate — without your customer service suffering.
Tip #1: Avoid Damage to Furniture
Even a small dent or tear can cause a customer to return their item. Using protective plastic wrap, Styrofoam inserts, cardboard corner protectors, sturdy infill, and reinforcement with straps on the outside can help. But when you’re shipping furniture, it’s also a good idea to use signature confirmations. This way, you’ll ensure your packages arrive safely and aren’t left unattended when delivered (for some shipments, they may even be required for insurance coverage).
Tip #2: Pack Furniture Flat and Disassemble It, If Possible
As noted above, if you want to save on furniture shipping costs, optimizing your packaging by shipping in smaller boxes can make a difference. Some furniture can be shipped unassembled and flat-packed, which takes up less space. You can also stack the furniture and line it with foam or other cushioning material to protect it without wasting too much space.
If you’re shipping furniture that you can disassemble, you can save on shipping costs by packing it in boxes. This includes disassembling chairs, bed frames, and cabinets to their smallest components, including screws and knobs. Store them in ziplock bags so customers can easily find them.
Tip #3: Make Your Refund and Shipping Policies Clear
When shipping furniture for e-commerce, publicly stating your refund policy is essential, as customers may be hesitant to order an item if they think it’ll be difficult to return.
Your refund policy should appear as a section of your store’s terms and conditions, and it should explain how you handle refunds, how much time a customer has to return a product, and whether customers can return opened products. If you expect customers to pay return shipping costs — which may be substantial — be especially transparent with this information (Shippo’s Refund Policy Generator can help).
Tip #4: Compare Shipping Rates
Finally, keep in mind that there’s no need to stay tied down to a single shipping carrier. Unless you’ve negotiated a volume-based discount with a single shipper, using multiple carriers makes it possible to optimize your shipping costs by taking advantage of the best rate for each of your shipments, packages, and shipping zones.
Regardless of the type of furniture you’re shipping, Shippo offers small- to medium-sized e-commerce furniture stores the ability to access the same level of shipping as larger multinational companies – without the high costs. Sign up for a free account today to get started.