Drop Shipping Pitfalls
Widely heralded as one of the most cost-effective ways to start an ecommerce business, drop shipping offers many advantages, particularly if you’re considering offering larger items like furniture. With this strategy, you won’t have to buy the furniture until you sell it, you don’t have to warehouse it and your manufacturers will ship it directly to your customers—freeing you of most logistics issues as well. However, furniture drop shipping also has a number of potential pitfalls. Here’s how to avoid the most common of them.
Flawed Fulfillment Processes
Whatever the product, customers have little patience for shipping delays, so get a solid understanding of the lead time each of your vendors requires and reflect that information prominently on your site. This lets your customers know what to expect. Also, make sure your vendors have items in stock so you can avoid selling backordered goods. If you learn a customer’s purchase is backordered, let them know right away and give them the option of cancelling the transaction. Keep track of shipping dates to confirm products go out on time. Always contact the vendor right away when they don’t to find out what’s going on and forward that information to your customer as soon as you get it.
Responsive Customer Service
When you’re considering how to start a furniture store online with drop shipping as your delivery strategy, responsive customer service on the part of the vendor is crucial. Sometimes customers cancel; if you’ve already transmitted instructions to the vendor, you’ll have to get ahead of the order to get it turned around. This can be difficult to do without responsive people in the vendor’s customer service department.
Left to their own devices, most vendors will ship using generic packaging materials and documentation; this costs you an opportunity to reinforce your store’s identity. Branded packaging, inserts and packing slips are better suited to creating customer loyalty. It’s also a good idea to include a brochure featuring other products and more information about your company into packages. You want to establish as intimate a relationship as possible with your customers so they’ll think of you first when they need to shop for more furniture or accessories.
Convoluted Return Policies
If you’re dealing with a number of different vendors, all of whom have different return policies, you’re going to have to communicate each one on a case-by-case basis. It’s far better to curate your vendors based upon their return policies so they are all as common as possible. Further, because returns will go directly to the vendor, you’ll be at their mercy in terms of getting your customer’s issues resolved. This could mean delays at the worst possible time — when you’re dealing with a disgruntled customer. Doing everything you can to maintain control over returns will go a long way toward helping you provide a positive customer experience.
Inexperienced Drop Shippers
Just because they offer the service, you can’t assume they’re good at it. Always vet potential drop shipping partners to make sure they have a good reputation for shipping fast, handling returns easily, keeping sellers apprised of inventory levels and effecting positive issue resolution.
In other words, the vendor should do everything possible to be invisible to your customers. You want buyers to be left with the impression they purchased their furniture directly from you, received it directly from you and should come directly to you to resolve concerns. Anything drawing attention to the vendor will usually be a problem for your business. Before you sign a contract, do your due diligence to learn what you can expect and be ready to find another source if a vendor can’t live up to your expectations.
Drop shipping really can be a killer app when it comes to launching an ecommerce furniture business. However, you’ll have to stay abreast of its pitfalls and do everything you can to avoid them.