When seeking opportunities to grow revenue and offer improved value to their customers, furniture retailers typically strive to stay abreast of the latest design trends and innovative marketing strategies. However, in recent years, some of the most significant opportunities to improve operations have emerged within the realm of logistics.
As enterprise technologies advance and become more firmly intertwined with business operations, digital tools offer furniture retailers and logistics providers new opportunities to reduce costs, increase sales, and improve customer satisfaction. Read on to learn more about how industry trends and technological developments are transforming furniture logistics, enabling companies to facilitate deliveries with more speed and transparency than ever before.
Serving the Modern Consumer
Shifting customer expectations have played a large role in driving many of the recent developments in furniture logistics. In the age of e-commerce, consumers have come to expect an efficient, transparent, and personalized retail experience. This includes a hassle-free delivery service that is on-demand, damage-free, and on-time—or even faster than expected. To meet these demands, many furniture retailers are working to increase the speed of their shipments with the knowledge that, with an ever-growing range of options for home furnishings, customers may very well choose the retailer that can offer the fastest delivery.
E-commerce has also changed the way that many consumers shop for furniture. Increasingly, shoppers are opting to buy individual pieces rather than full room sets, and while e-commerce has spurred growth in furniture sales, it has also driven an increase in returns, bolstering the strategic significance of the reverse supply chain.
To effectively serve consumers in 2017, companies throughout the furniture supply chain must collaborate to provide more efficient, customer-focused delivery services. Retailers will need to be more discerning than ever in developing their supply chains, partnering with manufacturers and logistics providers to ensure just-in-time manufacturing and shipping processes that meet the efficiency and quality standards of the digital age.
The Need for Visibility
One of the primary ways that furniture retailers can leverage logistical improvements to enhance the customer experience is by adding visibility to the product lifecycle. When retailers are able to monitor a piece of furniture at all stages of the supply chain, they can anticipate and efficiently respond to any issues that may arise.
For example, a retailer with excellent supply chain visibility might observe that a product will take an extra week to reach the distribution warehouse due to complications at the manufacturing facility. The company can then alert customers to the delay, keep them updated on their order’s journey via digital mediums, and work with them to set a new, mutually acceptable delivery time.
In this way, supply chain visibility can help retailers offer more value to their customers. Realizing this, furniture companies are now prioritizing visibility alongside factors such as style and price when considering supplier partnerships.
As furniture retailers work to improve supply chain metrics like efficiency and visibility, technology has become an indispensable resource. Furniture companies are increasing their investments in logistics technologies at a time when these digital tools are rapidly advancing, prompting the digitization of many processes.
In recent years, technologies such as GPS and radio-frequency identification have granted furniture companies greater supply chain visibility, allowing them to track the progress of vehicles and individual products from the manufacturer to the customer’s front door. In addition, the advancement of management information systems has allowed organizations to more efficiently manage the numerous processes and personnel involved in the delivery process.
Furniture retailers and logistics providers are also leveraging more advanced warehouse management software platforms, automated material handling equipment, mobile tools, and biometric devices to further enhance supply chain efficiency while maintaining high standards of safety and security. At the same time, advancing technologies have allowed logistics providers and retailers to shrink the environmental impact of the furniture product lifecycle. Electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, and other renewable energy sources have provided new ways for companies to reduce their carbon footprints, while the Internet of Things and AI-enabled technologies are assisting logistics providers in optimizing their vehicles’ routes, speeds, and fuel usage to be as sustainable and cost-efficient as possible.
Furniture companies need not launch extensive digital transformations to optimize their logistics strategies. Oftentimes, the most effective way to increase efficiency is to launch a small-scale, targeted effort to assess pain points throughout the logistics process and pinpoint specific areas for improvement. Business leaders should gather a few stakeholders to measure key metrics such as delivery timeliness, damage frequency, and overall customer satisfaction. While customer feedback should help inform these considerations, leaders should avoid responding to problems reactively. Instead, they should focus on locating the root of logistical mistakes and inefficiencies. After identifying a few areas for improvement, teams can research potential digital solutions within the vast landscape of emerging logistics technologies.
In the time-sensitive world of logistics, the speed of data collection and analysis is one of the most critical strategic considerations. When exploring how to improve their logistical processes, companies should consider not only what data they are collecting along the supply chain, but also the amount of time it takes to synthesize and act on this data. For example, a retailer may receive monthly reports detailing how many of their deliveries were on schedule, but it may be easier—and more effective—to act on this information if they receive it in real time.