The global e-commerce landscape allows businesses to buy and sell almost anything with the click of a button and have it delivered within days. But this doesn’t apply to every type of good.
Though today’s global supply chain for conveyable goods—small, lightweight items and shipments handled through traditional conveyance systems—is vibrant and thriving, there isn’t a UPS-like one-click solution for shipping precious, oversized or other non-conveyable objects shipped to businesses or consumers. Supply chains are fragmented for goods like fine art, office furniture, oversized/overweight, or fragile objects, lacking technology innovation to help streamline the distribution process. This can pose a challenge to sellers of specialized items to grow and scale their business.
Capitalizing on a trend
Given the increasing demand for purchasing non-conveyable goods online, it’s important for businesses looking to capitalize on this growing sector of the industry to understand the challenges related to fulfillment. Here is some insight into the issues related to managing the logistics of non-conveyable goods:
- Delivery accessibility When hotels, restaurants or other businesses in the hospitality industry open in new cities, they are likely buying large amounts of furniture, art, and decor to fully outfit their new space. That alone is a challenge, but it’s even more of an issue for businesses opening in remote or mountainous areas where delivery accessibility can be difficult. If it’s snowy or icy, it can make it impossible for big trucks to access those locations. Alternatively, small, narrow roads cannot accommodate big trucks either. Thinking ahead, with such tools as online route-optimization software, will save you headaches in the long run.
- Transporting goods made with uncommon or atypical materials. Non-conveyable goods such as fine art and design objects can also pose challenges with packing and handling due to the increasing use of unconventional materials in contemporary designs. Oftentimes, these materials require transport in a temperature-controlled vehicle, and as a result, the pool of logistics providers that can accommodate this need is quite small. In addition, auction houses selling contemporary art must work with service providers who are knowledgeable about special packing and handling needs.
- On-site assembly or installation requirements Design objects, furniture and sculptures purchased by or commissioned for corporate offices or public spaces are usually large scale in order to fill the space appropriately. Due to the size of these objects, they often must be transported in pieces and assembled on site, and installation can be a challenge, depending on the weight of the object and location of the work within the building. Oversized objects that don’t fit into office elevators might have to ride on top of the elevator to a higher floor, or be rigged by crane through a window.
- Inability to provide an instant shipping cost for easy online checkout If you are a furniture dealer selling large, expensive, or fragile items, this could provide a challenge for allowing a customer to have a seamless online checkout experience. More common, these types of commerce sites have “click to inquire” versus “click to buy” buttons on their websites, meaning their clients can’t complete payment at the time they are intending to purchase. Usually, the reason is because businesses are not able to generate a definitive shipping price, which is dependent on a number of factors (pickup/delivery location, size/weight of piece, tight delivery deadlines, etc.). Thus, it’s important to have a knowledgeable customer support team who can respond to inquiries and coordinate online requests of one-off shipments.
- Fragmented supply chain Often, businesses need to partner with numerous service providers to fulfill their orders; unlike common carriers like FedEx, these other firms don’t typically consolidate fulfillment, and different vendors might carry out different segments of the fulfillment. A single non-conveyable good could require separate first- and last-mile providers, a freight forwarder, and perhaps an insurer for high-value or fragile items.
Non-conveyable goods require non-traditional methods of transport and shipping, and so it pays both buyers and sellers to understand the challenges before jumping into a purchase transaction. By having insight into the issues, businesses are more likely to overcome and ultimately master them. The logistics space serving this industry is rapidly evolving, as are solutions to help companies master them more quickly.
Adam Fields is the founder and CEO of ARTA, a contemporary logistics platform for shipping specialized items. He is a former vice president of Artspace.com, a fine art marketplace. Follow him on Twitter @afields and on LinkedIn.Favorite