What if you buy an expensive sofa online and end up hating the color? Or what if a 200-pound mirror you ordered arrives broken?
These things happen. According to a June 2018 uShip survey, 21% of US digital buyers who purchased an oversized item online have received something damaged, and 15% never even received the item they ordered.
Returns of oversized goods are costly. A March 2018 Brightpearl study found that 44% of US retailers said their margins were impacted by returns. Perhaps this is why Multichannel Merchant's annual outlook survey showed the number of retailers charging for returns went up in 2018: 46.7% vs. 39.1% last year.
To reduce customer returns, retailers have invested in better product photography and augmented reality tools, encouraged user reviews and often offer fabric swatches—especially for custom furniture.
Online shoppers are becoming more comfortable with buying bulky things like mattresses and dining sets digitally. We forecast that ecommerce sales in the furniture and home furnishings category will be one of the fastest-growing in 2018, at 18.5%.
But shipping and delivery fees can be a hindrance since they are wildly inconsistent. For example, a coffee table bought on Etsy could cost an extra $400 for out-of-state freight charges. Shipping and handling plus mandatory "white glove" service could easily amount to $150 on a multichannel retailer site like West Elm, while an online retailer like Overstock.com that has mastered logistics offers free delivery on everything.