Retail

Chairish And UPS Team To Solve Sellers’ Big Shipping Friction

Today, the wait — quite literally — could be over.

That is, the wait between that moment when a buyer purchases that mid-century piece of furniture (from one of the fastest-growing consignment marketplaces for home furnishings) and when it arrives to occupy that perfect spot in the buyers’ home — that wait that can take as long as a couple of weeks, and sometimes ends with a damaged or broken item.

Chairish CEO and Co-founder Gregg Brockway told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster that Chairish will announce a “first-of-its-kind in the industry” partnership with UPS. This will give Chairish sellers the ability to take that purchased floor lamp to any UPS location, drop and go, and for a flat fee — UPS will package, ship and track the item to its final destination.

It’s something Brockway believes will not only attract more sellers to the Chairish platform, but more buyers, knowing that they will receive a consistent, reliable experience when buying the one-of-a-kind treasures to fill their homes.

The Hunt For Home Furnishings

Home furnishing is one of the most explosive areas in eCommerce, with a variety of retailers and home-furnishing aggregators out to capture the spend of an up-and-coming generation — the first generation of truly connected consumers, ages 30 to 40 — with spending power, who are settling down and feathering their nests.

Though the market to capture all those consumers (on the hunt for their first real dining room sets) is becoming both more intense and crowded, Brockway told Webster that he was bullish on the expansive future of the home goods market and Chairish’s unique, and slightly unusual, spot in it.

Chairish is an eCommerce marketplace that connects buyers in search of an alternative to the big-box home furnishing experience, with thousands of sellers and, as Brockway describes, high-quality and high-end, “chic and unique,” previously owned products to buy. In other words, Chairish isn’t the go-to for a gently used futon — that’s more of an OfferUp or Craigslist type of journey. However, it is the go-to if one is in the market for an Antique French Louis XVI-style Settee or a 1920s French Provincial Henriot Quimper Faience Quimper Platter, and is comfortable paying $580 to $2,300 to buy it.

That makes the Chairish customer a bit more adventurous than the average consumer: the typically affluent female between 30 and 50 who prefers pops of color, as opposed to the neutrals and beiges that dominate the mass-market online decorating destinations.

“Safe is not what you come to [Chairish] for,” Brockway told Webster. “We say ‘chic and unique’ is what we offer. It’s why we have so many designer[s] — really A-list players designing for celebrity customers — who frequent our platform.”

It’s a challenging business to be in — in a variety of ways. Since Chairish bills itself as a seller of high-quality used items, he noted, it has to vet the vast majority of items that go up on the site individually, to make sure they pass muster. Some of its highest volume sellers can be greenlit to proceed without vetting, after proving themselves on the platform over time, but the majority of sellers are smaller, and their items need individual review.

Among the biggest challenges that Chairish faces as a platform, Brockway said, particularly on the seller side, is getting those “chic and unique” items into the hands of those buyers.

“We are not the Amazon model, where everyone ships into the central hub warehouse and then we ship out from there,” Brockway told Webster. He said that the Chairish sellers must deal with the challenge of packing and coordinating the shipment of items directly from their homes or shops to buyers scattered throughout the country.

That creates friction for both buyers — who want the items they bought as quickly as possible — and sellers — who have to figure out how to package and ship the item bound for Birmingham, without breaking it or having it take two weeks to arrive.

That friction-filled first and last mile, he noted, is what the Chairish/UPS Drop Off and Go partnership aims to eliminate.

How Drop Off And Go Works

Shipping, Brockway noted, is always a massive pain point for sellers, simply because it takes a lot of time to package something properly — and that’s if the seller knows how to do it all. Sadly, he said, the reality is not a lot of people actually know how to wrap something like an odd-shaped crystal vase or an antique floor lamp so that it will survive the shipping process.

The partnership with UPS outsources that problem to the pros who know. As the name implies, sellers can, literally, drop off their items at any one of UPS’ 4,000 locations and pay a discounted rate to have their packages wrapped and shipped to the buyer’s destination.

It is a service, Brockway noted, that sellers had been asking about for some time. In fact, many of its sellers were using a variation of the service, but paying a lot more for it.

There are size limitations to the items that qualify for this program, Brockway said. UPS does not ship oversized freight or furniture — which means Chairish sellers can’t just leave a large dining room table at their local UPS office and call it a day. But even items like a small dining room table, an end table or a lamp are eligible, which suggests that many things sold on Chairish fit within UPS’s size limitations.

“It is a major step forward for us,” he said, “and a big way we can eliminate a pain point that most of our merchants have felt in one way or another.”

The Big Hurdle: Big Items

Brockway said the program with UPS is a start, but not the last mile of shipping friction that he and his team want to tackle at Chairish.

Among the biggest pain points in shipping — particularly from marketplaces like Chairish, which sells larger items such as dining room sets, sofas and chairs — is the lack of visibility into the status of an item shipped via freight forwarding services. Those, he noted, are historically very locally based, somewhat opaque from the outside, and hard to manage but on a case-by-case basis. Most of its sellers of larger items are working with various white-glove shippers for this type of delivery.

“Those white-glove shippers are mostly made up of small companies willing to pull a truck up to a gallery and take a single piece to move either by themselves or working with others,” Brockway explained, adding that these firms have not historically been the earliest adopters of technology.

The good news is that it is getting better, Brockway said, albeit gradually, as Chairish is seeing more firms that are willing to offer real-time information or use apps and technology to track items as they make their way from stop to stop.

One of the initiatives that Chairish is now investing in is the technology that can track this data at-scale, then use it to better optimize item shipping. An important undertaking, but one that won’t happen overnight, he said.

“Uber has shown how technology can help solve an efficiency problem, by matching where people are going with where other people or things need to go,” Brockway said. “I think, ultimately, drivers will want this because it is good for them — it is a way to increase their revenue by adding items to their trip that don’t really create new costs for them.”

Where Chairish Is Going

For a lot of players, the home space is one of many places Chairish plays in — for the time being and foreseeable future, Brockway said he imagines Chairish is quite content to continue to play in and try to perfect the home space. He told Webster that, by going deep instead of broad, he thinks the firm can better work on fine-tuning those searches, so it can help customers find “exactly what they are looking for.”

One of the areas in which Chairish has found white space is art, both retro and vintage pieces, and new and up-and-coming artists not represented in galleries who take their 50-percent cut.

The goal, he said, with art — and with the rest of the site’s offerings — is giving customers a way to efficiently find unique things that make their house into a home. In its partnership with UPS, Brockway noted, Chairish can now do even better, making sure those unique things are efficiently found and efficiently putting those items in the homes of its buyers.

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