The types of items you can order online seem limitless. While most eCommerce packages still weigh in at a pound or less, the upper limit for bigger items keeps expanding. It’s now commonplace for consumers to shop for mattresses, large furniture items, and bicycles online and have these oversized eCommerce items delivered to their doors.
Consumers have become more willing to make large purchases without first seeing the product in person. The logistics of bulky and heavy shipping have evolved to make oversized eCommerce a realistic option for more online retailers. ECommerce fulfillment has also developed processes to make it easier to ship large products.
We spoke with Sam Hughett, Site Manager for Red Stag Fulfillment’s Knoxville warehouses, about the rise of oversized eCommerce and strategies for oversized fulfillment.
What is oversized eCommerce?
Oversized eCommerce is online sales and shipping of large, heavy, or bulky products. Several factors can place a product into an oversized category for purposes of shipping.
One way to define oversized shipping is using the parameters set by FedEx and UPS. Both carriers add additional handling surcharges to items that fall into their oversized package categories.
Both FedEx and UPS consider packages that weigh more than 50 pounds (23 kg) to be oversized and apply additional handling surcharges to them. Packages with an actual weight of 70 pounds (32 kg) or more require an overweight sticker. If your package weighs more than 150 pounds (68 kg), the major carriers will either refuse to take your item or slap on a surcharge of $600 for shipping over the maximum limits. If your products are very heavy or large, you’ll need to find alternative shipping modes. Red Stag Fulfillment helps our clients find the best ways to ship to their customers at any weight.
Boxes with a length of more than 108 inches (257 cm) or a combined length and girth of more than 118 inches (300 cm) are subject to a large package surcharge from UPS. The maximum oversized box size for UPS is 157 inches (400 cm). FedEx adds additional handling to boxes where the longest side measures at least 48 inches (122 cm) or the second longest side measures 30 inches (76 cm) or more.
Dimensional weight is a measure applied to heavy packages. These boxes don’t have to be oversized, but large items are more likely to be subject to DIM weight pricing. The major carriers use a formula to calculate dimensional “weight” based on the dimensions of the package. If the DIM weight is greater than the actual weight, you’ll be charged for the dimensional weight of the package, increasing your shipping costs.
Your order fulfillment company can help you minimize shipping costs for large and heavy items. It’s important to work with a 3PL that has experience shipping oversized eCommerce products, such as Red Stag Fulfillment.
For eCommerce businesses that sell oversized products, Hughett says that it’s important to understand the limitations that UPS and FedEx impose on the size and weight of packages. For international companies who want to use North American fulfillment centers to ship to U.S. consumers, he advises studying carrier rules and charges.
“We’ll figure out a way to ship,” Hughett said. “After we ship, it’s out of our hands.”
Trends in oversized shipping
“We’ve definitely seen an uptick,” Hughett said. “We’re seeing our product mix grow.” He has seen companies shipping office chairs, gaming chairs, inflatable paddle boards, bikes, exercise equipment, and more directly to consumers.
Consumers are more willing to purchase oversized products online. “There’s a lot of potential out there for entrepreneurs to sell heavier, bulkier things through eCommerce,” Hughett said.
Taking advantage of online D2C sales has been particularly important during the past year when many brick-and-mortar retail outlets were closed and many customers avoided in-person shopping. The trends that began during the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to continue into the future. Consumers have become more comfortable with online shopping and the convenience of eCommerce, which is good news for businesses that sell oversized products.
4 tips for shipping oversized products
The key to a successful oversized eCommerce enterprise is finding the right packing and shipping options. Here are four ways to optimize your oversized shipping.
Invest in good packaging
Don’t cut corners on your packaging. This is vital, particularly if your products are expensive. Since most oversized products are shipped in the factory package without overboxing, investing in really good packaging ensures that they arrive undamaged.
Hughett noted that Red Stag Fulfillment has had to repackage products for clients whose boxes couldn’t survive shipping. This is much more expensive than starting out with higher-quality packaging in the manufacturing process.
Test your packaging
Red Stag Fulfillment helps clients assess the durability of their packaging during the onboarding process. If boxes are starting to cave in just sitting in the warehouse, that’s a sign that there’s more work to be done. “Usually, you can tell just by how it stacks,” Hughett said.
However, he noted that it’s not that hard to get the packaging right for oversized eCommerce. “If you’re starting out, pack it the way you would want it to be packed and send it across the country as a test,” Hughett suggested. That will uncover weaknesses in your packaging. Red Stag Fulfillment will often do a test shipment between its Salt Lake City and Knoxville warehouses for new clients.
Consider LTL freight to consumer shipping
UPS and FedEx standard shipping aren’t the only choices for oversized products. Less than truckload (LTL) freight shipping can deliver bulky and heavy products right to customers’ doorsteps. Hughett noted that Red Stag Fulfillment regularly ships oversized packages via LTL freight, particularly if items weigh more than 150 pounds.
There are some limits on LTL residential deliveries because of the logistics of maneuvering and unloading large trucks in residential neighborhoods. Your 3PL company can help you figure out the most cost-effective way to ship your products.
Create a reverse logistics process that can handle oversized returns
One of the essential questions that eCommerce shoppers ask before they buy is how returns will be handled. This question is even more important for oversized products.
Your customer may not be able to easily re-box an oversized item to return it, so your returns process will be more than labeling a box and dropping it off with a carrier. You may need to send a different type of carrier to process an oversized return than you used for outbound shipping. Work with your fulfillment company to develop a robust reverse logistics process that gives your customers confidence while controlling your costs.
Work with a 3PL that can adapt to your oversized shipping needs
Oversized eCommerce requires special handling. You need a 3PL that does more than one-size-fits-all fulfillment. Your packages might need extra bubble wrap, corner protectors on pallets, or extra banding for secure shipping.
“RSF deals with a lot of special packaging requests,” Hughett said. You need to find a fulfillment partner that’s willing to meet your needs. You’ll more than make up the extra cost to ship your products safely by saving on returns of damaged goods.
Hughett noted that Red Stag Fulfillment has a track record of excellence in oversized eCommerce fulfillment because it is willing to go the extra mile for its clients. Flexibility to meet each company’s needs for packaging and shipping is vital to effective oversized shipping.
Finding the right partner is vital to your successful oversized eCommerce business
Oversized eCommerce is more doable today than ever before, and it’s likely to get even easier in the future. If you think carefully about your packaging and shipping options, you can run a profitable business selling large or bulky products direct to consumers. The right 3PL can help you troubleshoot your oversized packing and shipping, reducing costly trial and error.
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we are the industry leader in oversized fulfillment. We have helped our clients grow their oversized eCommerce businesses. Drop us a line to find out how we can help you overcome your oversized shipping challenges.
More about shipping oversized eCommerce orders:
- Package Consolidation: What It Is and How It Saves You Money
- The Impact of Product Size and Weight on EFulfillment Partnerships
- How Direct-to-Consumer Fulfillment Can Protect Growth