Consumers’ confidence in their ability to assemble and install oversized purchases drives their preference for delivery, FIU Business research reveals.

| By

Can I? Should I? Customers confidence in their ability to satisfactorily assemble and install bulky items purchased online is the leading driver for the way they chose to have the item delivered, new research from FIU Business shows.

As demand for oversized items continues to experience a noticeable surge driven by the convenience of e-commerce, customers’ needs have led delivery providers to incorporate value-added options and white glove service, explained Sebastian Garcia-Dastugue, assistant professor of marketing and logistics at FIU Business and one of the researchers.

“When the item is received there’s quite a bit of work, not just to move it inside the house and assembling it before it gets used,” said Garcia-Dastugue. “You can trust your ability to install it, but the capability needs to match the type of product and the type of customer; or a trained delivery person can handle it.”

Forthcoming in Transportation Journal, the research examined how varied levels of service within each of the delivery service attributes - delivery speed, delivery window, and white glove delivery service - affect the way in which consumers assign utility and preference when considering how they receive purchases of big and bulky items, such as furniture, TVs, appliances and home exercise equipment.

“Until the pandemic, you knew you would get a small box from Amazon and go to the store to buy a washing machine,” Garcia-Dastugue said. “Now you get everything online. Unpacking a large item is not as simple as opening a small parcel box, and disposing of the packaging is not trivial; it requires an effort.”

The researchers conducted a choice-based experiment with 221 participants - all customer who do or potentially will shop for big and bulky items online and have them delivered – to determine what influences their delivery selection. Results indicated that white-glove service is the largest contributing attribute at 63%, followed by delivery window at 25% and then delivery speed at 12%.

Garcia-Dastugue explained that customers reported to prefer receiving the item on the date or time promised versus receiving it quickly. “The more effort you put into the purchase, the less reliance there is on speed,” he said. “Counter to the so-called ‘Amazon effect’, where we expect everything in 48 hours, with big and bulky items people prefer white-glove service of some sort over speed.”

In a second round of surveys, participants were grouped according to whether they perceived high or low levels for each of the psychographic traits: physical effort, installation fatigue, ability to assemble and install items, and anxiety. This examined the impact each trait had on the importance of delivery speed, white glove service and the in-house location where the item would be placed. The results suggest how consumers process information pertaining to available delivery and white glove service options.

“What to one person is an unsurmountable mountain to go over, to someone else is something simple,” said Garcia-Dastugue. “That’s what’s interesting about the study.”

The findings, he noted, showcase the benefits white glove service can provide for retailers and delivery service providers, an opportunity to stand out in saturated markets.

A report from the National Home Delivery Association estimated revenue for last-mile delivery of big and bulky items at $9.3 billion in 2022 and forecasts annual growth rate of 11.8% through 2025.

“In general terms, white glove service for big and bulky items is relevant, and people are willing to pay an additional cost, but retailers cannot offer the same level of service to every,” Garcia-Dastugue said. “Each retailer or service provider needs to experiment, or research in some other way, how the items they sell fit with their target customers. At the end of the day, the business fundamentals hold: understand your customer needs, segment your customers, and design a service offering that matches each customer segment.”

Garcia-Dastugue conducted the research with Marc Scott of University of Arkansas, Christopher Boone of Mississippi State University, and Matthew Jenkins of East Tennessee State University.

Reference: Marc A. Scott, Christopher A. Boone, Matthew T. Jenkins and Sebastián García-Dastugue. 2024. “Investigating the Effects of Customer Traits on Preference for Last-Mile Delivery Service Attributes: When the Product Introduces a Task.” Transportation Journal 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1002/tjo3.12003