What's the best way to ship a pool table you bought on ebay directly to your house? How about a 3D Printer? What about a couch from Wayfair? When it comes right down to it, you have two options: LTL or whiteglove. As more of ecommerce shades direct to consumer the transportation industry has some strides to make to catch up. This also has implications for the myriad of businesses now run from a residence.
Existing ecommerce solutions for shipping large items (freight) are not great. Here’s why: You have to choose between fast & cost effective and expensive. You can't have it all. And in the Amazon-era that's what consumers expect. But, there is not a complete end-to-end solution for the masses that can competitively deliver large items directly into consumers’ homes at this point. Here are some well known examples hiding in plain sight:
Ebay: Does not offer an integrated service for large “freight” type items like they do with small packages on UPS, USPS & Fedex. They have some sort of loose partnership to the freight bidding site, UShip, but basically you're on your own. Good luck with that.
Wayfair: Uses both LTL carriers and whiteglove carriers but dresses them both up in different fancy outfits to stretch two options into 7. Let me nerd out for a minute and break this down directly from their shipping page (Bold is theirs, italic is mine.):
Curbside (You Unload): LTL (standard service w/ residential delivery)
Curbside (We Unload): LTL (standard service w/ residential & liftgate delivery)
Outside Front Door Drop-Off: LTL (inside delivery w/ residential & liftgate delivery)
Inside Home Entrance Drop-Off: LTL (2 man inside delivery w/ residential & liftgate delivery)
Room of Choice Delivery: Whiteglove (standard service, 2 dudes & a truck)
Room of Choice Delivery & Packaging Removal: Whiteglove (w/ debris removal service)
All-Inclusive Delivery & Assembly: Whiteglove (w/ debris removal & assembly service)
Amazon: "Prime" is not an option for "freight" items. The prime button is conveniently missing from anything that won't work on UPS, Fedex or USPS parcel services. Instead the sellers offer their own delivery solution. Again, you have a choice of fast/cheap to "the first dry area of your lawn" LTL or slow/expensive whiteglove services.
LTL carriers aren't geared towards residential deliveries and frankly they’re not that good at it 😱😬. Nor do they want to be, that's not their focus. "Residential Delivery" charges are currently sky-rocketing as a result. But, there are LTL carriers with whiteglove-esque solutions. Estes & XPO Logistics both come to mind. In both cases these are separate business units within these companies and add additional time and hands into the mix. (Note: XPO has a dedicated end-to-end whiteglove solution which is not connected to it's LTL system and to my knowledge is (key) account-specific only. An example is Peloton which falls on the high cost side of my model).
Whiteglove services provide a viable last mile solution but they still function as an additional connection from the linehaul (LTL in this case) carrier to get the goods from warehouse to final mile carrier. So the delivery chain looks like this: Warehouse ➡️ LTL➡️ Whiteglove ➡️ Customer. It works but it's far from an ideal solution.
For now, the best solution, in my experience, has been the above, connecting the existing pieces together. You can optimize and find the best combination of both to achieve the closest to the desired result. There is still a long way to go and I look forward to it's development but for now the consumer will be stuck with the choice of fast/cheap or expensive.