Furniture sales in the UK are looking healthy.

Industry reports from World Furniture Online, pointed to the UK as the second largest consumer of furniture in Western Europe (which, itself, is responsible for over 20% of furniture consumption worldwide). Figures from the ONS also show a steady year-on-year increase (2.9%) of retail sale of furniture, lighting and household articles at the close of 2016.

So far, so good.

But the landscape of furniture purchase and delivery is changing, and buying furniture online is more common than ever.

More and more, millennials are shopping online, according to the CBRE Last Mile / City Logistics Report. That is to say, the people who are coming to the traditional age of homemakers (and therefore, furniture buying), are increasingly likely to make those purchases online.

Meanwhile, the percentage of consumers citing furniture as amongst the items they are least likely to have delivered, has fallen to just 10%, down from 23% in 2012, and, according to Temando’s annual State of Shipping in eCommerce report, 40% of furniture and home retailers’ sales are now made online.

The CBRE Last Mile / City Logistics Report also noted that millennials tend to opt for home delivery.

The report also pointed out that millennials are notoriously impatient – we’re living in the age of instant gratification, ‘uberification’ and same-day delivery. But these delivery options don’t really translate to furniture retail, where big-ticket items are manufactured on-demand, with long lead-times, and fitted by experts.

It is also commonly understood that this group – millennials – value service and experiences highly. Offering the best service, and the simplest delivery option, for long-lead-time items may be the way to win millennial spend on furniture.

With much of furniture shopping being conducted online and fulfilled by 3PLs, any retailers and distributors fulfilling their own orders with their own drivers in their own vehicles have the opportunity to differentiate on service.

How do you ensure that you’re offering the best possible service in the last mile of furniture efulfilment?

Invest in hiring reliable customer-facing staff, and in giving them the tools to provide great service.

These tools include elements of delivery management software, like driver tracking (via a mobile app), combined with a cloud-based system which constantly keeps both customers and back-office staff updated on a delivery location.

A simple way to electronically record proof of delivery adds to the ease of customer service – less time is wasted, customer signature and details (like address) are seurely stored, and updates are immediate.

Inbound Logistics also remind us of the importance of getting the basics of delivery service right: “they must be well-trained; use lift gates, gloves, and shoe covers; and have the ability to forecast and meet delivery windows” (though forecasting and meeting delivery windows is no longer an issue with software like STREAM, which tracks drivers via GPS and keeps customers updated via a customer tracking screen and email or SMS updates).

Using delivery, vehicle and order management software that streamlines and reduces resources spent on repetitive or low-value tasks, like route planning, filing ePODs and fielding multiple calls between customers, drivers, partners and back-office staff, simultaneously increases the levels of customer service, whilst cutting down on wasted resources.

In the last mile of furniture delivery, service is everything – give your drivers, and customer service staff, the tools to help and delight your customers.