S&S Firepits ignites a quality customer experience with app-based delivery

| by Judy Mottl
S&S Firepits ignites a quality customer experience with app-based delivery

Shown, left to right, are Andy Stivers, co-owner and general manager; Bill Speer, co-owner and production manager and Romie Amerson, production and sales. Photo courtesy of S&S Firepits.

One big retail customer experience trend hitting hard and fast this holiday season is meeting a shopper's expectations when it comes to delivery. Consumers want it fast and cheap, as a Dropoff data report reveals, with 60 percent of holiday shoppers more likely to buy from retailers offering same-day delivery. And that figure gets even higher for those doing last minute shopping.

But that isn't new news to one Georgia-based retailer which learned early on how delivery not only impacts customer satisfaction but can impact the bottom line just as quickly.


In fact, Speer and Stivers Firepits (S&S Firepits) realized how critical delivery played into business operations when sales of its custom-made outdoor steel fire pits began to take off shortly after the business was born several years ago. While orders steadily increased from customers in the Southeast region, getting the pits to customers in a quick and cost-effective way became a challenge.


Initially the business did its own delivery, which meant whoever was delivering couldn't be at the front end crafting the fire pits or selling product, explained S&S Firepits Co-Founder Andy Stivers. The retailer investigated potential solutions, such as freight delivery options, and found the shipping cost would be three times more the cost of the fire pit being delivered. The retailer's product portfolio includes over a dozen fire pits ranging from a 30-inch, 80-pound pit selling for $325 to a mega 42-inch fire pit, weighing 140 pounds and selling for $825.


Then came Roadie.


Now S&S Firepits not only gets product to customers fast and cut its initial shipping costs more than 30 percent, it is keeping its focus on sales and product design, and developing stronger customer relationships  — all while driving revenue growth.


Roadie is an app-based shipping community that came into play in the Southeast in January 2015 and became available to retailers and businesses in all 50 states just three months later. It was founded on a southern hospitality notion: neighbors helping neighbors.


Basically the app-based service connects people needing to send or deliver an item with on-the-road drivers going to or near the product's destination — taking advantage of what Roadie claims is more than 1 billion square feet of excess capacity in passenger vehicles traveling U.S. roadways. Roadie has nearly 50,000 drivers nationwide providing a photographic chain of custody, real-time tracking and security code delivery service. Senders and receivers can track delivery in real-time via a smartphone, and Roadie offers automatic product protection and delivery coverage.


S&S Firepits learned about Roadie at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival in 2015 where it was displaying fire pits for sale.


"Meeting them turned out to be perfect timing as we were starting to ship more, doing our own deliveries, and battling the headaches of trying to find a freight company," Stivers told Retail Customer Experience in an email interview. "Before you know it, we hit it off and realized how well the Roadie fits into our business model. We were searching for something like Roadie to save us time and money, and it's worked out great ever since."


As Stivers explained, his company was facing lots of calls for long haul shipping soon after launch and were handling local deliveries on its own. When it did use a freight service, it found it hard to track products and provide customers with exact delivery information.


"When you run a business, the more efficient you can be, the better. I only have so much time in the day to handle the ins and outs of sales, operations and creating the product itself. So, every minute we spent on the road delivering fire pits meant less time to build and sell product — and ultimately, less time to grow the business. That just wasn't going to work for us, so we decided to look for a different solution and found Roadie," said Stivers.


The biggest return on investment is tied to product price and ease of delivery, which proved to be a game changer, said Stivers.


"We've saved 30 percent in shipping costs since switching to Roadie over freight shippers. And because the app offers flat rate pricing, we can offer our customers same-day and next-day delivery without any extra cost," he noted, adding the app also provides greater control over the delivery process, has helped S&S Firepits simplify operations and built a stronger connection with customers.


"And even more than that, Roadie has a given our customers a personalized experience they wouldn't be able to get anywhere else. The app is designed so that everyone is involved and can communicate if something comes up — and that's an asset to us," the co-founder shared.


Now, after a few years of using Roadie, S&S Firepits is realizing even greater benefits from the app-based service such as assistance with inventory rebalancing and operations.


"For example, we go on the road to home shows and festivals about 25 to 30 weekends per year to promote our company. Those shows make up a chunk of our sales, so it's important that we always bring enough fire pits," said Stivers, noting the company recently went to a 3-day event in Greenville, South Carolina and almost sold out the first day.


"Without Roadie, we would've had to pack up and go home. But we were able to coordinate with a Roadie driver to meet my partner at our shop in Atlanta first thing Saturday morning, so the Roadie could bring us 10 more fire pits. We sold every one of them and made thousands more than we expected."


While there are plenty of delivery service options available to retailers, Stivers said that if Roadie can handle his company's unique and heavy products, it's a great option for other retailers to consider.


"Freight companies are helpful from time to time, but you'd never get the same cost savings and personalization that Roadie provides. If Roadie can affordably ship 180-pound steel fire pits with ease and efficiency, then they could help any business send anything from furniture to artwork to flowers," he said.

Topics: CRM, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Merchandising, Omnichannel / Multichannel, Online Retailing, Supply Chain

Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

wwwView Judy Mottl's profile on LinkedIn

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