Trade Thoughts: Can dropshipping work in the mobility sector?
Dropshipping is the practice of a retailer acceping customer orders on goods that it does not have in stock, with a supplier taking care of delivery on their behalf. THIIS asked some industry insiders to discuss their thoughts about the use of dropshipping in the mobility and access sector.
All thoughts were submitted to THIIS in September 2021…
Mark Diaj, Managing Director of Able2
“In short, yes. Simple products that are easy to ship are the mainstay of the Able2 product range, and these are the products where Drop Shipping on behalf of our customers can work well. Here at Able2, Drop Shipping has been a service we’ve offered our customers for many years; going so far as to provide a more personalised service including tailored Dispatch Notes to ensure that our customer’s name is front and centre at all times.
“Whilst readily offering Drop Shipping services to our customers can potentially make us a more attractive supply partner – someone who responds to deeper customer needs – the day-to-day benefits are really all about our customers’ experiences.
“The Able2 product catalogue runs to thousands of unique SKUs. Far more than any mobility store can stock. By offering a Drop Shipping service we offer our customers the opportunity to sell all of these products in store and online without having to physically carry the stock on-site. This means they can offer an enhanced range of products that they are then able to have delivered directly to their customers’ front doors: ultimate convenience for the end-user; and a unique selling point to set them apart on the mobility retailer stage.
“Offering a delivery service is a massive consideration for any retailer. From choosing a delivery partner to arranging pick-up to tracking delivery, this service has a number of facets that the shop owner will need to consider. By engaging with us we are able to take care of that; using our long-standing relationships with our chosen partners to provide a reliable, cost-effective and timely service on their behalf.”
Carol Elliot, Manager of City Mobility
“As we specialise in selling scooters and powerchairs we believe the customer should have a full test drive and demo of the product and have been assessed as competent to use it ahead of ordering, so this isn’t conducive to drop shipping. Just because you don’t have a stock item doesn’t mean you don’t have the product as a demo item.
“We receive the order into our workshop as it usually requires a part-build and we like to give it the once over to make sure it as ordered and in working order. And the customer usually welcomes a reminder of the controls on delivery as well.
“We only have an arrangement with one of our suppliers of ready built very lightweight products to drop ship but then only if the customer is happy to do this (they also get the option to have us deliver to them having removed all packaging and checked the item over) but most choose not to have it drop shipped.
“Given that City Mobility covers 41,000Km2 we are open to other suppliers having an item sent to us to build/deliver on their behalf so the customer gets a full handover. A lot of couriers won’t ship directly to postcodes in our area anyway without hefty surcharges so this partnership arrangement can work as we cover every corner!
“We had a customer once who we spent time with demo’ing the product and he then decided to order it online to save a few pounds. He came in with his tail between his legs asking for help as the product had arrived damaged and he had to deal with the courier’s insurance to get a repair price.”
Alastair Gibbs, Managing Director of TPG DisableAids
“Drop shipping in the mobility sector has always been a bone of contention. The biggest issue from my point of view is deciding which specific products are able to be drop shipped successfully and which are not due to the requirements of assessment and set up with the customer.
“I have no problem in sending small, non prescriptive, non invasive products by drop shipping. It often means that the client gets the product they require quicker than being sent from a small retailer that may not have it on the shelf. This also clearly reduces the value of stock levels that need to be held by the small retailer.
“However, as soon as the product is one that has the requirement of face to face assessment and requires the skill and judgement of the retailer to ensure that it is not only the correct size or shape. But also is set up or adjusted correctly to ensure no harm is caused to the client or their carers, then there is a real problem with drop shipping.
“A simple tap turner or a pair of wide slippers is one thing, but a pressure relieving wheelchair cushion, for example, is a different matter. If the cushion were the wrong size or the wheelchair arms were not adjusted to create the correct seat to arm height then a windswept spinal condition can actually be created. This can have long lasting physical effects as well as causing back pain to the user. Resulting in an unhappy client and long term damaged caused.
“Mobility scooters and power chairs are very clearly not on the list of products that a responsible BHTA retailer should consider sending via drop shipping unless they are prepared to be at the clients house to receive them and set them up. Then train the client in the safe use of the product.”
David Morgan, Managing Director of Snowdrop Independent Living
“Drop shipping could definitely work in the mobility sector, as long as it’s used to improve customer experience instead of cost-cutting! We serve customers in both physical retail settings and online, drop-shipping service works well when it comes to products that solve simple problems such as jar opener or handi-reacher. With the current shortage of many items in the mobility industry, drop-shipping can speed up the logistic process and make sure the customer receives essential aids without additional delay.
“We strongly believe in understanding the needs of the customer so we provide only the most appropriate products. This means we normally go through a consultation process before purchases are made by our customers.
“Coming out of lockdown over the months, seeing a rapid recovery gave us even more confidence in the way we operate. For assessment-led items, a drop-shipping service would not be suitable as it takes away the opportunity for us to ensure the product is right for the customer’s personal needs, storage requirement and lifestyle.
“Using a drop-shipping service sometimes also means a missed opportunity to engage with the customer through delivery, branded packaging and the chance to understand if there are other ways in which we can help. This is why assessing each case when it comes to drop-shipping is important. A white label service would definitely make any supplier’s drop-shipping service offer more attractive.”
Mark Duffield, General Manager of Karma Mobility
“In the internet age there are so many things that can be done online conveniently, but from my point of view supplying a product is the easy part, assessments, maintenance and after sales care are more difficult to provide, particularly if the product is supplied a long distance from the retailer.
“I have been asked on more than one occasion to recommend a wheelchair or even powered wheelchair over the phone or by e-mail without even seeing the user. We have even had complaints on Facebook for not doing so.
“I am sure that these customers would be the first to complain if the product they purchased was not right for them. I am also certain that these customers would benefit from an assessment and discussing their requirements, to make sure they are getting the most suitable product for their needs.
“In addition, our products are designed to last and given that they have a long lifespan they are likely to need aftersales care over the course of their lifetime, I do not think any products designed for moving people around are maintenance free.
“Retailers with showrooms are used to offering servicing and repairs for wheelchairs but I do not think it is something consumers consider or value until they need assistance.”https://thiis.co.uk/trade-thoughts-can-dropshipping-work-in-the-mobility-sector/https://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/602d22021b418900f2b7121f_how-to-start-a-dropshipping-business.jpghttps://thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/602d22021b418900f2b7121f_how-to-start-a-dropshipping-business-150x150.jpgAnalysis & InsightsNewsroomTrade Thoughtsaccess,dropshipping,goods,Mobility,retail,SupplierDropshipping is the practice of a retailer acceping customer orders on goods that it does not have in stock, with a supplier taking care of delivery on their behalf. THIIS asked some industry insiders to discuss their thoughts about the use of dropshipping in the mobility and access sector. All...Liane McIvorLiane McIvorliane@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine