Retailers large and small struggle with the costs and complexities of the “last mile.” S&S Fire Pits, which delivers its products all over the southeast U.S., has opted for a gig economy-style solution that saves the company 30% on shipping costs. Even better, it has provided S&S with greater control over the delivery process and an improved customer experience.
S&S has used Roadie for deliveries of its hand-crafted steel fire pits, which weigh 180 pounds each, since early 2015. The Roadie app connects shippers with drivers who bid on each “Gig,” similar to the Uber business model. Shippers can review a prospective driver’s ratings before agreeing to an assignment. The app also provides shippers with real-time tracking of each delivery on their own mobile devices. Roadie provides $500 of insurance on each assignment, with options to purchase higher amounts for more valuable items.
“With traditional shipping companies, once I drop it off I’m at the mercy of a tracking number,” said Andy Stivers, Co-Founder of S&S Fire Pits in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “I have to log in and track it, and it’s never up to date. With Roadie, it’s a really personal experience: I always know where the driver is and I can communicate directly with him. The drivers also have all the customer information, so they can communicate directly with them as well.”
Previous Shipping Costs Ran 3X Higher Than Product Prices
The 30% savings was the initial incentive for S&S to try Roadie, which had struggled with shipping costs that were sometimes three times more than the cost of the items themselves. Stivers and his partners began by delivering the products themselves, but as their business grew this option took too much time away from building and selling the fire pits at their headquarters in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, Ga.
The personal element of the Roadie delivery model has turned out to be a welcome benefit for S&S Fire Pits. “I’m a big proponent of communication,” said Stivers. “One thing I’ve learned is that people don’t like surprises; they would rather have a phone call telling them that a delivery is running late. The app is designed so that everyone is involved, and can communicate if something comes up. That’s an asset to me.”
Even for smaller items and closer deliveries, such as within the Atlanta metro area, S&S will often opt for Roadie over more established package delivery companies. “Our customers sometimes want something at the last minute, and it’s not cost-effective for me to drive it to them,” said Stivers. “But with what Roadie charges locally, it works for us — and it will usually be there before it would have been if I had sent it via FedEx.”
S&S also values the agility and service commitment of Roadie drivers. “We ourselves will go on the road to home shows and festivals approximately 25 to 30 weekends per year to promote our company,” said Stivers. “We went to a three-day event in Greenville, S.C. and almost sold out of the stock we had brought the first day. I was able to coordinate with a Roadie driver to meet my partner at our shop first thing Saturday morning so that he could bring us 10 more fire pits.
“That would never happen with a freight company, and even if it did it would cost a gazillion dollars,” Stivers added. “That’s happened at least two or three other times as well.”