Shipping may be the most frustratingly unpredictable factor for every quality-obsessed company.
The Dutch bicycle company VanMoof grappled with this costly nuisance after seeing many of its meticulously-made commuter bikes returned due to damage en route to customers. “Too many of our bikes arrived looking like they’d been through a metal-munching combine harvester,” explained Bex Rad, the e-commerce start-up’s creative director, on the company blog.
“In the end our whole store in Brooklyn was filled up with refurbished bikes that were damaged on shipments and we had to sell them with a discount,” explained company co-founder Taco Carlier to the Independent.
The damages frustrated VanMoof’s customers and became very expensive for the eight-year-old start-up, which sells most of its bikes through its website.
But then the company came up with shipping solution—and it didn’t involve neon stickers, bubble wrap, or packing peanuts. Noting the similarity between the dimensions of its shipping boxes and those of big flatscreen televisions, VanMoof printed the silhouette of a flatscreen TV on the side of its boxes.
The illustration, which doesn’t explicitly claim the box contains a TV, still instantly signaled to handlers to be more careful with VanMoof’s packages. This simple graphic intervention resulted in a 70%–80% reduction in shipping damages, according to Rad.
VanMoof says it was planning on keep the shipping solution a secret, but the sports writer Jason Gay praised the trick on Twitter earlier this month.
“The secret’s out,” Rad writes. “Just don’t tell FedEx”