Retailers have a huge opportunity to increase their bottom line by breaking into new markets. But executing a cross-border eCommerce strategy is one of the most challenging aspects of retail expansion.
However, with a well considered strategy, the right tools, and can-do approach, many of the barriers to online retail expansion can be overcome.
Here we consider five of the most common cross-border delivery challenges for brands, and how to navigate them.
Barrier #1: Local carriers can’t be integrated
Breaking into new markets requires a clear and focused strategy – part of which includes deciding what countries present the biggest opportunities for your product offering. But what happens when the reach of your existing carrier network doesn’t extend as far as one of those promising markets?
This is exactly what happened when British discount fashion brand Everything 5 Pounds spotted a potential gap in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. While local shippers were offering competitive shipping rates, the retailer’s existing technology didn’t offer a clear or smooth integration with these carriers. Many brands would stick a pin in their expansion aspirations upon discovering this, but E5P decided to make some technology tweaks that really paid off.
When you work with the right delivery management platform provider that supports your international retail expansion plans, bespoke integrations with obscure carriers aren’t impossible – they’re commonplace.
Read the full Everything5Pounds customer story here.
Barrier #2: Expanding your carrier network
You might be used to having a single carrier that fulfils all of your online orders. However, launching your products in new markets almost certainly means widening your carrier network. The tricky part is the time it can take to integrate new carriers into existing warehouse management and logistics systems.
It could mean missing the boat on peak sales opportunities. For example, an online brand that sells sunscreen has a very narrow window of time before and during the summer season to maximise sales. Any delays in integrating with relevant international or local carriers could easily mean that the opportunity could be missed for another year.
By implementing a solution that gives you instant access to hundreds of carriers around the world, and also maintains connectivity to those carriers – you can start delivering internationally without delay.
Barrier #3: Labelling issues and cross-border delays
Booking labels can be tricky when your products are available in a single country, let alone when you’re shipping internationally. If customs documents are required, an additional three pages are generally required to be printed in addition to the shipping label itself.
It’s not sustainable to manage this labelling process manually, logging into multiple carrier interfaces to generate labels or transferring shipping data into varying carrier templates. Shipping labels can also fail due to skewed information, or orders can be delayed due to missing or incomplete customs documents.
With a delivery management platform, retailers can automate the entire labelling process. By setting up specific rules for each carrier, and amalgamating customs papers with shipping labels, you don’t have to worry about printing multiple documents for a single overseas order. That way, delivery delays are, in turn, avoided.
Barrier #4: Limited tracking of overseas packages
WISMO queries tend to dominate a customer service team’s workload. Not having access to last mile delivery information for multiple countries can cripple your support resources, and have a negative effect on the overall customer experience.
From the customer’s perspective, there could be a heightened anxiety around delivery, having ordered from an online store outside of their home country. Therefore it’s imperative for tracking information to be available for customers through the entire delivery journey.
When APIs feed real-time tracking information into a delivery management platform, retailers can easily provide comprehensive tracking information to customers – no matter where they are in the world.
Barrier #5: Optimising carrier selection for cost savings
It can be incredibly difficult to know which carrier is the most cost effective option to use when you’re dealing with international orders at scale. Trying to optimise carrier selection for each order manually isn’t feasible. Many brands try to overcome the challenge by choosing one or two carriers to cover as much delivery ground as possible. The trouble with this is that it can really eat into your profit margins, and generally doesn’t help your brand in becoming more sustainable.
Looking at Everything 5 Pounds as an example – for a brand whose margins are razor thin, spending a huge amount of money on international shipping due to limited carrier options would simply mean that the retailer couldn’t afford to sell in multiple markets.
However, by bringing the right delivery management platform into the mix, E5P now works with 12 or more carriers in the UK and Europe at any given time – all of which must operate 24/7/365. This is possible due to smart configurations within the platform that determine what the most appropriate and cost effective carrier is for each individual order.
International retail expansion isn’t easy, but it’s clear that as the UK’s domestic market stagnates in the aftermath of the pandemic boom, it is a top priority. The good news is that the delivery piece doesn’t have to be a barrier, instead it can be a gateway to a world of new opportunity.