Smooth parcel delivery can be complex at the best of times but add to the challenge of cross border shipping and Brexit, and the task becomes positively labyrinthine.
This complexity, along with the lack of clarity retailers received in the run-up to the agreement, has meant that even some of the smartest merchants have been tripped up by Brexit, affecting their cross border trade.
The eCommerce boom
eCommerce has seen explosive growth in the last year, the equivalent of 5 years worth in the space of 12 months. (IMRG) Online sales accounted for 35.2% of all retail in the UK in January 2021, this is a record high, beating last May’s peak of 34.1%. (ONS)
Cross Border eCommerce sales also grew in 2020, the UK was the third most shopped market for international online purchases, surpassed only by China and the US. 68% of shoppers made eCommerce purchases outside their home country in 2020. (Internet retailing) There is huge growth potential for overseas trade for retailers who can overcome the current challenges.
This acceleration of eCommerce’s maturity, fuelled by the pandemic, has fundamentally shifted the level of complexity under which retailers must operate. The volume of parcels retailers must deliver has risen dramatically and customer expectations have risen alongside.
A year on from the start of the pandemic, the habit of online shopping has become deeply entrenched with customers.
Customers demand reliability and transparency, (more so than speed) of their parcel deliveries, any disruption to this crucial component has a major impact on customer trust, profitability and business growth. Delivery is a ‘mission critical’ aspect of eCommerce.
The impact of Brexit on logistics
In the much-prolonged run-up to Brexit, many merchants became, understandably, fatigued with the uncertainty regarding the terms the UK would leave the EU on.
Once Covid hit any available bandwidth that was devoted to that with many retailers simply burying their head in the sand when it came to Brexit, hoping it might just go away.
Alas, Covid did not cancel Brexit and the initial impact has been a messy one for many. Post-Brexit Cross Border shipping has been challenging enough to overwhelm even the toughest retailers.
Some merchants cut trading altogether to EU countries including Ireland and Northern Ireland. Other merchants have experienced goods stuck at customs, bouncing back from EU country to the UK and back again as well as unpredictable duties.
It was reported that there was a 40.7% drop in exports from the UK to the EU in January. (ONS.)
Some UK companies are starting to getting over the initial shock of the Brexit reality check and are beginning to adjust after the temporary dip in trading but many still need help in the area of cross border shipping.
Right now, many merchants are unable to specify fixed prices for shipping for their cross-border customers due to unexpected customs duties or estimate the correct delivery times due to hold-ups at customs.
Leveraging tech solutions to overcome complexity
Understanding the changes required by post-Brexit shipping for internal systems is one thing but implementing and tracking them across all to the relevant systems is incredibly challenging for merchants.
The sheer complexity is leading even the most accomplished eCommerce retailers to consider how they can benefit from outsourcing their multi-carrier shipping technology.
Retailers should not be afraid to leverage the available retail tech solutions and partners to help them maximise the opportunity of EU trading.
Partnering with delivery management experts brings a level of simplicity and agility to operations that can bring benefits across the whole business.