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Creating a Successful Fulfillment Infrastructure for Cross-Border Commerce

By: Ted Rogers
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When expanding your ecommerce brand internationally, you need to fully prepare for complexity, particularly when it comes to fulfillment and logistics. Taxes, import and export regulations and unique cultural preferences can make cross-border fulfillment especially challenging. Not to mention the fact that last mile delivery can make or break your customers’ buying experience and be the difference between a one-time purchase and a repeat customer.

Bottom line: finding a partner that can support your company’s specific needs and facilitate seamless cross-border fulfillment and logistics is key to your success. Explore this guide to global fulfillment infrastructure to understand the crucial role of fulfillment, cross-border shipping options and what to look for in a logistics partner that will support your ecommerce growth.

Fulfillment and the Customer Experience

For starters, it’s important to recognize just how important fulfillment is to your overall brand experience. Here’s what the numbers say:

  • 74% of online shoppers say that free shipping is one of the most important factors at checkout.
  • Over 84% of shoppers are unlikely to make another purchase from a brand following a poor delivery experience, and 98% say delivery is essential for brand loyalty.
  • 38% of online shoppers will abandon their order if the delivery will take longer than a week. Another study says 63% of global shoppers expect their orders within just 3 days.
  • 83% of shoppers expect a guaranteed delivery date and 80% want a time slot of when their order is expected to arrive.

Many shoppers will research delivery options before reaching checkout, showing just how important fulfillment is in a buyer’s decision-making process and why getting fulfillment right is critical for the success of your ecommerce business. To do that, you will not only need to structure your organization’s fulfillment infrastructure correctly, but also manage customer expectations appropriately to create a positive overall experience.

Two options for Global Ecommerce: Cross-border vs. Local Shipping

When expanding your ecommerce business globally, you have two options for shipping into new international markets: cross-border and local shipping.

Cross-border shipping is the most common approach to global ecommerce fulfillment. In this model, businesses are able to keep their inventory in their home country and work to develop solutions to efficiently ship orders to customers across borders. An effective cross-border logistics program enables businesses to expand the reach of their ecommerce business, without necessarily expanding their physical footprint.

Of course, cross-border logistics is not without its challenges. Selling across borders requires not only understanding different customer expectations but overcoming ever-changing tax, customs and compliance hurdles. Without the right logistics network or fulfillment infrastructure in place, the costs imposed by cross-border shipping may be passed on to consumers and negatively impact revenue. Likewise, a substandard customer experience can harm retention.

Local or in-country shipping, then, is much like it sounds: this fulfillment model requires that organizations possess the inventory and infrastructure to ship from within their destination countries. Often, a local model can improve delivery times, enhance customer experiences, and cut costs for businesses. However, it requires the expansion of not just shopping experiences but storage and staging infrastructure.

Cross-border Ecommerce Fulfillment Best Practices

Regardless of which model your business uses to get its products in the hands of customers around the globe, certain things hold true. Follow these best practices to make the most of your global ecommerce fulfillment infrastructure.

Setting expectations is critical

These days, as the data shows, customers crave transparency when it comes to shipping and delivery. People understand there may be delays in receiving their orders, but they want to know exactly how long, and they want that information up front. So, setting expectations as early as possible in the customer journey is the best way to increase both customer satisfaction and conversion rates.

Consider listing delivery estimates directly on the product page, and make it clear what the cut-off dates are for ensuring delivery by the holidays. List fulfillment options before customers reach the checkout page to help reduce cart abandonment. But most importantly, make sure all fulfillment information is clear and current, and be sure to stay in constant communication after a purchase to update customers on when their product will arrive.

Maintaining transparency and strong customer communication will help alleviate any ambiguity and create a better overall experience for your customers.

Optimizing Reverse Logistics

Part of setting expectations is having a clear return policy posted on your ecommerce site. Customers who aren’t familiar with your brand will look for this information, often before making a purchase. Consequently, to increase conversions, you need to satisfy that search with clear, concise information.

The cost of returns domestically is a fraction of what it is internationally, so you need to do your best to fulfill orders accurately and mitigate returns as much as possible. But when they do happen, optimizing your reverse logistics processes can go a long way to ensure happy customers. In fact, the easier you make it to return a product, the more likely you are to get a return shopper.

Including shipping labels in packaging is a good place to start, and companies like Happy Returns are creating a new approach to ecommerce returns that should at least serve as inspiration for all forward-thinking brands.

Build the Right Partnership to Ensure Success

Fulfillment and overall logistics in a global context are no simple matter. That’s why, to build and leverage a successful fulfillment infrastructure, you need to choose a partner that aligns with your needs and can help deliver on your brand promise.

When entering new markets, partnering with an organization that can help your brand navigate cultural nuances and meet local customer expectations is crucial. But experience must be accompanied by know-how: Your cross-border partner should also be able to help you with tax and global ecommerce nuances, such as import/export compliance, to reduce the burden on your internal fulfillment team. This can help you enter markets faster and gain market share while allowing you to focus more on your core competencies as a brand.

But as each global market and opportunity requires a unique approach, you can’t afford to choose a partner unable to match the complexity of global ecommerce in today’s world. While cross-border expertise can help expedite your expansion, opting for a partner that also delivers local shipping experiences can unlock not just convenience but a competitive advantage.

Of course, not all solutions are created equally. Many are only able to offer cross-border fulfillment or local options. Yet with the right partner, cross-border and local shipping don’t need to be separate models that require distinct processes and infrastructure. Instead, when offered as part of a single solution, they can serve as complementary strategies that streamline growth.

Digital River’s solution is comprehensive and flexible. With a single integration, you gain access to the industry’s largest global logistics network and the ability to transact and ship where your customers are located. Learn more about how our global ecommerce logistics solution enables cross-border and in-country shipping, as well as seamless reverse logistics and much more.

Want to learn more? Connect with us today to learn how Digital River can help you achieve your cross-border commerce goals.