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. Taxes, import and export regulations and unique cultural preferences can make cross-border commerce 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 fulfillment partner that can support your company’s specific needs and facilitate seamless cross-border shipment is key to your success.

As part of our Commerce Passport series, we brought together a panel of fulfillment experts for a live, virtual event titled Get a Fulfillment Infrastructure You Can Count On. The event was sponsored by DHL and speakers included:

  • Christopher Edge, Head of U.S. Ecommerce | DHL Express
  • Marcelo Wesseler, President | Shipwire, Inc.
  • Ted Rogers, Chief Marketing Officer | Digital River
  • Mike French, Vice President Partnerships | Digital River

Following are some of our panel’s top insights on how your business can build a fulfillment infrastructure that enables ecommerce success in new markets.

You can watch the event on-demand here.

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
  • 70% of shoppers are unlikely to make another purchase from a brand following a poor
    delivery experience
  • 38% of online shoppers will abandon their order if the delivery will take longer than a week

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 correctly, but also manage customer expectations appropriately to create a positive overall experience.

Setting expectations is critical

These days, 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.

Multiple partnerships ensure success

To build a successful fulfillment infrastructure, you need to choose a partner that aligns with your needs and can help deliver on your brand promise. And then you need to choose another one. Having multiple fulfillment partners creates redundancies that can help protect your brand, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when most fulfillment networks around the world are being strained.

When entering new markets, partnering with a local fulfillment partner can help your brand navigate cultural nuances and meet local customer expectations. Your 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.

More insights

We recorded a podcast immediately following our live event to capture even more insights from our panel of fulfillment experts. Listen to the episode below and be sure to subscribe to the Commerce Connect podcast to uncover more ways to optimize your global ecommerce business.