Whether you’re selling physical goods or subscription services, cross border commerce presents a number of challenges and obstacles. But clothing and apparel fulfillment, in particular, comes with its own set of unique issues. Consumer expectations and cultural considerations can make fulfillment especially challenging. You have to understand your market in extreme detail in order to be successful. But brands have every incentive to get it right.
Apparel is the number one category purchased online across all geographies. With the total addressable market expected to reach beyond $1 trillion by the end of 2024, the industry isn’t just rebounding but thriving in the wake of pandemic-related declines.
If you want to build an apparel fulfillment strategy to capitalize on this worldwide industry growth and enable global success for your brand, here are some things you need to consider.
What Makes Apparel Fulfillment Unique
More so than many other product categories, there’s a lot of nuance in the apparel industry. Much of that has to do with the products themselves. For example, selling high fashion goods requires a completely different set of sales strategies, marketing techniques and consumer experiences compared with clothing intended for mass markets. High fashion also goes out of style quickly and inventory is expensive. So, if you can’t fulfill orders in a timely manner, you could jeopardize revenue.
Beyond the products themselves, there are also cultural and personal components that make apparel challenging from a fulfillment perspective.
For example, some geographies are more affluent and can therefore be more style- and image-conscious. Buyers in these markets will likely expect the white glove treatment for luxury goods, including packaging and communication that reflects the premium price. In emerging economies where there is less affluence, consumers value clothing much differently. Businesses may be able to adopt a different approach to apparel fulfillment in these markets—but only after an in-depth look at prevailing attitudes and norms.
Of course, differences in habits across markets can be much more practical in nature, too. The way consumers want to pay for apparel can vary greatly by region. For instance, buy now, pay later methods are rising in popularity in France; yet in Japan, paying with cash on delivery remains common.
Meanwhile, the fact that clothing is also a personal expression impacts buying behavior—and, in turn, shapes clothing fulfillment needs. Returns are common and many buyers will purchase the same item in multiple sizes with the intent to return the extras.
Taken altogether, these challenges unique to clothing and fashion fulfillment mean you have to build your strategy carefully and fully understand your target market when deciding which geographies to sell into.
Building a Clothing Fulfillment Network That Drives Success
It can be difficult, expensive and time- and resource-heavy to become in-house experts on fulfillment and logistics.
Here are some tips on how to build out a successful clothing fulfillment network:
Conduct extensive market research
Identify fulfillment preferences in your target market and work to understand buying behaviors in detail. Understand clothing and fashion’s place within the wider culture, ascertain key consumption habits, and establish whether there’s a clear need or sufficient demand for your particular offerings.
Decide where you want your inventory
Whether you adopt a “ship-to” or “ship-from” model, make sure you have the ability to move product quickly. If you want to have warehouses in-country, you will need to account for local acquiring and payment methodologies.
Guarantee landed costs for your brand
It can be fairly easy these days to get a landed cost guarantee for customers. But can you guarantee it for your brand and what you end up paying the carrier? Talk with prospective partners about whether they can provide this kind of guarantee.
Optimize the checkout experience
Update your ecommerce site with clear messaging throughout the entire checkout experience and beyond so that customers know what to expect in terms of delivery.
Optimize the returns experience
To simplify reverse logistics and appeal to your customers, consider partnering with third-party drop-off sites for brands that don’t have physical stores. Another option would be to include return labels with shipped goods to make returns as painless as possible.
Apparel Fulfillment Services: How to Find a Partner in Growth
Cross-border ecommerce for clothing brands is no simple business. From initial research and market entry to checkout and compliance, it can be difficult, time-consuming and downright expensive to become in-house experts on apparel fulfillment and logistics—and there’s still no guarantee of success.
Ultimately, the more efficient route for many brands is to find partners like Digital River that can simplify the process and implement strategies that will allow you to scale up as you gain more market share.
Here are some crucial factors to account for as you consider choosing a partner to support your global growth.
Established carrier network
The ideal fulfillment partner will have longtime relationships with carriers in the markets you intend to enter. Having an established network you can tap into can greatly speed up the process of going to market.
Organizations like Digital River are able to streamline this process thanks to established relationships with carriers around the world. So, instead of you needing to form and manage relationships with multiple vendors, a single agreement enables all capabilities with all carrier partners, simplifying your cross-border fulfillment infrastructure.
Experienced partners may also be able to negotiate preferential shipping rates—savings that can be passed onto customers or make it easier to scale in your new markets.
Dependable reverse logistics
As we noted above, clothing fulfillment strategies need to account for the especially high number of returns made by consumers. Scrutinizing a partner’s capabilities in reverse logistics is equally as important as understanding what they can offer for initial order orchestration.
Ability to tackle tax, compliance and import restrictions
The more markets you expand into, the more regulatory hoops you’ll have to jump through and the more ever-evolving tax obligations you’ll have to fulfill. Managing these issues in-house is an extremely complex affair and requires significant investment.
Consider reducing your risk and getting help from a partner that can simplify both the process of getting your products to new customers and doing so in a compliant manner. Opting for a partner with proven expertise in navigating tax and compliance in global markets can unlock cost savings and free up your time to focus more on what you do best.
Bringing It All Together for Simplified Global Growth
Expanding into new geographies is a key growth driver for many established and emerging apparel brands. But actually getting products into those markets is easier said than done. As you build and optimize your apparel fulfillment strategy, utilize careful data analysis, market research and trusted partners to help you deliver not only your products, but exceptional experiences your customers will appreciate and remember.
Partnering with Digital River along the way allows you to leverage our 25+ years of experience in helping brands simplify global expansion. Digital River can be your trusted advisor across all aspects of your cross-border journey so you can focus on what you do best. Together we can achieve outstanding growth.
Connect with us today to learn how we can help your apparel brand achieve cross border success.