Tips for Successful Cross Border Fulfillment in the Apparel Industry

By: Jacquelyn Kyle
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Whether you’re selling physical goods or subscription services, cross border commerce presents a number of challenges and obstacles. But apparel, 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. The total addressable market is expected to rebound from pandemic-related declines to reach roughly $672 billion by 2023. If you want to build a fulfillment strategy that enables global success for your apparel brand, here are some things you need to consider.

What makes apparel unique

More so than 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.

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.

The way consumers want to pay for apparel varies greatly by region as well. Buy now, pay later methods are rising in popularity in France, and paying with cash on delivery is common in Japan. Clothing is also a personal expression that impacts buying behavior. 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 mean you have to build your fulfillment strategy carefully and fully understand your target market when deciding which geographies to sell into.

Building a fulfillment network that drives success

It can be difficult, expensive and time- and resource-heavy to become in-house experts on fulfillment and logistics. The more efficient route 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 tips on how to build out a successful fulfillment network:

Conduct extensive market research

Identify fulfillment preferences in your target market and work to understand buying behaviors in detail.

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.

Build out an extensive fulfillment network

Partnering with multiple carriers provides redundancies and optionality, allowing you to tailor fulfillment to regional preferences. Organizations like Digital River can streamline this process because of our established relationships with carriers around the world. Instead of managing multiple vendors, a single agreement enables all capabilities with all carrier partners, simplifying your cross border fulfillment infrastructure.

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.

Leverage partnerships to tackle tax, compliance and import restrictions

These areas are extremely complex and require significant investment to manage in-house. Consider reducing your risk and getting help to navigate tax and compliance in global markets from partners with proven expertise in these areas.

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 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.