Not only has the pandemic accelerated e-commerce, but it has also encouraged people to consider making online purchases from retailers they’ve never ordered from before – and even experiment with shopping online with companies in other countries.  Recently commissioned research revealed well over half of online shoppers (57%) around the world have ordered products from a country other than their own in the last 12 months, and a further 22% have considered it.

However, the survey of 2,035 online shoppers in the UK, Australia, Germany, and the USA, commissioned by Logistyx Technologies, also suggests most of them have a poor view of the shipping and delivery experience for cross-border purchases, with most issues revolving around control and clarity.

So, what can retailers and e-commerce brands who are looking to grow their business do to encourage cross-border sales?  A key challenge is getting the customer experience right – especially the shipping and delivery strategy. Eliminating friction, delays, and doubt is crucial.   Retailers looking to increase overseas sales need to make it as easy and straightforward for cross-border shoppers to order, track, and if necessary, return their goods as if they were making online purchases domestically.

Make product returns easy

Product returns are one of the biggest concerns related to cross-border purchases, with 73% of respondents believing that making a return will be more difficult if they purchase from abroad. Offering a free returns service is the holy grail for consumers: 72% say this would encourage them to buy from a country other than their own. 

While making returns free may not always be feasible given the cost and complexity of international shipping, it’s important to make the process as easy and hassle-free as possible. Be clear about returns policies, provide returns packaging and labels with the original parcel, make booking a return quick and painless, and ensure the refund is initiated as soon as the return is collected from the customer. 

Guarantee delivery by the specified date – or give a discount

With 73% of shoppers believing delivery will take significantly longer when making purchases from abroad, and 66% believing their order will arrive later than promised, two-thirds of respondents (67%) said knowing they would receive a discount in the event of a late delivery would encourage them to go ahead with their purchase. Having clearly identified Service Level Agreements with carrier partners and using carrier performance data allows shippers to identify opportunities to improve performance and reduce avoidable delays.

Give shoppers the ability to track their order online

Consumers are increasingly used to seeing exactly where their order is when making purchases domestically, and they want the same level of visibility when ordering from other countries.  Seventy-one percent (71%) of respondents said that being able to easily track the whereabouts of their delivery online would encourage them to buy from overseas.  Therefore, retailers should choose carriers that can provide end-to-end visibility, ideally in real time, for international deliveries.

Be transparent about any additional duties or fees

The fear of being hit by unexpected charges is felt by 59% of online shoppers, so it is not surprising that 70% agreed that receiving a guarantee of no additional charges or taxes, other than those made clear at checkout, would encourage them to place an order from a company based in another country.  Being clear and upfront about any additional costs puts the consumer in control of their purchase.

Offer a free telephone/webchat facility in the customer’s own language

While consumers are open to the idea of making purchases from abroad, many online shoppers imagine a negative customer experience.  Sixty-four percent (64%) believe it will be harder to contact the company to ask about their order than if buying domestically, and 37% think it is more likely the order will be incorrect if they order from another country.  To counteract these worries, companies may want to consider offering a free telephone or webchat facility in the customer’s own language that is available at times in their own time zone.  Sixty percent (60%) of those asked felt this would encourage them to go ahead with a purchase.

People are becoming more open to shopping on e-commerce sites based in other countries, which is great news for online retail businesses.  However, to win and retain international customers, retailers and e-commerce brands need to address key concerns around shipping and delivery. While you can mitigate some of these issues by implementing the right supply chain systems, you also need to select the right carriers for each country or region both in terms of service level and costs.

Ken Fleming is President at Logistyx Technologies, a leader in multi-carrier parcel shipping technology working with many of the world’s top retailers, representing more than $75 billion in combined annual web sales.

By Alison