Global Ecommerce

Global Ecommerce and International Expansion | Pitney Bowes

How to make shipping more attractive for international customers

Eight simple ways to enhance your global product offerings, increase reach and add new customers.

There is no doubt that ecommerce has reduced the relevance of national boundaries. Cross-border ecommerce is a reality, and billions are transacted online in non-local markets. However, physically delivering goods remains a challenge. There are several solutions and best practices for international shipping, but there is no silver bullet. For the purpose of this article, think about international shipping from the customer’s point of view. Here are some simple ideas to make shipping more attractive to them:

Provide Multiple Options for Shipping Speed
For domestic shipping, it is commonplace to offer expensive express delivery, as well as lower priced slower delivery. But for international shipping, many merchants only offer one shipping speed. Like domestic customers, international customers too exhibit distinct preferences across the price versus speed spectrum.

Free Shipping Is Great, But At Least Make Sure the Shipping Fee Includes Final Costs
Customers do not seem to mind spending a significant sum of money traveling to a retail outlet. But when the logistics cost becomes transparent in online shopping, they do not like it. Consequently, free shipping has been a great catalyst for the growth of ecommerce. While customers would love free international shipping too, ecommerce economics would not support that. But at the very least the customer needs to know exactly what they will be spending on shipping. This should include:

1. Taxes such as VAT, sales tax, and the like

2. Customs duty on import of goods

Not all countries have stable, predictable, and unequivocal levies on shipped goods, but customers do not want to bear the brunt of that. If you ship internationally, try to partner with a logistics provider who is able to provide you the complete cost of international logistics in real time.

Use the Local Postal System for Part of the Shipping
Some countries have a reliable, comprehensive postal system in place. In other countries, logistics is so underdeveloped that only the government-subsidized local postal system can access many regions. In such cases, using the local postal system for the last leg of the shipping may make sense. If you intend to do this, make sure that your customer has enough faith in the local postal system.

Enter Shipping Data Logically With Built-In Checks
Try entering a 3-digit ZIP code for a U.S. address, and the system will probably throw up an error message, but a similar check may not be put in place for an international address. This could lead to a higher error rate in capturing international addresses. Given the significantly higher cost of international shipping, either the customer or the ecommerce merchant is going to pay a big price for errors in data entry. Use an ecommerce platform that can validate international addresses to ensure order fulfillment and prevent costly mistakes.

Use Packaging That Survives the Journey And Inspection
We all understand the need for sturdy packaging. But when goods cross national boundaries, they are often subjected to inspection. How much effort do you think the inspector puts into re-sealing the package? Most likely, when the inspected shipment reaches the customer, it is one big pile of packaging tape. If your packaging were the kind that could be easily resealed, wouldn’t you have saved everyone a lot of heartburn?

Work Around Local Holidays and Other Factors
There are different holidays celebrated in different areas. In several countries, offices are closed on those holidays, and goods cannot be delivered. When you give customers an indicative delivery date, please take local holidays into consideration. You might indicate delivery in estimated business days instead of promising a specific date.

Track As Much As Possible, Even For International Customers
The time between placing an order online and receiving goods physically can feel like a black hole of information for the customer. To reduce the uncertainty, some logistics providers in developed markets offer granular tracking. However, in international tracking, very little information is available. Until logistics providers can improve this, be sure to keep customer expectations for delivery times in line with reality and inform them of any known delays.

Display Costs and Prices in the Customer’s Currency
This can be tricky, especially in the case of customers in countries with highly unstable currency prices. But that is no excuse for a business to expect the customer to perform currency conversion in their head. Either the ecommerce merchant can absorb the ups and downs of short-term currency fluctuations, or they can clearly inform customers that the displayed prices are subject to alteration based on currency price movement.

Final Words
There is no doubt that international shipping is a lot trickier than domestic shipping. But investing in superior logistics is a small price to pay given the returns you can expect by virtue of increased cross-border sales. Follow the basic steps listed above to make your shipping options more attractive to international customers.

To learn more about the buying preferences of global buyers, download the Pitney Bowes 2016 Global Online Shopping Study  today.  

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