Global Ecommerce and International Expansion | Pitney Bowes

A telling tale of a Canadian cross-border shopper

By Sam Coiro, Business Development Executive, Ecommerce Solutions, Pitney Bowes

I’m a Canadian consumer who buys online. Let me tell you about my track jacket.

As a fan of Formula One racing, I recently went online to find a Scuderia Ferrari 2015 track jacket. I found one available from an international retailer at a pretty good price – $112 in U.S. dollars. As a saavy shopper, I knew that by shopping cross-border, my credit card company would add on a foreign transaction fee. So I added the jacket to my cart. I chose express delivery, reviewed the total cost – $129.56 – and placed my order.

How psyched was I? My jacket was on its way and I was a happy customer.

But my happiness turned quickly to irritation when on the day of arrival, the delivery driver didn’t hand over my brand new jacket. Instead, he left a slip on my door saying my jacket was ready for pickup at a nearby shipping centre.

I was perplexed but really excited about getting my jacket. So I took the 45 minute drive down to the depot only to find out that I wasn’t there just to pick up my jacket. In order to get my package, I was being asked to pay another $32.17 in import duties and taxes, plus $12.50 in carrier brokerage fees. Suddenly, my $129.56 track jacket costs $174.23, not to mention the added cost of driving several kilometres, and more importantly, the frustration of having to take time out of my day to pick up the item myself at the depot.

The retailer hadn’t added any extra charges. These costs were either required by international shipping laws or added by the shipping provider.

But at this point it didn’t matter where the extra costs came from. I was a frustrated shopper looking for someone to blame. As far as I was concerned, the fault lay squarely with the online merchant whose purchasing process wasn’t transparent, and who never told me to expect additional charges.

Moral of the story? I never bought from them again.

Clarity is Key in Cross-Border Ecommerce

My online shopping story isn’t unique – millions of international buyers face these issues every day. All countries charge some form of duty and tax. And nobody – not retailers, carriers or shoppers – have any control over these costs. Many carriers also add on brokerage fees which can be high and are completely out of the control of the retailer.

What merchants can control however, is how visible they make all this information to buyers.

People love to shop online because it’s convenient and offers a wide selection. Canadian shoppers know that most major U.S. retailers who have yet to localise an in-country site don’t offer as wide a range of products on their Canadian site as they do on their U.S. version. So Canadians will often shop on U.S. sites to find the exact products they want. When it’s done well, everyone’s happy – the customer, the retailer…even the carrier.  

When international retailers don’t list the true, fully landed cost of their products, it negates the convenience and affordability online shopping is supposed to offer. Instead, it creates a dissatisfied consumer who will go social about their experience, removing any chance of one (or more) loyal customers.

Fortunately, you can clear up confusion for your shoppers in two key ways:

1.       Offer a Guaranteed Cost Upfront

You can let international customers know the fully landed cost of their order – including duties, taxes and shipping fees. Cross-border ecommerce solutions can enable this type of transparency right at checkout, so a customer never places an order without knowing its complete cost.

2.       Publish Your International Shipping Policy Online

Your website’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) area is the perfect place to include some clarification on your international shipping policies. Many international shoppers have probably already run into problems with other retailers in the past, so they’ll want to research how easy (or difficult) your international ecommerce process is.

For the record, I kept the track jacket. However, if I knew it would end up costing so much money and effort to actually get a hold of, I would have simply looked in-country at my nearest Ferrari store. Comparatively, I am very loyal to the online retailers who I know will give me a clear price upfront.

Your international customers think the same way. With a painless cross-border ecommerce experience, you could be the type of merchant these buyers can’t wait to shop with.

Watch the video about the 'tale of a Canadian cross-border shopper'