How do internationally operating retailers stand out from the competition in order to benefit from the generally positive trend in European e-commerce? It is not only about a user-friendly store design in the local language and adapted payment methods – the shipping of goods also plays a decisive role in cross-border trade. This includes a transparent reporting of the transit times, the shipping status and eventual costs.
European e-commerce is currently experiencing a general boost in times of the pandemic. Studies and surveys show that exclusive online merchants are among the beneficiaries of the crisis with growth rates of around 20 percent; cross-border marketplaces are expected to record a similar increase in turnover.
Alas, the expectations of local online shoppers are high: After ordering, they want to receive the goods as quickly and conveniently as possible and be transparently informed about the shipping status. Particularly during the corona pandemic, where delivery delays can occur time and again, consumers want to know exactly where a shipment is and when it will arrive. Internationally operating retailers should therefore strive for transparent shipping information – in order to strengthen customer loyalty and to boost their own sales.
Operations Experience – still neglected by many online retailers
Although the so-called Operations Experience offers a lot of potential, not all store operators are pursuing a service-oriented approach to order processing: from purchase to possible returns. A German e-commerce shipping study conducted by parcellab, a provider of real-time monitoring tools, has found that one in four online retailers surveyed sends only a single e-mail after order confirmation. Thanks to real-time monitoring, additional short messages could provide information about the delivery status, whether the delivery was delayed or whether the retailer has received a return.
Providing a tracking number in the shipment notification should therefore only be the beginning: Ideally, customers should be redirected back to their own webshop during the communication process, as this increases the probability of multiple orders.
Shipments from abroad: Communicate binding delivery dates
In order to create a positive operations experience, the speed of the delivery must also be reported. Many European customers take a particularly close look at goods from abroad: If they do not find clear information about the delivery time on the product detail pages, they quickly resort to alternative offers.
At the same time, companies with a cross-border focus could consider how delivery times and returns processes can be accelerated. Under certain conditions, it is worthwhile storing the goods in the target market. Especially for small or medium-sized companies, it can be advantageous to outsource cross-border fulfillment including local warehousing to a service provider.
Shipping and returns from abroad: Point out possible costs
Transparency is also required when costs are incurred for shipping or returns. If consumers are not made aware of additional charges, the probability is high that they will be dissatisfied. Even if foreign online retailers send along a pre-franked return label, customers may have to pay for returns abroad – they will only be re-credited later. Since such a return takes more time and there are always questions asked in the meantime, retailers should offer customer service in the local language. Professional service is also important because customer experiences are often recorded in the form of reviews and ratings – especially on the major European online platforms, where they can be viewed for years and, if negative, can be damaging to business.
Transparent dispatch communication pays off
Cross-channel communication that provides transparent information about delivery times, shipping status and costs makes a decisive difference in customer perception. After all, the shipping process has an emotional component: consumers wait for desired, sometimes urgently needed products.
Retailers should take advantage of this opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition and build long-term customer relationships that can help boost sales. In many cases, the shipping communication of local retailers also leaves potential for improvement. This makes it all the more important not to send just a single shipment notification with a tracking number and leave it to customers to obtain further information. On the contrary, retailers should inform their customers in real time when the delivery status changes. This is especially important during the corona pandemic: those who communicate possible delivery delays due to disrupted supply chains in a transparent manner are most likely to gain the understanding of their customers.
It should also be remembered that the way a delivery is handed over is also part of the Operations Experience. It is therefore advisable to pay attention to service and quality when choosing the logistics company to fulfil the order.
Click here for an interesting interview with Patricia Xu, International Warehousing Solution Manager at Hermes International, on the importance of a well-managed cross-border fulfillment.
Further information on the topic of cross-border fulfillment and logistics can be found in our article “Four Do’s for Smooth Cross-Border Logistics”.