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Tips for smooth cross-border logistics

by Editorial Office

Regardless of whether companies import or export goods: Shipping across national borders poses challenges for retailers – especially in the current climate. We provide tips on how to get your goods to their destination quickly and cost-effectively despite pandemic-related restrictions.

Cross-border sales: detailed know-how in demand

For smooth cross-border logistics, companies need extensive know-how and a solid strategy: From the use of various warehousing options, to answering customs questions, to choosing the regionally appropriate delivery variant – wrong decisions can annoy customers and have a sensitive impact on profit margins.

Efficient supply chain planning should therefore always include a holistic view of the company’s own supply chain and include contingency measures, especially in challenging times, in order to be able to maintain business operations even in the event of disruptions. Involving an external logistics service provider with the relevant know-how can be advantageous in this context. “We are familiar with the necessary processes, have years of experience and are fully available to assist our customers in all matters of cross-border logistics,” says Jan Bierewirtz, CCO and Division Manager Commercial at Hermes International, a division of Hermes Germany.

Jan Bierewirtz Hermes International

Jan Bierewirtz, CCO and Division Manager Commercial at Hermes International

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Increase delivery capability – planning for intermediate storage

Amazon has set new standards for delivery times in the USA and Europe: The goods should reach the customer within two to four days – an enormous challenge for companies, especially in the current period of scarce freight capacities and material bottlenecks. “In our experience, it can be advisable to keep products that are in high demand ready in buffer warehouses in the destination country in order to enable a faster delivery,” Bierewirtz reports from practical experience.

Optimized inventory management based on data-driven forecasting can provide valuable support for those responsible – and significantly increase delivery capacity. It is also advisable to source top sellers from several suppliers in order to reduce the risk of supply bottlenecks. The same applies to the selection of transport modes: retailers should always have alternative routes ready to ensure a punctual delivery to the customer.

Knowing customs formalities, securing cost advantages

In addition, companies should thoroughly familiarize themselves with customs formalities and import/export regulations in cross-border trade. In this way, unwanted surprises such as delays or penalties can be avoided. Significant changes in customs clearance have recently resulted from Brexit and new EU customs regulations – the latter came into force at the beginning of July. “If this knowledge and subsequently the necessary documents are missing, this leads to delivery delays and in the worst case to order cancellation by customers,” Bierewirtz knows.

Companies that have detailed customs know-how on th other hand can leverage significant cost advantages as a result. “There are various procedures with which companies can save cash. Leaving these positive effects unused due to ignorance is not advisable and has a negative impact on profit margins in the long run,” confirms Bierewirtz. Internationally active retailers are therefore well advised to build up detailed knowledge in the area of customs and taxes – or to commission external service providers such as Hermes International for customs clearance in order to ensure smooth border crossings.

Operations Experience: Scoring points with transparent shipping communication

Transparent shipping communication has long been established in B2C retailing and is now state of the art in B2B as well. Cross-channel communication that provides transparent information about delivery times, shipping status and costs makes a decisive difference in external perception: After all, buyers are waiting for desired, sometimes urgently needed products.

Alas, a one-time shipping notification with tracking number is no longer enough. Retailers who want to sustainably improve their customer relationship should rather inform in real time when the delivery status changes. This is especially important during the ongoing Corona pandemic: those who transparently communicate possible delivery delays due to interrupted supply chains are most likely to gain the understanding of their customers. Companies should therefore see transparent shipping communication as an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition and build long-term relationships – which can subsequently help increase sales.

Cross-border sales: scoring points in delivery with regional knowledge

Specific attention is needed when delivering goods abroad. After all, only those who know the regional preferences can deliver their goods successfully – and retain their customers in the long term. While in Germany, delivery to the front door is preferred or leaving the goods with a neighbor is common, in Spain the latter is an absolute no-go. Spaniards prefer to receive their goods in person in a predefined time window or at the desired time. In China and Scandinavia, as well as in parts of southeastern Europe, customers prefer delivery to a parcel store. Companies should always keep an eye on the local preferences of their customers and adapt delivery options accordingly. “Hermes is currently responding to the growing demand for Click&Collect deliveries with a growing network of ParcelShops. To this day, we operate  more than 45,000 ParcelShops in Europe,” says Bierewirtz.

Cross-Border Logistics: Crucial Details

Whether you want to sell goods abroad or import goods domestically: Asking and answering detailed questions can be decisive for the success or failure of your cross-border logistics operations.And the latter have an impact on the overall performance of the company. With up-to-date know-how and a smart logistics strategy, retailers can secure competitive advantages and successfully position themselves in the target market in the long term.

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