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Sales Market Europe III: How to achieve efficient cross-border fulfillment

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Fast delivery, cost-efficient shipping, and customer-friendly returns – these are all factors that play an important role for customers of online stores and platforms, also for cross-border purchases. Customers often do not realize where the goods they order come from, nevertheless they expect the services they are accustomed to from their home country. By now, already 200 million of the total of 268 million online shoppers in Europe have ordered abroad at least once. According to Statista, the cross-border e-commerce market will grow to 245 billion euros this year. Functioning cross-border logistics are therefore of great importance for retailers and present a logistical challenge. In the last part of our “Sales Market Europe” series, you will receive tips on which aspects are relevant for efficient fulfillment.

Storage and delivery times: Decentralized solutions as a strategic advantage?

Logistics is and will remain one of the most resource-intensive areas in online retailing. That is why successful fulfillment concepts are of particular importance for the survival of a company. Once online retailers offer cross-border shipping, longer delivery times and higher shipping costs must be minimized as much as possible in order to be able to compete with local providers in the respective target countries. When entering the cross-border e-commerce market, at the beginning the direct shipping model could be ideal, for example, if companies first need to test whether the product offered is suitable for the target country. In this case, the product is shipped directly from the retailer’s country, while logistics companies take care of warehousing, transport, customs formalities and delivery.

Should the shipping volume increase over time, decentralized warehousing solutions can become increasingly attractive, as shipping costs can be saved. In this scenario, those who have access to several logistics partners or fulfillment service providers in the European network benefit from shorter and cheaper shipping routes for their customers, as they can already store their own goods in the destination country and ship them directly from there. Studies show that e-tailers with shorter delivery times are less likely to be affected by purchase cancellations and can thus increase the conversion rate. But it’s not just shipping time that can be crucial for successful fulfillment.

Customer-friendly, sustainable, individual

Other factors that could be decisive for success in shipping are various shipping options. Particularly in the case of cross-border shipping, these options involve complex logistics services. However, many customers greatly value free shipping and chargeable deliveries, especially from other EU countries, can be a deterrent for them. Therefore, some online retailers include logistics in the sales price or offer free shipping for customers with a minimum order value. Options such as express shipping for urgently needed deliveries or sustainable shipping can also convince customers. The issue of sustainability is becoming increasingly important for online shoppers. A climate-neutral delivery or recyclable packaging materials should be offered as shipping options.

Taking it one step further is individually branded packaging, which stands out from the big players in e-commerce such as Amazon. This allows the company’s own brand to be better presented and is more likely to be remembered by customers. There are already many online providers for specially created packaging boxes or adhesive tapes.

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Trouble-free returns: Challenge and opportunity for e-commerce

What applies to the delivery is also important for customers when it comes to returns: Free returns are a success factor, especially in the fashion sector. An efficient infrastructure is essential for this. In order to act sustainably also in this case, shipments should, if possible, be returned collectively and resold in the destination country instead of accepting higher costs for individual returns to the country of origin. However, attention must be paid to the return conditions applicable abroad and to ensuring that customers are provided with fast and convenient processing. In general, local preferences should be taken into account in European e-commerce.

Regional differences in European cross-border logistics

If there is good cooperation with local fulfillment partners, retailers should not hesitate to find out about typical customer preferences in their respective countries. Whether favored shipping options (parcel stores or mailbox delivery), different types of shipment tracking, multiple language options, the right choice of parcel service providers, or the correct handling of any customer complaints – the long-standing expertise of regional partners offers retailers greater chances of success in the long term.

Those who rely on a holistic fulfillment strategy benefit from a positive customer experience and can thus increase their sales. Instead of looking at cross-border logistics solely as a cost item, the focus should be on the potential. Efficient processes in warehousing and shipping can become a decisive competitive advantage in a fiercely fought over market.

Read more from our Sales Market Europe series:

Sales Market Europe I: Why it pays to enter cross-border commerce

Sales Market Europe II: Special characteristics of european e-commerce

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