The Fundamentals of a Successful Cross-Border Shipping Strategy

November 16, 2020

Shipping is one of the necessary evils that all international e-commerce businesses have to confront to successfully sell goods across borders. But by using the right best practices, you can strategize a cross-border strategy for selling internationally without making shipping and logistics a headache.

Below we dive into cost-effective methods for delivering products to consumers that not only meet their expectations but make them remember how easy it is to buy from your brand. Take note of these shipping and logistics considerations when crafting your international e-commerce strategy.

Test Different Shipping Tiers and Messaging for Local Areas

Since shipping options may differ greatly in new markets and your new customer preferences may also differ greatly from ones you're familiar with, you should A/B test shipping options. You don't have to use just one carrier and you can test carrier services to offer various shipping methods to see what works best with your target audience. Testing will enable you to see what shipping options your customers in certain local areas prefer, giving you more insight into those customers' specific preferences.

In order to test not just multiple options but the right options, you'll need to do a little research into the differences in shipping infrastructures in specific regions you are entering. Local infrastructure is a big factor here; some countries will make it easier than others, and each market will have its own unique rules. With various parameters and additional varying customer preferences, it's a good idea to take note of any recent research done in your desired markets before launching your strategy.

We recommend testing more than just actual carriers. Varying the messaging for shipping on your website can help customers in local areas feel more at ease with the options you provide. Shipping language you might be used to such as "express" might not be the verbiage familiar to your audience in other countries. You'll want to test the descriptions for your shipping services so you can gain insight into local customers' preferred shipping descriptions.

Remember that even in countries where the local language is the same as that of your business' home country, the vernacular can be different enough to possibly alienate potential customers with unfamiliar wording.

Consider Speed and Cost Expectations

Reasonably priced shipping in one country may not be considered reasonable in another country or region. Some countries might have a higher tolerance for paying for shipping, whereas in other countries free shipping or a lower flat rate or cost structure is more important to conversion.  Expectations around the speed of shipping is another consideration. For example, in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the US, shoppers have the lowest expectations for delivery speed, according to research. But shoppers in South Korea, China, and India have significantly higher expectations for both speed of delivery and free shipping. These differences in expectations will factor into how you want to tailor your shipping offerings and carrier services, and position your messaging.

Shipping Cost Strategies for Retailers

We're not saying don't offer free shipping, but there will be specific considerations to take into account if you do. It might even be necessary for you to offer free shipping in order to compete with certain e-commerce businesses in certain regions. Making a profit when offering free shipping is a challenge, but there are best practices to help offset the costs and make the unit economics work for your business. Set minimum dollar values for orders that can be shipped at no cost. You can change this value for different markets where free shipping could be more costly. Some retailers may subsidize the cost of free shipping by including the cost in the product price for certain countries. Others may offer free shipping on certain products that are cheaper to ship than other products. Many retailers opt to work with a technology solution to help manage landed costs to ensure that cross-border e-commerce is a revenue generator and not a cost center.

Consider the Carriers

Since every customer will ultimately want their goods delivered as quickly and cheaply as possible, you'll want to look into which carriers will help you fulfill those expectations. Some carriers are better than others at minimizing costs and improving speeds in addition to providing last-mile delivery to areas other carriers will not.

It could be worth spending the time to explore lesser-known carriers because they can offer competitive costs and speeds compared to household names. Through carriers that offer more flexible pricing and delivery times--including last-mile delivery--you can offer shipping timeframes that are both profitable for you and ideal for your customer.

Software Tools Can Help You Streamline These Tasks

There are cross-border e-commerce solutions in the market that help simplify and automate global selling and international shipping. These platforms can make every challenge of international shipping strategy a breeze, from website wording to carrier review and everything in between. The right platform will also be able to help you automate much of the work that goes into streamlining shipping in certain regions.

Contact Flow to talk through your international e-commerce business strategies with an expert. We've been helping many cross-border retailers be successful with cross-border shipping. We're here when you're ready to take your global e-commerce shipping strategy to the next level.