Cross-border e-commerce retailers rely on international holidays focused on gift-giving to boost sales and build relationships with global customers. But will purchasing gifts change because people are staying home and social distancing continues? International retailers will be pleased to know that the appetite for buying gifts is still there. However, brands will need to strengthen their order fulfillment and logistics capabilities to ensure that cross-border gift purchases arrive on time and with no additional costs to the gift’s recipient. And of course, returns must be hassle-free.

 

Real-time use cases: Spring Holidays

In the U.S., we have already witnessed holidays affected by stay-at-home orders: Mother’s Day, which is celebrated in many western nations on the second Sunday in May. Even if consumers couldn’t physically be with the mother figures in their lives, they turned to e-commerce in large numbers to shop for gifts that would delight Mom and help them feel close.

According to a survey of U.S. consumers by the National Retail Federation (NRF), 78% of respondents said that celebrating Mother’s Day was especially important to them this year in light of the coronavirus. And another 66% of consumers said they would celebrate remotely if they couldn’t be with their mother on the holiday due to the pandemic. Some online florists reported a surge in orders leading up to Mother’s Day, in some cases double the number of orders placed in 2019. In fact, some retailers expressed concern about being able to scale enough to support demand.   Similar estimates and results were seen for Father’s Day gifts, where 77% of respondents to an NRF survey were prepared to make a Father’s Day purchase, with estimated sales projected for $17 Billion according to Statista.

For cross-border e-commerce providers, gift-centered holidays are still relevant due to continued social distancing. Cross-border e-commerce merchants must deliver a top-notch customer experience for the shopper and the recipient of the gift. That’s where transparent pricing and real-time calculation of any relevant taxes and duties are essential. No global customer wants to buy a gift and find out their recipient received an additional bill upon delivery. 

 

Looking ahead at global holidays

It’s clear that e-commerce will continue to serve as the primary shopping source for quite some time, even as retail stores have been reopening. This presents an opportunity to cross-border e-commerce merchants to continue to market and sell to their global audience to capture mindshare during a key shopping season.  Merchants should plan now for upcoming global holidays and prepare their strategies accordingly. Issues such as scale, logistics, shipping, and returns should be tested and ironed out, and now is the time to make sure everything is in place.

Some key aspects of this process include:

  • A localized e-commerce website. By tuning in to regional gift-giving holidays in the markets you sell to, you can create more opportunities to sell online. This requires attention to cultural detail in your target regions. Pay attention to the nuances of how domestic websites present information like pricing, any applicable taxes, address forms, promotions, payment methods, shipping options and more. In order to win new customers in international markets, your site needs to feel domestic to them.
  • Offering the right product mix and localizing offers. Based on the customs and traditions of global holidays your brand is looking to leverage, it is important to pay attention to offering or promoting the right products that are relevant to the local holiday. Economic uncertainty, layoffs, and lost jobs may increase price sensitivity in many global shoppers. Consumers may have a smaller budget this year due to the loss of income. Brands may want to consider expanding discounts or special deals on merchandise beyond December this year, as a show of empathy and gratitude to their customers. It is also important to test your promotion strategy. If a buy-one-get-one offer performs well in one market, it doesn’t mean it will be the right fit for the products selling well in another market. You’ll want to make sure you do your research and also test the different product mix and promotions you offer in the weeks leading up to local holidays. 
  • Shipping and delivery window messaging. Due to disrupted supply chains and logistics networks, this year is the year where online retailers will need to set early shipping cut-off dates. Many already anticipate that retailers will begin offering aggressive winter promotions as early as October rather than pushing them out to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With the disruption of postal carriers in different regions (such as in the U.S., for example), shoppers will also plan to place orders for gifts as early as possible to ensure delivery in time for the holidays. This will be the same for cross-border shoppers. It is crucial for cross-border e-commerce brands to clearly communicate shipping cut off dates to consumers in different markets and provide accurate delivery windows so that global customers know when they can expect to receive their orders. Cross-border e-tailers also need to be ready to push holiday sales now and prepare to handle large shipping volumes earlier than ever before.
  • A reverse logistics strategy. Every child wants their mom to love the gift they so carefully selected for her, but let’s face it: sometimes, a gift is a big miss. Brands must enable a quick and easy returns policy. In certain markets, a brand’s return policy can make or break a sale. Returns mark the tailend of the customer experience, so if they are not handled well or policies are not properly communicated to the customer, then that could mean losing a repeat buyer in the future.

The global e-commerce experts at Flow have compiled a handy guide that provides tips of for getting the most out of various global gift-selling holidays.  Download the guide today and keep it as a handy reference for each market where you do business. To learn more about which promotions and offers have the best response by country, download our free E-commerce Shopping Behaviors report.