Flow recently co-hosted a webinar with a leading analyst firm Coresite to explore the opportunities and challenges for cross-border e-commerce. “Flowing Cross-Border: Ulla Johnson’s Journey into Global Expansion” featured insights from Coresight Founder Deborah Weinswig, Flow CEO Rob Keve, as well as first-hand experience from Nikki Davidson, Senior Manager of Digital at NYC-based fashion brand Ulla Johnson. For direct-to-consumer brands who want to capitalize on the growing e-commerce demand by international consumers, this hour-long webinar, now available on-demand, is a must-watch.

 

Cross-Border Shopping is Here to Stay

First, Coresite’s Weinswig kicked things off with a market overview of cross-border e-commerce in 2020. She revealed that clothing, footwear and accessories were the leading categories, with 68% of global consumers making these kinds of purchases from cross-border e-commerce websites. Other leading categories for international shopping in 2020 included electronics and computer equipment, children’s toys, hobbies, and beauty products.

Weinswig also predicted that in 2021, 22% of all e-commerce sales will be generated internationally. In her estimation, the continued growth of cross-border e-commerce will be driven by the global pandemic, even in markets where brick-and-mortar stores have reopened or will reopen soon. The pandemic has not only accelerated cross-border online shopping, but consumers have been engaging in this behavior long enough for it to become a permanent habit.

cross-border growth

Meeting Expectations: The Cross-Border Customer Experience

Next, Flow CEO Rob Keve discussed the importance of providing a localized customer experience in each market where a brand does business. Expectations from global consumers are high, and brands who fail to deliver will lose out. How do brands know when they’re missing out on cross-border sales? Keve points to any discrepancies retailers may see between incoming international traffic to an e-commerce site and actual sales transactions from cross-border shoppers. If the volume of traffic is strong but doesn’t translate into sales, this is an indication that the cross-border customer experience is lacking.

There are several points along the customer journey where cross-border shoppers can experience friction. When entering new markets, it’s vital for brands and retailers to provide a seamless experience across every customer touchpoint. 

Keve recapped a few of the most common pain points, including:

  • Relevant duties and taxes for cross-border purchases – Transparent pricing must be offered in the local currency with clear language on any taxes and duties, so the customer doesn’t encounter additional costs upon delivery.
  • Localized payment methods – This starts with local acquiring to reduce the number of declined payments and increase authorization rates, and it extends to giving shoppers the ability to transact using their preferred method, from traditional credit cards to alternative payment methods and everything in between.
  • Shipping costs – International shipping can be costly for retailers, and providing a range of shipping options allows customers to choose the option or tier that best fits their needs. 

High prices, slow delivery, and the high cost of duties and taxes are the three most common barriers for cross-border shoppers, according to Keve.

 

Ulla Johnson Solves Cross-Border E-commerce Challenges 

Fashion brand Ulla Johnson started with a handful of brick-and-mortar boutique stores and with an early endorsement from Barney’s New York, the brand began building a dedicated following of customers across the US, Europe, Australia, and Asia. It’s natural that this loyal following of the brand’s in-store experience would translate to an increase in cross-border traffic to its direct-to-consumer website. But behind the scenes, the retailer was struggling with its digital customer experience, most notably with international shipping. 

Davidson recalled that prior to becoming a Flow customer, Ulla Johnson was working with a different international shipping provider that became a “CX headache” for the brand. At the time, Ulla Johnson was using an outmoded cross-docking logistics model that consolidated all shipments at a warehouse in Los Angeles. This approach was costly and caused delays in shipping to international customers. Further, Davidson wanted more control over the customer checkout experience to ensure that international shoppers weren’t hitting any roadblocks when making purchases. The team also needed more control over the brand’s international pricing strategy, especially in regions where Ulla Johnson was already working with wholesale partners.

Flow’s modular, turnkey e-commerce platform helped Davidson solve all of these challenges and more. With the ability to easily conduct A/B testing in all 64 countries it sells into, Ulla Johnson gained a better understanding of which price points work best in each market, as well as the shipping expectations in every country. Thanks to Flow, Ulla Johnson went from generating 3% of its overall sales from cross-border purchases to 16% of its sales now coming from international customers. The brand also achieved a 75% reduction in delivery time, with most of its European customers now enjoying 3-day shipping. And because the brand retains ownership of the customer relationship, they can get a clearer picture of who their cross-border customers are, enabling them to better segment their audience and offer a more localized experience.

To find out more about what Ulla Johnson did to transform the cross-border e-commerce customer experience and what’s next for the brand in 2021, watch the webinar today. To learn about what Flow can do for your brand, get in touch with us to set up a demo of our platform.