Timing is Everything: How Speed of Delivery Impacts Cross Border E-Commerce

July 12, 2019

There's an old warning that "Speed kills" but in the international e-commerce industry, moving slowly is far more dangerous. Flow's Global Research Report found that 50% of international e-commerce shoppers say the top barrier to making a cross border purchase is that “delivery time is too slow.” This is an even greater concern for consumers than the cost of taxes and duties, the use of the customer’s home language on the e-commerce site, or the inclusion of preferred local payments. In other words, delivery windows can really make or break the shopping experience for a new cross-border customer. Now more than ever, international e-commerce merchants must have a shipping strategy that meets the high expectations of global customers.

There are several reasons why delivery speed can be affected in the cross border journey of a product. There’s the obvious reason of simple geography: a brand’s merchandise must travel further to reach its destination in a cross-border transaction. But sheer distance aside, there are several potential speed bumps along the delivery route that can make the process even longer. These include inaccurate or incomplete customs paperwork, using the wrong product classification for the specific country the product is being shipped to, or a misstep with the local last-mile carrier.  Another consideration is the impact of cross-docking, where brands risk lengthening delivery windows for international orders by adding an extra step to the delivery chain. It’s important for brands and retailers to realize that in the end, it doesn’t matter to the customer what the hurdle was – the result is, they’re still waiting for their item.

Speed of delivery impacts a cross-border retailer's relationship with global customers, especially in markets like Japan, Mexico, Brazil and Canada according to Flow's report. Some direct-to-consumer retailers even consider the speed of delivery a crucial brand differentiator. The situation is even worse when the purchase is a gift with specific timing involved, such as a birthday or a gift-giving holiday. The international customer who shows up to Christmas empty-handed because their items didn't arrive on time will remember that negative experience and next year, they will shop with a retailer they trust to deliver their items on time.

shipping delivery times

Because delivery speed preferences can vary by market, brands should be sure to include shipping tiers as part of their delivery strategy. It’s true that global consumers don’t like to wait for their orders,  but even more importantly, they like having options and control over how it’s sent and delivered. Presenting more than one shipping option provides a range of speed and cost that increases the likelihood of matching customer preferences.  Cross-border e-commerce merchants need to research which options are the best choices to their customers in each market, for both arrival date and means of delivery. Do customers in the target country prefer One-Day shipping, or are they sometimes more fond of the Two-Day option?  Researching and testing the local preferences in each market will help brands determine how to construct their shipping tiers. Then, brands need to be sure that their in-country shipping partner or carrier is able to deliver on the shipping strategy.

The right technology partner can help cross border merchants manage the shipping process end to end, starting with order pickup at the distribution center and all the way through to order delivery at the customer's door. Flexible, simple, low-cost shipping options with full pricing control and shipping policy management is crucial to succeed as a cross-border e-commerce merchant.

Flow can help brands execute on their international shipping strategy.  Our recent international study outlines the delivery preferences for cross-border consumers in the top 11 markets so that we can help our clients test their delivery windows for their customers across these markets.  To learn more, contact a Flow expert today.

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