Universal Standard enjoyed increased demand and built a loyal following with customers who sought high-quality, on-trend, size-inclusive apparel. The brand noticed engagement from global consumers on their social media properties almost instantly. Universal Standard’s first brick-and-mortar retail location was in Seattle and, by way of geography, drew interest from Canadian consumers. Universal Standard knew that making the brand accessible to Canadian customers was much more complex than just a simple drive across the border.
Universal Standard noticed even more global interest from such markets as New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. It became clear that hiring a cross- border expert to manage each of these new markets was costly and not sustainable. The company needed a streamlined, centralized approach that could scale along with their rapid growth. The brand’s most pressing problem was its ongoing struggle with cross-border delivery times, which were averaging 21 days to reach customers.
“We had reached the point with domestic customers where we were offering free shipping in the U.S., but this model wasn’t sustainable with our cross-border customers,” explained Rita Hudetz, Chief Operating Officer at Universal Standard. “We tried partnering with a third-party logistics provider to handle international shipping, and while the cost was low, the delivery times were inconsistent and unreliable. We learned the hard way that international shipping is not as simple as finding the cheapest carrier. There’s so much more that goes into it.”
That’s when Universal Standard turned to Flow.
- Rapid expansion into multiple global markets left the brand struggling to provide localized experiences in each country.
- International shipping presented logistics complexities such as long delivery times.
- Hiring in-country e-commerce experts to manage cross-border transactions in each market was not an option for a brand accelerating global expansion efforts.
- Flow’s modular, flexible solution supports a localized e-commerce experience in each of the 26 countries where Universal Standard does business.
- A/B testing capabilities in each market gathers important data on international shoppers’ preferences.
- Hubless shipping model cut delivery wait times by 70%.
- Relevant taxes and duties are calculated in real time and displayed in local currency.
Thanks to Flow, we have a great level of flexibility around when and how we enter markets. We can learn and make further adjustments to our strategy as we go. With Flow, cross-border expansion is strategic, but also opportunistic, because we can monitor global markets where we’re gaining more traction and further optimize the localized online experience there, based on what we learn.
– Rita Hudetz, COO, Universal Standard
Shipping & Logistics
Solving the shipping cost and speed roadblocks was a top priority. With help from Flow, the brand found a new international carrier that cost a bit more, but greatly improved the speed and reliability of shipping. Cutting down on the time of delivery and offering global customers the ability to track their packages was particularly crucial in the Asia-Pacific region. The changes in logistics and new relationships with global express carriers helped Universal Standard better manage shipping and delivery and respond faster to any market disruptions.
Working with Flow has allowed Universal Standard to move away from being reactive and tactical in their approach to international growth, thus, becoming more strategic about entering new global markets. Today, the brand has a strong e-commerce presence in 100+ markets with country-specific experiences created for 26 of them that localize the language, currency and other onsite variables including checkout. As new markets come online, such as Iceland and Switzerland, Universal Standard has confidence in their ability to deliver localized experiences that keep customers coming back.
The retailer is progressively working towards providing a more localized consumer experience in each market. Universal Standard leveraged Flow’s modular e-commerce platform to conduct A/B testing in various markets
to determine whether customers prefer to pay for relevant taxes, duties, or shipping surcharges at the time of purchase. They have also run optimization tests on how these fees as well as product pricing are displayed across the customer journey.
“The A/B testing has shown us how truly different every market is,” Hudetz notes. “Some consumers are very savvy at cross-border transactions
and want to choose for themselves how they pay for duties and taxes. But customers in other markets have low awareness of the relevant duties in their countries and need more education. Now, we have the ability to localize the experience based on the market.”
In Canada, the first cross-border market where Universal Standard had success, they have successfully offered a flat rate shipping tier for customers who reach a certain spending threshold. On average, Universal Standard reduced its transit time for shipping by 70%. With the addition of localized payment options for each global market, the brand has successfully removed many barriers for cross-border customers.
Universal standard now has the ability to sell and maintain a global business easily without building separate websites or establishing different teams in each country to which they now sell. With a reliable and flexible solution in place that simply works and isn’t high maintenance, the team at Universal Standard can spend their time refining their strategy and approach and optimizing conversion on site to drive sales rather than trying to manage operational complexities. By leveraging Flow’s platform, the brand can be nimble and agile, with the ability to approach cross-border strategically while still having the ability to pivot opportunistically as global circumstances shift.