Navigating cross-border eCommerce fulfilment complexities in 2022

2020-08-10

Written by Starshipit

The National Online Retailers Association Retail Up webinar, hosted on the 2nd of February, 2022, brought together leading eCommerce experts, Cale Suesskow, Co-CEO of global Australian fashion brand, Vrg Grl, Travis Robinson, APAC General Manager of Zonos, Hakan Steele, Head of Channel Partnerships of Starshipit, and our host, Nadia Lotter, board of the NORA Network and Head of Marketing & D2C for Boody.

This blog is your one-stop-shop for all the knowledge, insights and actionable cross-border tips shared throughout the webinar.

Cross-border eCommerce is expanding fast with Statista reporting that global retail eCommerce sales are set to reach $5.5 trillion USD this year and $7.3 trillion USD by 2025.

To help unlock the opportunities available to Australian retailers, the webinar discussion focused on three aspects of cross-border selling and shipping:

  • How to create localised transparency – knowing the expectations of international customers.
  • How to navigate complex tax schemes, duties and levies.
  • Essential tools for efficient cross-border shipping.

Let’s now go through some of the highlights of the webinar.

1. What challenges do Australian retailers face when they begin cross-border shipping?

An obvious challenge for Australian retailers is managing the distance from key markets such as the UK and USA, coupled with the expectations of the international shopper. As Nadia mentions, “Since COVID-19 everyone has gotten on board with instant gratification, so it's so hard for an Aussie brand shipping from Australia to satisfy that psychology!”

To meet the expectations of the predominantly millennial global shopper, accustomed to warp speed click and deliver services such as Amazon, panelists agreed that retailers should look at offering more than one delivery option. For example, a global retailer could offer two options; an international express service and a more cost-effective delivery option.

The next two challenges were unanimously identified by all guests as pain points that deter retailers from embarking on cross-border selling. The first challenge facing Australian retailers is the sheer volume of paperwork and the complexity of costs, such as understanding tariff classifications, calculating the landed cost and navigating the deep waters of local regulations that differ from country to country.

To alleviate stress and save time managing the customs process and any additional documentation required, retailers like Vrg Grl use Starshipit to centralise and automate the process. For example, retailers can upload documents to their Starshipit account, such as MSDS, Prescriptions, Fabric Certificates, Declarations of Origins. The relevant documentation is then automatically assigned to orders using the Starshipit rules engine and forwarded to the courier.

With over 70% of customers abandoning a purchase due to confusing and unclear shipping costs, it’s critical for Australian retailers to ensure complete transparency by displaying the landed cost before checkout. The landed cost is the sum of all costs, which include duties, taxes, courier fees and customs fees. Vrg Grl use the Zonos Landed Cost API to ensure all costs are clearly displayed and communicated to the customer before they checkout. This avoids gifting them an unwelcome surprise when they receive their much-awaited parcel. Nadia mentions that she has experienced this firsthand when shopping via Instagram because it’s not immediately obvious what country the retailer is from until she receives the parcel with a surprise customs invoice to pay.

“I implemented Starshipit at Vrg Grl and cut the time spent on fulfilment in half!” — Cale Suesskow, Co-CEO Vrg Grl

The second issue experienced by many Australian online retailers is the time it takes to manage the fulfilment process. Cal from Vrg Grl shares a memory from the early days when they used to manually process orders via the courier’s portal. Fulfilment used to be their most time-consuming task and it would take his team two hours to prepare thirty shipments. Now the Vrg Grl team make full use of the joys of automation from Starshipit and have cut their handling time in half.

Learn more about the Starshipit feature Vrg Grl use to save time: Quick Print with Starshipit. Simply scan the barcode on the printed out packing slip to print the shipping label.

2. What will enable retailers to succeed at cross-border selling?

There were two clear focus areas for Australian retailers that surfaced during the discussion. The first centered around delivering a world-class customer experience and the second focal point highlighted the importance of finding the right digital tools (tech stack) and partnerships that enable retailers to deliver a seamless cross-border shopping experience.

Delivering a world-class customer experience begins with ensuring the product is the right fit for the market and ascertaining if there is sufficient demand. Cal from Vrg Grl also noted the importance of ensuring the marketing content “speaks” to the audience on an emotive level,which is a key driver in forging brand connections with customers, so that they return.

Travis from Zonos explained how their suite of API’s and plugins enable retailers to establish this brand connection and trust through localizing the online experience. Cale from Vrg Grl shared how his team use Zonos Hello, a completely free widget, to localise the online experience, “The customer experience is critical, so when an international customer hits the site, Zonos allows us to send a welcome message in their language, which signals that we already ship to their country.” Zonos Hello also converts prices into the customer’s local currency. This is done by geolocating the country using the customer’s browser’s IP address.

For Australian retailers to remain competitive, Cale and Hakan from Starshipit both emphasize the importance of providing fast shipping. Online retailers can speed up shipping in a few ways: by offering the fastest shipping service; providing multiple courier options to mitigate delays when couriers get busy; lastly, retailers can speed up the shipping and fulfilment process by implementing fulfilment automation like Starshipit. Automation allows retailers to automatically assign couriers and automate repetitive data entry using a rules engine. Starshipit provide retailers with a raft of time-saving features such as printing shipping labels using Quick Print - a firm favourite used by the Vrg Grl team.

Travis from Zonos spoke about the importance of retailers retaining control over the customer’s experience and localising the online experience in the customer’s own language with local currency conversions.

Hakan also suggested retailers look at using Branded Tracking customer notifications, which can be sent at five stages during delivery to provide a seamless cross-border experience. In order for retailers to create cross-border continuity, an important trust signal, Branded Tracking emails feature the same brand design from the shopping experience. Retailers also use these emails to drive customer engagement and seed in loyalty tactics such as offering free shipping for their next purchase.

“Use eCommerce tools that can scale with the business and provide flexibility
and control over the customer experience.”

— Travis Robinson, Zonos GM APAC

The second area of focus for Australian retailers is implementing the right digital tools and finding a can-do support team that are quick problem-solvers. Cale emphasized that working with the right people has been critical to Vrg Grl’s success. For example, he knows Travis (Zonos) and Hakan (Starshipit) are just a phone call away in the rare event of any technical issues arising.

Learn how to set up seamless cross-border tracking
Learn how the Starshipit Success Team set retailers up for global success

“Reduce the workload and create efficiencies by partnering with the right people! Like Zonos and Starshipit.”

— Cale Suesskow from Vrg Grl

3. How do you recommend Australian retailers navigate the constant changes involved in cross-border shipping?

Guests agreed that navigating the choppy waters of cross-border costs and local regulations, retailers must look to implement digital tools that automatically affect changes without affecting the customer’s experience.

Cale reiterated the importance of choosing the right partners to work with as they are ultimately responsible for ensuring minimal downtime. To give an example, Cale recounts how easy it was adapting to the Brexit changes, “Retailers had to adjust to UK prepaid overnight. Merchants had to set it up and start collecting tax.” Luckily Vrg Grl had implemented Zonos and Starshipit, so these changes were automatically implemented.

Cale explains that Starshipit’s API integrates directly with Vrg Grl’s courier service, so any changes on the courier side are instantly updated in their Starshipit account. This means the platform flags locations where shipping is suspended, so retailers can immediately communicate this to customers.

Adding to this, Hakan recalls during COVID-19 how retailers were scrambling to undo direct integrations with couriers and instead implement Starshipit, which enables retailers to better navigate any changes because it’s one integration, which provides multiple solutions and courier integrations the retailer can switch on and off as needed.

“One integration with Starshipit provides retailers multiple shipping solutions and courier integrations, which can be switched on and off quickly.”

— Hakan Steele, Starshipit - Head of Channel Partnerships

4. Was finding the right couriers for “Vrg Grl” challenging or did you have help selecting couriers?

There was no short answer to this question! The bottom line for Australian retailers is that it requires a trial-and-error approach. Retailers need to test delivery options to assess what works best for the market and their profit margins. Cale suggests starting with similar approaches to other retailers in the market and to consider what rates suit the product.

Hakan suggests learning from the best in the business, “When starting out, retailers tend to focus on rates and transit times, which is a never-ending balancing act. I would say that working with a premium courier service can actually educate and help retailers that are new to cross-border selling.”

“Working with a premium courier service like DHL is like learning from the Ferrari of couriers!”

— Hakan Steele, Starshipit's Channel Partnerships

5. How does “Vrg Grl” manage cross-border returns?

Managing returns is becoming of equal importance to cross-border customers as the delivery experience. In fact, the customer expectation is that retailers need to have a clear and simple returns policy (in their language).

The Vrg Grl team currently use a returns portal to manage cross-border returns, which integrates with their Shopify store. It fully automates the processin the same way Starshipit does – connecting with the carrier and your eCommerce platform.

Hakan shares news of the imminent release of the Starshipit Returns Portal, “The Starshipit team have put a lot of attention and high-level development skills into building a world-class returns solution to satisfy the most millennial of millennials. Watch this space!

Learn how retailers easily manage returns with Starshipit.

“I love that Starshipit is courier agnostic and just pure-play technology.”

— Travis Robinson, Zonos General Manager APAC

6. What cross-border eCommerce tools would you recommend to merchants?

Hakan from Starshipit suggests that retailers look to working with the best courier service, so that retailers who are starting out can learn from the best. “Especially with the likes of DHL as it's a big part of what they do, so it’s an efficient and cost-effective way to get started with cross-border selling and once the retailer has learnt a few things, it’s then easier to start trialing other services”

Hakan weighs in, “Zonos do cross-border very well. I'm constantly singing their praises to people 'cause I've heard such great things and I know what's in the back end and they make it look really easy, but I know how hard it is!”

Travis confirms his approach to managing cross-border complexities, “it's about relationships and people and finding partners who have an understanding of what merchants needs are and being available to listen and say look actually we might have somebody that we can put you in touch with.”

Learn how to auto-assign the cheapest courier rates.

Learn how to offer different shipping options at checkout.


That’s a wrap

We would like to thank NORA TV and
Nadia Lotter for the invitation and for hosting the webinar. Thank you to our fellow guests, Cal and Travis, for a great discussion. The Starshipit team look forward to more discussions and ideas around unlocking the potential of cross-border selling for Australian retailers.

  • The Zonos™: International Checkout API gives your eCommerce shop a beautiful, international shopping experience. In addition to a complete landed cost, International Checkout also allows the shopper to shop in their local currency and language, includes fraud coverage, custom restrictions, denied party screening, localization, international promo codes, global payments and more. Our service-oriented architecture includes the following REST APIs for integrating our Zonos International Checkout.
  • Vrg Grl: Verge Girl, founded by sisters Natalia Suesskow and Daniella Dionyssiou in 2007, is a pureplay direct-to-consumer online business. Their brand aims to provide style-driven affordability with pieces that won’t break the bank.
  • Boody: Thoughtfully crafted from organically-grown bamboo, discover super soft, comfy, breathable and sustainable everyday essentials. Boody believe that comfort can be more than feeling good - it can do good, too.

To view the webinar, visit the Nora TV website.

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Starshipit

Starshipit is the best practice shipping and fulfilment platform that helps retailers save time and deliver great shipping experiences.

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