Global shipping has been one of the main ecommerce challenges in recent years but the world is finally recovering from the pandemic and international selling is quickly back on the rise..
Ensuring the ecommerce logistics infrastructure has all the necessary components to sell internationally is imperative.
This process encompasses everything from receiving your buyers orders, to processing, packing, filling out all of the delivery forms and sending it to your customers.
But it doesn’t stop there. There’s customs requirements, there’s then optional returns that also need to be accounted for - the logistics supply chain is a very complex but important process.
Let’s take a look at the essentials of a global shipping infrastructure:
- Order Fulfillment
- Inventory management
- Ecommerce Warehousing
- Order packaging and global shipping
- Ecommerce returns and reverse logistics
Order fulfillment involves all the steps in the ecommerce delivery process that occur within a warehouse, right up to the shipping stage.
Activities such as warehousing, storage, packing, and handing off the order to the carrier. Included is also inventory management in other warehouses within the supply chain.
The order fulfillment stage also has one of the biggest impacts on your buyers experience when they receive the package - what are the materials used, how does the package look in terms of quality, will there be any added extras, which carrier is selected to ship the order. All of these can impact your buyers satisfaction and needs to be carefully considered.
The fulfillment process allows a brand to connect with the customer through the online transaction and can impact how a customer perceives the brand.
Inventory management is an important cog in being efficient and organized. When orders start piling up, if there’s no structural system in please, orders can become lost, inventory can be mismanaged and it can result in unhappy customers being sent the wrong products or a mess at customs.
By properly tracking what merchandise is situated in which warehouse, employees can keep supply levels in check based on current and predicted demand. By utilizing a proper inventory management system, orders can get processed quicker, shipped faster and as a result delivery times can be significantly reduced.
This management system can be even more vital for businesses who sell a variety of products with different specifications, such as apparel which may be available in different sizes, colours etc. By ensuring an effective inventory management system is integrated in the supply chain, merchants can find and track products across their entire warehousing and distribution, and prevent incorrect orders in busier periods of business.
Ecommerce warehousing goes hand-in-hand inventory management.
Without a large enough space to hold stock, an inventory management system would not be able to function correctly during busier periods of business and so businesses need to invest in the correct space size to be able to hold large enough stock. Combined with an inventory management system, this can help reduce cost and time of delivery all around the world.
But it’s not just size that is an important factor, but also investing in warehousing around the most efficient locations and building a logistics system around these warehouses.
Location is absolutely essential in reducing costs. For example, a business solely in the US may expand into Europe. Without any warehousing in Europe, the costs associated with shipping may be lower at the start, but as business starts to accelerate internationally, it may suddenly become more expensive in terms of cost and time to store all of the products in the US and so an EU warehouse may help to reduce costs and friction within the logistics supply chain.
For businesses who aren’t yet fully settled in specific international markets, fulfillment hubs are very effective at providing the warehousing need between international borders.
Order packaging and global shipping
Packing an order isn’t just about making sure the products are in the correct box for delivery, but it’s the process that covers the order being processed, the carrier being selected, the documentations being filled in and sent to customs, and labels being printed - it’s a system that ensures that box has everything it needs to be able to reach the buyer correctly.
Ensuring each package is labeled correctly, with the right information for processing is vital. The big problem for carriers is that if just one parcel on a truck is lacking the correct paperwork then the whole truck can be held up at the border and indeed potentially turned around and sent back to the depot, which is a bad experience for the buyer and the merchant.
Customs documentation is largely standardized, it needs to include all the information the target country would want to know about the goods you’re transporting, such as who your business is, what the goods are classified as, how they are being shipped, who is responsible for the customs, etc.
This whole process can be automated once you’re registered with the local tax authorities of each market, but it’s advisable to get professional help when doing it for the first time as any errors may lead to undelivered goods and/or a very bad customer experience.
Ecommerce returns and reverse logistics
International transactions don’t end when a customer receives their order. Returning products is becoming a more accepted practice by buyers and the process is becoming a very important part of the post-purchase experience.
Implementing a well thought out returns policy is a surefire way to gain your buyers trust. Unlike customers in stores, online consumers don't get to see and hold the physical product before they buy it. A concise and clear return policy gives consumers a feeling of security; that what they are buying is guaranteed to be what it is represented to be, without this, there could be distrust between the customer and merchant and result in a loss of sale.
Merchants need to ensure their reverse logistics are just as implemented as efficiently as the fulfillment process. Lost packages can lead to delayed refunds, which can affect customer satisfaction. Lost items can also result in a double loss, as those products can no longer be resold after having already issued a refund.
To find out how you can overcome global shipping challenges and stay ahead of the international changes, get in touch with one of our ecommerce experts today.