Customers in advanced e-commerce markets, such as Germany and the UK, are accustomed to high service standards at the lowest possible cost. They expect to receive shipments within max. two to three working days, with free delivery and return as standard; under no circumstances do they want to incur any additional costs.
The high standard expectations of consumers abroad pose logistical challenges for Swiss providers: What is the easiest way to get the goods across the border to the customer? What delivery conditions do we offer? Which costs do we need to account for? How do we deal with returns?
Reliability is the most important criterion
Consequently, according to a survey of (German only) 513 online retailers conducted by the German Retailers Association, reliability is the most important criterion for choosing a shipping provider, followed by shipment tracking, short delivery times and a good price-performance ratio. Two thirds of retailers spread the risk and commission across several shipping agents. In Germany, DHL is the market leader (80%), followed by DPD (28%). Deutsche Post has made significant gains (+32%).
What delivery conditions do foreign customers expect?
Customers want to receive their goods quickly, reliably and whenever possible free of charge. This delivery variant is called “delivered duty paid” (DDP). Retrospective invoicing of customs duties or other costs upon receipt of goods have a lasting negative impact on the customer experience. Transparency of information regarding expected costs is therefore essential. This is why customer should be informed about the expected costs (= total landed costs) during the ordering process to provide absolute price transparency. Hence it is not only the product value that should be indicated at the webshop checkout, but all costs incurred such as VAT, shipping costs and customs duties.
What does the total landed cost include?
- Total order price
- Transport and delivery costs from consignor to consignee
- Possible customs duties
- VAT incurred in the country of destination
- Customs duties
- Exchange rate
- Handling and payment fees
What options are there for shipping goods abroad?
International goods shipments can be sent abroad in many different ways: for example as freight shipment, as an express courier shipment or by post. The shipping method depends primarily on the nature of the goods. Four basic questions help you choose the right logistics solution:
• What are you shipping?
• How big and heavy are your parcels?
• How many orders do you ship on average per month?
• How urgent is the delivery?
The majority of export consignments concern goods from the online retail, which are sent by post. Sending by post has many advantages, which include: Global e-commerce shipments are delivered by local postal operators and their number of PUDOs (pick-up and drop-off points) exceeds all other courier services across the world.
International dispatch using the Swiss postal service
International dispatch of small parcels up to 2kg is handled by the Swiss Post subsidiary “Asendia”. This also makes it possible to ship smaller trade volumes abroad. Asendia also offers solutions for preparing export documents for shipments, dealing with customs and VAT formalities and returns logistics.
Shipping service provider
As already mentioned above, retailers are happy to spread their risk across various shipping agents. However, negotiating separate contracts with each parcel delivery serve is time-consuming. Shipping service providers (SSP) such as Sendcloud or Shipcloud can remedy this situation by providing merchants with a platform through which different shipping partners can be flexibly booked. This also means that not every single shipping partner has to be connected to a retailer’s webshop; instead there is one single interface between the webshop and the shipping service provider.
International shipment via logistics service providers
In the case of larger shipments abroad, it may be worthwhile to commission a logistics service provider who can offer further services such as warehousing, order and payment processing, risk management or customer service via a call center.
Shipping from a warehouse abroad
If you regularly sell goods to European customers in an EU country, then it could be worthwhile to have a warehouse in the European Union. This can increase delivery speed and reliability and simplify the returns process.
When selling via marketplaces such as Amazon, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is an option. In this case, you send goods to a logistics and goods center designated by the marketplace provider and the latter handles all logistics, customer service and returns management. Note that you are still responsible for compliance with legal requirements and you must also file a tax registration in the countries where your goods are stored or sold.