How fashion retailers can adapt their fulfilment & distribution processes for the international market

by Paul Galpin, Managing Director, P2P Mailing

The internet economy continues to grow apace, with analysts predicting that, by 2016 the online market will be worth $4.2 trillion dollars in the G20 economies. The internet and the growth of ecommerce are giving fashion retailers a unique opportunity to expand their customer base across the world.

The importance of adapting the fulfilment and delivery processes for successful international expansion should not be underestimated; failure to plan accordingly can have disastrous consequences. Experiencing delays or delivery problems just twice or more would convince 87% of people to switch to another supplier .

So how can retailers avoid these pitfalls? What are the key steps to success?

Manage your costs

While engaging with overseas customers gives retailers an opportunity for growth, some tricky decisions will need to be made before the rewards can be reaped. For example, when it comes to the cost of cross-border delivery – what are the related costs? And how can these be minimised? Identifying the most cost effective distributor for each territory can be exasperating, especially when it comes to long distance deliveries where many operators will be involved. For fashion retailers operating in the online market, engaging with an expert third party postal provider will be the most fail-safe and cost-effective way of managing distribution. An expert consultant should not only be able to negotiate competitive prices on your behalf, but will also be able to advise you on how to ensure that your fulfilment and distribution infrastructure can keep pace with the expansion of your business.

Tracking deliveries

There’s also the question of whether to offer trackable delivery. Bearing in mind that in the UK, 12% of deliveries fail first time costing the online retail industry an estimated £1bn in redeliveries you can see why some consumers would like to keep tabs on the progress of their purchase.
For many retailers selling lower value items via a standard delivery service, their trackable options have been limited, with a choice between relying on international packet post with little or no tracking, or premium express parcel services which offer tracking but add significantly to delivery costs. However, this situation is changing and there are now a few solutions that offer trackable, cross-border delivery for smaller parcels at lower rates, enabling retailers to offer their customers real-time delivery information without the inflated distribution prices. Facilitate cross border returns
Online shopping by its very nature requires a high level of trust between the consumer and the vendor. Money is exchanged before the goods are received and shoppers don’t have the opportunity to try on or examine their purchases before the transaction is completed. Vendors need to make their returns policy clear to customers from the outset and carefully ensure that they are compliant with the regulations, which will differ across countries.

Ultimately, the current ecommerce boom that is defying the persistently volatile economic climate gives retailers access to a potential customer base of 37 million. However, international expansion should not be rushed into, and ensuring that the processes are in place to distribute goods promptly and cost effectively across the globe is a key consideration. I While the opportunity is an exciting one, retailers must ensure they are fully prepared before they attempt to seize it.