Internet sales are booming as emboldened online shoppers are looking overseas, presenting fresh opportunities for retailers and reliable cross-border delivery services, says Asendia
The world of e-commerce has never been in better shape. According to eMarketer research, last year global business-to-consumer (B2C) internet sales were on track to reach $1.47 trillion; however, the vast majority of these were domestic.
Concerns over customs, currency exchange and deliveries from overseas countries are largely what have deterred online shoppers from buying abroad.
But not for much longer, according to the Office for National Statistics, which found the proportion of UK shoppers buying from other EU countries increased from an estimated 12 per cent in 2008 to 23 per cent in 2014.
Meanwhile, research group Forrester has predicted total European online retail sales will reach €191 billion by 2017, up from €112 billion in 2012.
Cross-border appears to be the future of e-commerce and one company that is taking the lead in the logistics element of this developing market is international mail delivery specialist Asendia.
Formed in 2012 as a joint venture between La Poste and Swiss Post, the company immediately focused on consolidating the 50 services offered by both joint-venture partners, and streamlining its offering to focus on four key areas. These are business mail, direct mail, press and goods distribution, of which the latter encompasses a wide range of cross-border shipping services for business and commerce.
Asendia also acquired a 40 per cent stake in Dublin-based e-fulfilment software platform provider eShopWorld, which handles the order payment processing, currency conversion, customs clearance, and duty and tax calculation elements of the international e-commerce values chain.
The aim was to close a gap in the international goods shipping market by providing a simplified choice of cross-border delivery services for business in terms of speed, destination and price.
“Cross-border e-commerce is growing and creating some great opportunities for retailers looking to expand into new markets,” says chief executive Marc Pontet. “Logistics is a big part of that and Asendia is the obvious choice for linking up sender and receiver across international borders.”
The opportunities presented by cross-border e-commerce are especially significant for UK retailers. British-made goods are held in high regard all over the world. But with cross-border e-commerce activity largely inter-regional, the logical entry point for British businesses lies in neighbouring European markets where online shopping is well established.
Switzerland, for example, has one of the highest percentages of internet users in Europe, with more than 85 per cent of its eight million people estimated to be active online.
The fact that the Swiss are also prolific bargain hunters and avid browsers of larger product ranges beyond their borders, and that the market is a relatively easy one to enter, should resonate with other European online retailers looking for new revenue streams.
Cross-border e-commerce is growing and creating some great opportunities for retailers looking to expand into new markets
Urban fashion brand Paul’s Boutique is one UK retailer that has successfully exploited the broadening European consumer embrace of online shopping to achieve strong domestic and international growth.
It is now widely recognised across the Continent as an accessible producer of fashion-forward handbags. And in fashion retail, instant access to the latest collections is the key to brand growth.
Paul’s Boutique’s high-quality e-commerce website and partnership with Asendia to deliver a seamless end-to-end supply chain with reliable reverse logistics for returns have paid dividends.
Chief executive Daniel Morris says: “It’s important to get the after-sales service right if we are to keep our customers. Asendia helps us to fulfil our customers’ orders quickly and accurately, and our systems are integrated with theirs, which allows us to monitor orders and stock levels consistently to improve our supply chain.
France, too, is home to a population of online shoppers; internet sales there have grown by a phenomenal 500 per cent since 2000. And with the less complex French logistics industry, market entry can be somewhat easier compared with other countries.
For these reasons France is often the first country that other European retailers approach when expanding overseas.
France and Germany were the e-commerce markets initially targeted by Madrid-based Seizpack, a retailer of boutique backpacks. One of the key aspects of the bags is that they are customisable and therefore better suited to being sold online where customer choices can be made.
Extending the brand’s reach to overseas customers invited fresh e-commerce revenue streams, but cross-border shipping of what is essentially a bulky product presented a challenge.
Co-founder Marco Seiz says: “It had to be reliable and easy, and we wanted normal shipping, rather than express, to be the default option to keep costs down.”
Asendia’s system provided Seizpack with the option of normal shipping and express delivery, ensuring the company didn’t have to work with two different delivery partners for that service.
And the system is working extremely well for a growing number of Asendia clients in France, Switzerland and various other European countries. With ready access to the Swiss and French postal networks, ensuring a seamless delivery process, Asendia has carved a niche in cross-border shipping.
With better consumer protection, communications and delivery systems, people are losing their inhibitions about buying from overseas. And the retailers that had reservations about the costs and reliability of cross-border e-commerce, especially as volumes increase, now have a solution.
Mr Pontet concludes: “Traditionally the core business of postal operators has been transport delivery, but no matter how efficient this has become, it is no longer enough, especially in the cross-border business. Our ambition is to make cross-border commerce easy and reliable worldwide, and we hope this will be a pillar of our future growth.”