If you’re selling to a global market, you will hopefully be shipping products overseas on a regular basis and are experiencing an increase in sales.
But if you are fulfilling international orders yourself, you could be spending an unnecessary amount of profit on high shipping fees. This could cause your international customers to complain about extra fees, your lack of communication and slow deliveries.
If you are experiencing all of the above, it’s time to consider something new...
This article aims to explain the ins and outs of partnering with an international fulfilment centre and what to look out for when you are choosing which fulfilment facility to go with.
International warehouses are crucial to international fulfillment and scaling globally. A warehouse is a big facility where your products are stored before they head out the door to be delivered to your customers. An international warehouse will be local to your overseas customers to make things easier when shipping and delivering on a global scale.
A strategically placed warehouse will let you easily cross borders throughout Asia, Europe, and North America, no matter where your HQ is based.
Choosing the right international warehouse for your e-commerce business is crucial to global growth, but it can be very complex and requires a huge amount of trust.
You should visit the warehouse yourself to ensure it is a safe and secure facility for your overseas inventory to be stored.
It’s very likely you will come across cultural differences and language barriers as well as new rules and regulations for each country you deal with. It’s a lot to keep on top of and can be overwhelming, but this process can be optimised by choosing to partner with an international fulfilment centre.
What is an international fulfilment centre?
A fulfilment centre's role is to process, fulfill and manage international orders rather than you having to spend extreme amounts of money on shipping overseas and handling big international orders.
An international fulfilment centre has the ability to store multiple amounts of inventory stock and employs “pickers” and “packers” who deal with your international orders. Pickers will pick the correct items from the warehouse and packers will sort and pack the items to fulfil the orders and dispatch to your customers.
For example, if you are selling to customers in Europe but your HQ is based in America, you can ship inventory over to your European fulfilment partner to handle all of your European sales.
By sending a bulk load of inventory overseas to your fulfillment centre, you will save on shipping fees every time you receive an international order and speed up deliveries too.
What are the benefits of partnering with a fulfilment centre to your customers & to your e-commerce business?
With the ability to fulfill shipments to a wide range of customers in different countries, you will see your e-commerce business grow across the globe with maximum efficiency without you barely lifting a finger.
Many e-commerce brands face inventory issues with picking and shipping when they manage their own international warehouse and fulfilment. This is because e-commerce teams already have numerous tasks to complete, and adding international inventory management to that list is too much to handle. Unfortunately, this can sometimes increase shipping mistakes, giving e-commerce brands a bad reputation in international markets, harming customer satisfaction as a result.
For example, miss-picks and miss-ships are very common issues, as well as damaged items reaching international customers. A miss-pick is when you select the wrong product for a customer order and a miss-ship is when the wrong item is shipped to a customer.
Don’t lose international customers over poor inventory management, good stock control is a vital component in providing the best possible customer experience.
To drive more international sales, e-commerce brands need their inventory management to run smoothly without error. Thankfully international fulfillment centres will take care of your international inventory management, making it much easier to reach and satisfy international customers with excellent customer service.
There’s no excuse for items being out of stock or for late international deliveries because outsourcing fulfillment gives you more control over inventory and will prevent your business from taking more orders than what you have in stock.
Prevent cart abandonment
Offering a fantastic product is all well and good, but it is not enough to fully satisfy your international customers. Your customers want parcels to arrive safely, as quickly as possible, and they definitely don’t want any nasty surprises at checkout.
Imagine this: an international customer visits your store and they see a product they like, they add it to their shopping cart, but when they go to make a transaction they notice an extortionate shipping fee or an extremely long delivery time. This discourages them from making a purchase with your store and abandons their shopping cart immediately.
If you partner with an international fulfilment centre, a proportion of your stock will be local to your international customer and therefore lowering shipping costs and shortening delivery times. This will increase your international customer satisfaction and boost your international sales as a result.
Lower shipping fees can also enable some online retailers to begin offering free shipping to customers. This will persuade more international customers to buy from your brand with no worries about shipping fees.
Strengthen your returns process
The online fashion and retail industry find it a common occurrence for customers to return items. This is most likely because customers can’t try on clothing before they buy, as they could in a physical store.
When e-commerce businesses choose to partner with an international fulfilment centre, returned items can be sent straight to the international customers’ local warehouse, rather than the main HQ. This offers e-commerce managers more flexibility and fewer issues with processing international returns, strengthening the returns process. Stay ahead of the competition
Your competitors will either be partnered with or are looking to partner with international fulfilment centres to attract more international customers.
If you want to beat your competition and win over customers, you could be inadvisable to ignore the opportunities that international fulfilment partners can offer.
If you choose not to partner with a fulfilment centre, you will risk your e-commerce business getting left behind and your potential international customers will purchase items from your competitors instead.
What to look for in an international fulfilment partner
When you are searching for the ideal fulfilment partner, it is important to dig deep into their reputation. Look at their portfolio and reviews, have they been successful in fulfilling orders like yours? If they have an excellent history of fulfilling similar orders and fulfilling them well, it shows that they can cater to your customers’ needs too.
Safe & secure
A good international fulfilment partner will go out of their way to understand the value of your products and will do everything in their power to keep your inventory safe and secure. They should offer extremely high security standards with high quality, 24 hour CCTV and alarm systems.
A proper fulfilment centre will also provide additional security for higher priced items using a restricted access, high-value goods area with additional security.
Consider visiting them at the warehouse, check out their security measures, and make sure the facility has the ability to keep your stock as safe and secure as possible.
On the subject of security, it is important to think about international compliance and customer data security: your international customers need to feel comfort in knowing their personal information is protected against fraud.
The international fulfilment centre you choose should adhere to very strict guidelines when it comes to customer data protection and the recent introduction of GDPR. You must make sure the fulfilment partner you choose is compliant and in line with international data practices otherwise, your business could face steep fines.
As we previously mentioned, returns are common when it comes to retail, especially in online retail as customers can’t try before they buy.
Customers find posting returns a lot of hassle as it is, if you add to that poor communication between the customer and the fulfilment centre, your brand will suffer from a bad reputation when dealing with returns overseas. Always make sure the fulfilment centre you choose can provide an expert returns management system for you and your customers. A good returns management system will allow your customers to process a return online, so everyone (you and the customer) can track the return in real time.
Expanding your e-commerce business to a global scale is exciting, but can be overwhelming.
One of the hardest, most crucial tasks for being successful when selling overseas is fulfilling every single order to a high standard in order to satisfy international customers.
International fulfilment centres will manage your international inventory, process and fulfill orders, as well as keeping your international products safe and secure.
Choosing to partner with an international fulfilment facility could save you losing thousands of international sales. Your customers will appreciate lower shipping fees, safer and quicker deliveries, smooth returns and good communications.
It’s extremely important to choose the right fulfilment facility, so make sure you do your research, or better still, visit them!