A Guide to International Delivery

9 steps to growing sales abroad - what you need to do to take advantage of a growing international market

1. Be clear about where you deliver to

In a recent survey* nearly a third of websites didn't state whether they delivered to the country the consumer was trying to order from. This is unnerving for the customer, who begins shopping without being certain that the order will be accepted or delivered. Retailers must reassure overseas customers and make delivery destinations clear on their website.

2. Support accurate address capture

It's imperative that the overseas shopper can type in their address and that back end systems can handle that data. Some of the best systems can be purchased off the shelf and are capable of giving multi-national address look up.

3. Be clear about customs charges

If you wish to target customers outside of the EU in English speaking countries such as Australia and the USA, it is worth pointing out there are relatively high thresholds before customs charges are applied and by sharing these thresholds up front, you are allowing your customers to make an informed decision. Fortunately, sales within the EU incur no customs charges at all.

4. Make your delivery charges affordable

In a recent survey* overseas shoppers were asked what prevents them from buying from UK websites, most mentioned the delivery charges. It is vital that retailers offer affordable delivery charges to overseas customers, otherwise they won't buy. Other research also suggests that the cost of carriage should not exceed one third of the price of the goods and that 'Free Delivery' is an attractive option.

5. Offer flexible delivery

In the UK market some 64% of retailers offer at least two delivery options – usually a standard service and an express service costing more but faster. However, internationally, only 10% of online retailers give the shopper a choice. International shoppers are like UK shoppers – sometimes they're in a hurry and want things there fast. Other times they are happy to wait a bit longer for a delivery as its cheaper. Being able to support both is a good way of attracting more online sales from overseas.

6. Ensure the delivery promise is kept

It's important to reassure the customer with some timescales and then stick to them. Delivery time varies across Europe but it is important that customers are given a clear date of delivery or, failing that, a clear window of delivery. Parcelforce Worldwide is committed to enhancing tracking and SMS deployment so that goods can be monitored more closely. Consistency gives the consumer confidence to purchase again.

7. Target English-speaking countries

Maintaining an online store in multiple languages is not a small undertaking, and some of the more successful sites simply use banner ads in the local language, opting instead to maintain a simple English language site. The English speaking world represents a combined total population of 422 million across 6 countries (Republic of Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) – a huge market the internet opens up for UK e-tailers. This isn't to say that retailers shouldn't target non-English speaking countries, just that this is a good place to start.

8. Make sure international payment works

Taking the money for an online transaction should be easy. Some 10% of orders do not even make it through the website payment mechanisms, and half of those that fail are due to rejected payments. It's imperative that e-tailers get this crucial part of the process right. From Spring 2011, Maestro cards can be used for payment across Europe, opening up the prospect for large parts of the market (notably Germany) to those that wish to use a debit card for payment.

9. Identify ways to support foreign currencies

Supporting the currencies of your key target markets is important. Shoppers not only want to see prices in their local currencies but they also want to pay in their own currencies, not in the currency of the supplier. Many firms build in an exchange rate calculator into their website whilst others limit their currency availability to Pounds, Euros and US Dollars, before expanding into other currencies.

*Source material Snow Valley’s International Retail Delivery Report 2011