When we last focused on cross-border e-commerce, in the 2015 article, “E-Commerce Cross Border Parcel Shipping,” the market was ready to take off, and since then, it certainly has. In a recent study by Forrester, cross-border online B2C sales will more than double from 2015 to 2021 to $424 billion as more consumers embrace cross-border shopping. In particular, the research firm notes that developing economies in Latin America, Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East will likely experience double digit annual growth over the next five years, significantly more than in Europe and North America.
Global marketplaces such as Alibaba, Amazon, and Japanese-based Rakuten are expected to benefit from this growing trend. Forrester noted that Rakuten reported a 41% growth in cross-border sales in 2015, more than twice the growth of the domestic Japanese e-commerce market. Furthermore, Forrester found that consumers in Germany, France, and the UK are active cross-border e-commerce purchasers, particularly from Amazon and eBay, which makes up half of cross-border e-commerce sales from these countries.
Logistics providers are also benefitting from cross-border online B2C sales, and are providing more than just transportation and warehousing services. Thanks to niche acquisitions, providers FedEx, Pitney Bowes, Singapore Post, and UPS are offering specific solutions for cross-border online sales to address common issues as language, currency, payment, and duties and taxes.
FedEx’s acquisition of Bongo has been repackaged as FedEx CrossBorder and is a subsidiary of FedEx Trade Networks. Among the solutions provided are regulatory compliance, duty calculations, package tracking, calculating international shipping costs, secure payment processing, multi-currency pricing, and credit card fraud protection. According to the company, “FedEx CrossBorder addresses international purchasing obstacles with a seamless checkout and delivery approach that accepts over 80 currencies, provides 15 payment options, manages multiple delivery options, and offers credit card fraud protection, all through a single platform.”
Pitney Bowes Cross-Border E-Commerce
In 2015, Pitney Bowes acquired Borderfree, which provides e-retailers in the US and UK with a variety of services, including localized e-retail sites for foreign consumers, prices in more than 60 currencies, customs clearance, and fulfillment services. The acquisition complemented Pitney Bowe’s existing solutions, which enables e-retailers to show shipping costs and customs fees to foreign consumers and to facilitate overseas shipments.
Perhaps not a household name when it comes to US cross-border e-commerce solutions, Singapore’s post office has been reinventing itself into a major logistics provider. In late 2015, the postal operator acquired US-based TradeGlobal, which provides digital marketing, product fulfillment, and customer service for companies selling fashion, beauty, and lifestyle-branded products online in North America, Asia, and the United Kingdom. In addition, Singapore Post acquired US-based Jagged Peak, a company that provides logistics services for high-velocity consumer goods through 20 warehouses in the US.
The two US acquisitions have been integrated into Singapore Post’s SP Commerce, which includes web store development and operations, global fulfillment, omni-channel order management, cross-border commerce, performance marketing, and customer care services.
In 2014, UPS acquired i-Parcel, which offers an integrated platform for US and UK merchants to link to e-commerce consumers in over 100 countries. The technology provides a localized look and feel on the respective merchant's website and also offers fraud protection, fully-landed total prices — including customs duties and taxes — in local currency, and deferred international transportation as an option for low-cost goods.
While acquisition activity in this space has been high, other logistics providers, such as DHL and SEKO as well as Neopost, have organically created their own unique solutions. Some providers such as Dubai-based small parcel provider, Aramex, have used a combination of organically creating solutions as well as acquisitions to grow services. SEKO Logistics has followed a similar path by combining its organically built solutions with acquisitions such as Metakinetic, an e-commerce marketing and design firm and Red Hot Penny, a UK-based company that focuses on building online storefronts.
The list of cross-border service offerings grows on a regular basis, but determining the best solution for a retailer will depend on the retailer’s budget, requirements, and strategy. In the last issue of PARCEL, Mr. Iyer noted in his article, “Cross-Border 101: A Primer,” that there are differences between shipping internationally and cross-border trade. Retailers must learn these differences, but also understand what the options are for each. In addition, beware of potential obstacles such as returns management, hidden charges such as country-specific duties and taxes as well as political situations such as the recent Brexit decision, which may change the dynamics of British cross-border e-commerce sales.