We can’t emphasise enough how much potential e-commerce offers British businesses.
On Monday 15 June 2015, we gave British e-commerce retailers a chance to share their insights. At a traditionally British tea-time event held at boutique Piccadilly department store Fortnum & Mason, our host’s Logistics Manager Dave Woodroof and online fashion retailer Asos’ Matt Rogers (Director of Delivery Solutions and Inbound Supply Chain) discussed trends and developments in e-commerce, international logistics and supply chain management with DHL Express UK and Ireland’s CEO Phil Couchman and Vice President Sales Neil Kuschel. A range of businesses participated in the Q&A session – some of these purely operate in the e-commerce space while others also have physical stores, but all are trying to make the most of immense opportunities which e-commerce provides.
Here is the first part of our main takeaways from the session, focused on getting ready for Black Friday 2015, managing currency fluctuations and tips for pricing and returns.
Prepare yourself for Black Friday 2015
Black Friday, which takes place after the last Thursday in November (US Thanksgiving), began as a shopping tradition in the US where, immediately after Thanksgiving, retailers offer shopping deals and thus open the Christmas shopping season.
Last year, the first major Black Friday events took place in Britain on and offline. Sales for British businesses in and beyond the UK took off slowly, spiked, entered a short lull, and then spiked again in the drive towards ‘peak’ (pre-Christmas) sales. As such, the event has clearly already become an institution – in Neil Kuschel’s words, “Black Friday is now established in the UK, and it’s set to continue.”
So what’s the best way to get ready for Friday 27 November 2015? First, decide whether Black Friday would actually appeal to your target customers. Some UK retailers – including several traditionally British brands – have already made up their minds not to participate. However, if you do believe Black Friday promotions are a good fit for your business, Matt Rogers suggests being extremely transparent with customers about delivery timeframes to best manage expectations during this period. Neil Kuschel mentioned the importance of forecasting so that you’ll have the correct resources for when you’ll need them.
Develop a plan for managing currency fluctuations – such as the currently strong pound sterling
At the moment, the pound sterling is quite strong compared to other currencies. While this is good news for British businesses sourcing products from outside the UK, it also means that customers from beyond Britain face comparatively larger costs – which can make them reluctant to buy from British e-commerce businesses.
To ensure that international sales remain affected as little as possible by currency fluctuations, some companies use their own foreign exchange platforms and mechanisms. Regional pricing plans can also help!
Put care into developing your pricing and returns strategy – make things easy for your customer
For each target market, an e-commerce business needs to consider whether to send shipments under Incoterm Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) or Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU). Essentially, with DDU the customer is responsible for paying any shipping and Customs taxes and duties. Under DDP, the delivery duties are paid by the shipper; it’s generally the preferable option as it makes things easier for your customers!
Your returns policy will also affect your customers’ purchasing behaviour. Have a plan in place for which goods you’ll take back and which you won’t – some brands in the fashion sector may take back items with removed swing tags, but still have a ‘sniff test’ or are even reputed to scour customers’ social media streams to see if they actually wore the returned items!
Research which returns timeframes work for your business model and products (especially if you’re dealing in perishables), but also bear in mind local regulations. For example, though bespoke and customised goods are a growing niche for e-commerce businesses, in Germany customers have the legal right to return any purchase – even if it was specifically commissioned and thus has no resale value for you.
Certain markets – including Argentina, Brazil, India and China – can be comparatively challenging to manage in terms of returns. But overall, the same principle applies: the easier you make it for customers to return items, the more likely they are to buy from you. If you make your returns process simple (for example by including pre-printed returns labels in the shipment), customers are more likely to place larger orders – and keep more as well. One fashion brand saw basket values increase by 70 per cent when the company simplified its returns procedure, while returns only grew by 10 per cent as a result.
The pinnacle of easy returns is offering them for free; Matt Rogers said, “The moment you offer free returns, your sales fly.” However, do ensure you balance basket values with the associated costs. Local free shipping campaigns are a good way to trial demand and results for such as service in specific markets without overcommitting yourself.
As these tips show, there’s a lot to bear in mind when taking your e-commerce global. In next week’s blog we’ll give an overview of the panel’s tips on choosing target markets for e-commerce and innovating to better meet – and ideally anticipate – customers’ needs.
For more e-commerce advice, read our blogs on the topic (which cover everything from how to find target markets to using social media channels to promote your e-commerce business internationally) or tweet us @dhlexpressuk.