Global retail customer service in three steps

By Niklas Hedin, CEO of delivery management expert Centiro.

Selling items to customers around the world is undoubtedly an ideal scenario for retailers. Recent Royal Mail research revealed that those who export can expect a quarter of their Christmas sales to come from overseas.

Many retailers are not making an attempt to grab a slice of the pie however, with the majority (60 per cent) of small businesses not exporting abroad.

Going global has traditionally proved difficult for even the biggest of brands, let alone small businesses. When looking at new geographies the physical delivery of items is something that can sometimes be overlooked, when it must actually be a strong focus.

The good news is there are some practical steps you can follow to not only get the ball rolling but also ensure success in the long term. There are three important areas retailers must address in order to make sure they can deliver when servicing customers in new markets.

  1. Build a global network of carriers. Restricting yourself to a small number is dangerous: any one carrier could encounter challenges and start missing delivery windows, suddenly put its prices up or stop delivering to a particular region. Working with a range of carriers provides options to immediately fall back on if your chosen carrier encounters problems.

  2. Create new efficiencies. When servicing customers in a new territory, it will naturally prove difficult to manage a growing logistics network and process a much greater number of orders. Retailers need to have clear visibility into their carrier networks so they can keep a close control on costs and offer an efficient service in order to compete in new territories. This will also mean that the service can offer the right range of options at the right price point. This is where cloud-based systems can make a crucial difference, representing a chance to be more agile and compete with existing players, while allowing efficient management of deliveries in multiple territories. Businesses can scale deliveries in line with growth without being restricted by existing infrastructure.

  3. Offer a seamless experience across multiple geographies. Retailers must be able to scale delivery networks to meet increasing demand, and at the same time provide a consistent customer experience. Having the right supply chain processes in place to flexibly deal with a global network of carriers is now essential. In future, this could involve a customer ordering a product online on one side of Europe, changing delivery options on the move, and requesting final delivery to the other side of the continent. Customers will demand the same level of service wherever they are, and retailers need to ensure that the promise to the consumer is consistently fulfilled across all regions. They must remember that each country has an individual culture for delivery and returns as it does for other shopping preferences. For example, in Germany customers prefer to pay by invoices rather than credit card, while the opposite is the case in Sweden. Consistently providing the same high level of service while meeting the cultural context of each country is key.

It's simple, follow the three steps of getting a global network of carriers in place, identifying and capitalising on new efficiencies and then going on to provide a seamless experience across multiple geographies. If retailers can follow this approach, they will be well-placed to capitalise on the opportunities represented by selling goods abroad, and sales should grow in line.

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