The e-commerce industry is booming, with figures predicting an 18.4% increase in online retail sales across Europe throughout 2015. And with such growth comes an increase in demand for international delivery. But can the logistics of international delivery keep up with the ever-increasing demands of consumers and the innovation in domestic courier delivery?
At My Parcel Delivery, our research and internal sales figures demonstrate that international delivery is growing, particularly across the EU member states. The main reason for this is the lack of restrictions on postal items that apply to non-EU countries.
However, businesses are already aware that fulfilment and delivery – particularly ‘last mile delivery’ – can reflect on their own brand image and reputation, rather than the individual courier’s reputation. But by pushing overseas sales, does an ecommerce business risk its reputation even further by the jigsaw logistics of international delivery?
So what are the barriers and issues surrounding international delivery that prevent a business from being able to expand and increase its capacity?
The UK delivery industry has seen some great innovations over the past few years. Companies such as DPD and CollectPlus have made real waves in the industry by thinking about convenience for customers. Additional trials involving drones, especially those delivering medicine to islands, have been really positive but there are definite limitations in what drones can offer within the UK. I think we will see this technology come into common usage in about five years as the cost of using them comes down.
However, there are far more issues for an international delivery strategy to deal with, partly because of different laws in different countries but also the number of parties involved in the delivery process. It’s extremely unlikely we’ll see drone usage for international delivery anytime in the near future – mainly due to borders and customs, but also because of the limits in distances that can be travelled and weights that can be carried.
Difficulties with language barriers and cultural differences
Each country has its own unique behaviours around parcel delivery, including everything from where a parcel is left to how it’s addressed. For example, in France a courier will never leave a parcel with a neighbour and it would be returned to a Parcel Shop, but in the UK this is completely standard procedure.
Another issue we frequently see is parcels not being addressed properly. In France, for instance, parcels can only be delivered to the registered home owners, so a mistake in the address label could cause the parcel to be lost in the system.
The cultural differences and language barriers are not factors that can be overcome quickly, which is problematic since these things cause the majority of issues with international delivery. The only way we anticipate moving forward in this area is for all parts of the logistics chain to be aware of the different practices for each country and work around them. Once these issues are understood they can be conveyed to the sender and hopefully avoided.
One quick way to find out about these cultural differences is to look to online resources for information. My Parcel Delivery, for example, gives users in-depth information on how to avoid these issues for both EU and international delivery.
Cost and efficiency
Leaving the most contentious issue until last – costs and efficiency within international delivery. The cost of domestic delivery or even click and collect is big news at the moment. This summer, John Lewis announced it would start charging for click and collect items under £30, while Tesco soon followed suit by announcing a charge of £4 for items under £40.
The issue of consumer demand pushing down the cost of delivery has long been debated within the industry’s media because cost savings have always been passed onto the couriers and not absorbed by the retailers.
I am not alone in believing that the delivery industry must find a way to charge fairly for its services in order to create an excellent customer service to support it.
Yet, if trade in ecommerce between EU countries continues to grow, there is a good chance we might see prices coming down due to higher volumes. For businesses looking to cut their international delivery costs right here and now, however, they should look to delivery price comparison websites to find the best deal for their parcel, often at highly discounted rates compared to standard Post Office charges.
Overall, international delivery as an industry will be much slower to innovate and improve customer services because it’s a much bigger journey which often involves different couriers working together by taking parcels part of the way. However, we have no doubt that change and innovation within this sector will develop as demand grows – and recent figures certainly show that demand is growing.
David Grimes is managing director of My Parcel Delivery