Just last week House of Fraser launched international delivery to 23 countries for shoppers buying over its website. In its first week, despite relatively little marketing support, international ecommerce sales grew from nothing to 2% of total online sales.
“It’s been a phenomenal success straight out of the gate,” said Robin Terrell, executive director of multichannel and international at House of Fraser, “and there’s the opportunity to grow that.” He added: “It’s a huge opportunity over time.”
The service has seen a low-key soft launch, and is expected to become more sophisticated as time goes on. It’s started off, said Terrell, as “effectively another delivery method on our website.” For despite delivering to 23 countries, including the US, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and 19 European countries, the currency of sale remains UK pounds, while English is used throughout. The key focus to date has been on getting delivery right, at a reasonable price and within as short a time as possible.
Using DHL, House of Fraser charges between £6 and £10 for overseas deliveries and promises to deliver to the furthestmost territories, such as New Zealand and the United States, within seven days. But the aim in practice has been to overdeliver on that. Thus, in its first week, a parcel to New York arrived next day and an Australian consignment took three days. “That’s what we’re about,” said Terrell. “We want to delight our customers and really over-deliver on the promise that we’re giving, giving a compelling reason to shop with us again.”
But the service is likely to develop as the retailer assesses uptake. After Christmas, it’s likely that buyers will be able to pay in euros, while foreign language pages may be introduced for countries where there’s a high level of response. At the moment we’re just starting gently as we go into this,” said Terrell.
The service was initially launched in response to customer demand for overseas delivery, including from UK expatriates living abroad and UK-based buyers who want to send gifts abroad.
But it is likely to develop primarily in response to how customers buy. In its first week, for example, customer demand was not as Terrell would have forecast. The USA was the biggest market, followed by France (an early shipment was a Linea blazer to Paris) while Australia and Denmark made up the rest of the top four.
“I wouldn’t have guessed Denmark,” said Terrell. “That’s why you’ve got to suck it and see, and see how it goes.”
Eventually, it’s expected that the company will see as much as quarter, or even more, of its online sales go abroad. “I don’t think there’s any glass ceiling,” said Terrell.
But however the service changes, delivery, said Terrell, will remain at the heart of the service. “Delivery as an element of a proposition is absolutely critically important. It’s the key battleground now and we’re really, really focused on that.”