Voice of the Industry

Tips for successful cross border fulfilment in the apparel industry

Wednesday 8 September 2021 07:10 CET | Editor: Anda Kania | Voice of the industry

Learn from Jacquelyn Kyle, Director of Strategy and Corporate Development at Digital River, how to build a cross border fulfilment strategy for your apparel brand that delivers seamless experiences for your customers and drives success in new global markets

Whether you’re selling physical goods or subscription services, cross border commerce presents several challenges and obstacles. But apparel, in particular, comes with its own set of unique issues. Consumer expectations and cultural considerations can make fulfilment especially challenging. You have to understand your market in extreme detail in order to be successful. But brands have every incentive to get it right. 

Apparel is the number one category purchased online across all geographies. The total addressable market is expected to rebound from pandemic-related declines to reach roughly USD 672 billion by 2023. If you want to build a fulfilment strategy that enables global success for your apparel brand, here are some things you need to consider.

What makes apparel unique

More so than other product categories, there’s a lot of nuances in the apparel industry. Much of that has to do with the products themselves. For example, selling high fashion goods requires a completely different set of sales strategies, marketing techniques and consumer experiences compared with clothing intended for mass markets. High fashion also goes out of style quickly and inventory is expensive. So, if you can’t fulfil orders in a timely manner, you could jeopardise revenue.

There are also cultural and personal components that make apparel challenging from a fulfilment perspective. For example, some geographies are more affluent and can therefore be more style- and image-conscious. Buyers in these markets will likely expect the white glove treatment for luxury goods, including packaging and communication that reflects the premium price. In emerging economies where there is less affluence, consumers value clothing much differently. 

The way consumers want to pay for apparel varies greatly by region as well. Buy Now, Pay Later methods are rising in popularity in France, and paying with cash on delivery is common in Japan. Clothing is also a personal expression that impacts buying behaviour. Returns are common and many buyers will purchase the same item in multiple sizes with the intent to return the extras.

Taken altogether, these challenges mean you have to build your fulfilment strategy carefully and fully understand your target market when deciding which geographies to sell into.

Building a fulfilment network that drives success

It can be difficult, expensive and time- and resource-heavy to become in-house experts on fulfilment and logistics. The more efficient route is to find partners that can simplify the process and implement strategies that will allow you to scale up as you gain more market share.

Here are some tips on how to build out a successful fulfilment network:

Conduct extensive market research – Identify fulfilment preferences in your target market and work to understand buying behaviours in detail.

Decide where you want your inventory – Whether you adopt a ‘ship-to’ or ‘ship-from’ model, make sure you can move the product quickly. If you want to have warehouses in-country, you will need to account for local acquiring and payment methodologies.

Guarantee landed costs for your brand – It can be fairly easy these days to get a landed cost guarantee for customers. But can you guarantee it for your brand and what you end up paying the carrier? Talk with prospective partners about whether they can provide this kind of guarantee.

Build out an extensive fulfilment network – Partnering with multiple carriers provides redundancies and optionality, allowing you to tailor fulfilment to regional preferences. Organisations like Digital River can streamline this process because of our established relationships with carriers around the world. Instead of managing multiple vendors, a single agreement enables all capabilities with all carrier partners, simplifying your cross border fulfilment infrastructure.

Optimise the checkout experience – Update your ecommerce site with clear messaging throughout the entire checkout experience so customers know what to expect in terms of delivery.

Optimise the returns experience – To simplify reverse logistics and appeal to your customers, consider partnering with third-party drop-off sites for brands that don’t have physical stores. Another option would be to include return labels with shipped goods to make returns as painless as possible.

Leverage partnerships to tackle tax, compliance and import restrictions – These areas are extremely complex and require significant investment to manage in-house. Consider reducing your risk and getting help to navigate tax and compliance in global markets from partners with proven expertise in these areas.

Expanding into new countries is a key growth driver for many established and emerging apparel brands. But actually getting products into those markets is easier said than done. As you build and optimise your fulfilment strategy, utilise careful data analysis, market research and trusted partners to help you deliver not only your products, but exceptional experiences your customers will appreciate and remember.

Ready to take your brand global? Download our checklist to learn how to simplify cross border commerce operations and achieve success in new markets.

About Jacquelyn Kyle

Jacquelyn Kyle is a Strategy and Corporate Development leader at Digital River, bringing over 25 years of experience across multiple industries. Prior to joining Digital River, Jacquelyn was a consultant for Deloitte focused on Global M&A strategies for marquee clients, and was VP of Corporate Development for UnitedHealth Group. Jacquelyn began her career at General Mills in Finance. She holds a BS in Finance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an MBA from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. 


About Digital River

With more than 25 years’ experience, Digital River has mastered global commerce. An industry disruptor from the start, our Global Seller Services simplify global commerce expansion to help companies of all sizes grow their revenue. Using our flexible APIs that combine payments, tax, fraud, and compliance into a single, integrated solution, brands are empowered to sell anything to anyone, anywhere in the world. We are global commerce simplified.


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Keywords: ecommerce, direct to consumer, cross-border ecommerce, cross-border payments
Categories: Payments & Commerce | Ecommerce
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce