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Tips for a Successful Cross-border Strategy in the Apparel Industry

Whatever you’re selling, cross-border commerce presents a number of challenges and obstacles. But apparel, in particular, comes with its own set of unique complexities. Consumer expectations and cultural considerations can make fulfillment especially challenging. You have to understand your market in extreme detail in order to be successful, and brands have every incentive to get it right.

Apparel is the number one category purchased online across all geographies. The global fashion e-commerce market is expected to reach roughly $672 billion (USD) by 2023. If you want to build a strategy that enables global success for your apparel brand, here are some things you need to consider.


What makes apparel unique

Cross-border sales in the apparel industry can present numerous challenges and nuances for brands. Much of that has to do with the wide range of products in this vertical. 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. Cross-border selling extends the life of trends — not all global markets react at the same time and seasons vary by geography — but high fashion can go out of style quickly and inventory is expensive. So, if you can’t fulfill orders in a timely manner, you could jeopardize revenue and profits.

Clothing is a personal expression that impacts buying behavior. Returns are common, with both functional and fashionable products. 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 fulfillment strategy carefully and fully understand your target market when deciding which geographies to sell into.


Building a cross-border strategy that drives success

It can be difficult, expensive, and resource-heavy to become in-house experts on all aspects of cross-border selling — especially due to the complexities of this vertical. The more efficient route is to find partners like Digital River that can simplify the process and implement strategies that will allow you to scale up.

Here are some tips on how to build out a successful cross-border strategy:

Conduct extensive market research

Identify payment and fulfillment preferences in your target market and work to understand buying behaviors in detail.

Enhance the checkout experience

Update your e-commerce site with clear messaging throughout the entire checkout experience and beyond so that customers know what to expect in terms of inventory, shipping prices, and delivery timing.

Decide where you want your inventory

Whether you adopt a “ship-to” or “ship-from” model, make sure you have the ability to move product quickly. If you want to have warehouses in-country, you will need to account for local acquiring and payment methodologies, which can be simplified by working with global logistics experts.

Build out an extensive fulfillment network

Partnering with multiple carriers provides redundancies and optionality, allowing merchants to tailor fulfillment to regional preferences. Partners  can streamline this process based on established relationships with carriers around the world. Instead of managing multiple vendors, a single agreement enables all capabilities with most carrier partners, simplifying your cross-border fulfillment infrastructure.


Optimize the returns experience

Reverse logistics in a cross-border environment can be difficult to facilitate. Brands must consider factors such as return locations, whether products are allowed back into origin countries, the cost to return the products, and refunds of landed costs. Partnering with a global solutions provider can help to facilitate reverse logistics to ensure optimized international return experiences.

For brands that don’t have a brick-and-mortar location, consider partnering with third-party drop-off sites to simplify returns and appeal to your customers. Including return labels with shipped goods is another tactic to make returns as painless as possible.


Leverage partnerships to tackle tax and compliance

These areas are extremely complex and require significant investment to manage in-house. Duties and taxes are an important piece of the cross-border puzzle, and it’s important to calculate these for the shopper upfront so they know what they’re paying. Collection is handled by the last mile carrier if it’s not collected upfront as a guaranteed landed cost, which results in a negative experience for the customer.

When you’re selling apparel across borders, import and export compliance is also critical. Documentation, invoices, government registrations, and certifications vary by market and can be challenging to keep up with. Consider reducing your risk and getting help to navigate taxes and compliance in global markets from partners with proven expertise in these areas.


Experience is everything

Expanding into new geographies is a key growth driver for many established and emerging apparel brands. But, actually getting products into those markets is easier said than done. Because customer expectations are at an all-time high, seamless experiences from checkout to delivery are crucial.

As you build and optimize your cross-border strategy, utilize careful data analysis, market research, and trusted e-commerce partners to help you deliver not only your products, but exceptional experiences your customers will appreciate and remember.

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