Ecommerce has exploded worldwide, and its only the tip of the iceberg. International logistics specialist Rod Ter Weijden shares how to take your business to the world.
Ecommerce has exploded worldwide, and its only the tip of the iceberg. While the online retail space is dominated by global juggernauts like Amazon and Alibaba, the truth is, ecommerce is an effective platform for small businesses. And small businesses can compete effectively because of the combination of technology platforms, and unique product offerings.
There’s so much potential out there, the big challenge is how to make it work for your business.
Retail consumers are looking for niche products and personalised experiences, and they have instant access to brands from anywhere in the world. This is great news for Kiwi businesses. We’re good at innovation, famous for creating high quality bespoke products and customised service.
New Zealand’s economy relies on exporting and last year, earnings totalled $48 billion. Until recently, New Zealand exports were dominated by produce, and those relationships are primarily business to business (B to B). Now, thanks to the internet, and secure global payment platforms, traditional geographical obstacles to trade are eroding rapidly, consumers can directly access unique products from anywhere in the world.
In New Zealand we’re seeing the fast growth of business to consumer (B to C) exports, as smart Kiwi businesses with ecommerce functionality on their websites sell to consumers all over the world.
This trend does, however, pose challenges.
The cost of freight
Based on what I’ve seen, many Kiwi B to C exporters sell products ranging from small low-value products to higher-value time sensitive products; skincare or clothing, for example. The challenge to exporters can be finding the right balance of price versus speed of delivery. Traditionally goods have been transported overseas by ship to keep costs low. But, of course, today’s consumer is impatient; they want their goods sooner, not later.
The trick is understanding what options are available for sending goods to overseas customers that provide more timely delivery.
Firstly you have express international courier. This is the fastest, most direct service available and delivery takes days, not weeks. With this service, a courier collects the item from you and you have full track and trace visibility. This is typically the more expensive option.
At the other end of the scale is international postal delivery. This is usually the lowest costing, but requires a trip to the post office, and you’ll only know it’s delivered once the receiver says so.
In the middle is a specialised service like our e-post offering. This is a hybrid service combining the features of courier with the lower cost levels of postal. A courier collects your item and places it into the international mail system – but with track and trace visibility.
The knowledge gap
All exporters must understand the laws and documentation requirements of the country they are shipping to. This can be difficult, though, because every country is different.
Normally well-established exporters have already done their due diligence, how to prepare items to be sent the intended country. When you’re new to ecommerce and exporting, there can be a big knowledge gap.
Understanding a particular country’s laws can present a real challenge, and small business owners often don’t have the time or resources to investigate this, so it sits in the ‘too hard’ basket.
Technology to save the day
From my experience helping Kiwi businesses begin exporting, many are surprised by how easy it is to do now. IT systems have changed the game.
Smaller players can foot it with the bigger players now by using specialised overseas freight applications. Developed by transport companies, these IT systems produce all the customs declarations and documentation required. You fill in delivery details, the destination, and service to be used and the system populates the required documentation ready to be printed. Attach that to the parcel, call the courier and the order is on its way.
Businesses that thought they would have to set up all new processes, or create a new export despatch team, were delighted to find how IT systems actually made it as easy to send internationally as domestically.
Global opportunity awaits
Is your business ready to take a slice of the export pie? Connecting with the right team can make what seems like a daunting barrier, very manageable. So, why not start!
Rod Ter Weijden, international manager, New Zealand Couriers