How to Brexit-proof your e-commerce

September 23, 2019

Summer is over, kids have gone back to school, and the last quarter is around the corner. As companies focus on ending the year positively and finalizing all projects, in retail the biggest shopping periods are yet to come: Black Friday, and Christmas. 

Meanwhile, Brexit is looming ever bigger on the horizon, and the fact that all hell could break loose in this busy period is scary for most. We understand: as retailers the stakes are high for you. 

But do not lose hope, there are things you can do to be prepared. We put together 5 things you should look out for, and how you can minimize Brexit’s impact on your e-commerce business.

E-commerce disruptions caused by Brexit

While we’ve established there’s no need to panic, that’s not to say nothing will change and you can kick back to watch the story unfold. Here are the top 3 things that will impact your business by Brexit: 

  • Transit times. This is possibly the change that elicits the most fear, both in consumers and retailers due to increased customs checks. The concerns are valid: with many lorries (and other methods of transportation) having to wait for customs checks upon entering and leaving the EU, this could cause important delays for delivery. Plans have been made under “Operation Brock” to hold up 2000 lorries in a queue, while other traffic flows around it – amongst other things. 

With increased customs checks and a change in shipping rules (from inter-EU to international), there are no doubt parcels will travel slower than before.

  • Delivery options and shipping costs. Since you’ll no longer be shipping within the EU zone, you will use different delivery options and the price for UK in- or outbound shipments will be affected. You’ll now be looking at international shipping, meaning you have to anticipate the costs and factor them into the delivery costs you will display to consumers during checkout.
  • Potential increased paperwork due to customs declarations. Customs checks won’t only affect your parcels’ transit time, they also mean more paperwork. Much as you currently do for your international parcels, you’ll have to prepare the paperwork/labels for the goods you ship to the UK. Check out our handy table below to see which carriers take care of this for you.

Brexit-proof your e-commerce set-up

Based on the above, here are some practical tips on how to prepare. The more flexibility you have and the faster you can adapt, the better you can deal with any Brexit outcome. 

  • Do an inventory of your carriers. When it comes to delivery options, shipping costs, paperwork, and returns, you’ll want to get a clear idea of what your carriers can or cannot help with. Some carriers manage customs declarations for you, taking a weight off your mind.

Being aware of what each of your carriers offers will help you be more prepared but also allow you to better communicate with customers during check-out, managing their expectations.

For example, here’s some information about a few European and international carriers:

CarrierShipping Options to use post-BrexitCarrier BenefitRequirements
PostNLGlobal PackThe PostNL label is equivalent to a CN22/CN23 customs formIncluded with Global Pack shipping option. Requires a Global Pack customer code (like CC1234) and additional goods data via the Paazl API. You still need to include a commercial invoice yourself.
DHL DeutschlandDHL Paket InternationalCP71/CN23 form included with labelIncluded as part of shipping option, if additional goods data are sent via the Paazl API. You still need to include a commercial invoice yourself and fill in an extra DHL DE form (Merkblatt).
DHL ExpressDHL Express 09:00 (by air)
DHL Express 12:00 (by air)
DHL Express worldwide (by air)
DHL Economy select (by road for NO and CH, and soon, GB)
DHL Express offers an automatically generated commercial invoice that also satisfies CN22/CN23 customs forms requirementsFree paperless trade service via a DHL Express contract, including forms if you provide the additional goods and invoice data via the Paazl API.
DHL ParcelEuroplus internationalNo known additional benefitsCustoms form to be completed manually with additional export data and commercial invoice necessary. Carrier contract required.
DPDUse regular shipping optionsNo known additional benefitsCustoms form to be completed manually with additional export data and commercial invoice necessary. Carrier contract required.
UPSUse regular shipping optionsUPS offers an automatically generated commercial invoice that also satisfies CN22/CN23 customs forms requirementsPaid service via UPS contract, including forms if you provide the additional goods and invoice data via the Paazl API.
GLSGlobal Business ParcelNo known additional benefitsCustoms form to be completed manually, with additional export data and commercial invoice necessary. Carrier contract required.
bpostbpack World BusinessCP71/CN23 form included with labelIncluded as part of shipping option, if additional goods data are sent via the Paazl API. You still need to include a commercial invoice yourself.
B2C EuropeUse regular shipping optionsCustoms clearance solutions are offered separately on requestCustoms form to be completed manually with additional export data, and commercial invoice necessary. Carrier contract required.
FedExUse regular shipping optionsFedex offers equivalent CN22/CN23 customs formsIncluded as part of shipping option, if additional goods data are sent via the Paazl API. You still need to include a commercial invoice yourself.
TNT ExpressUse regular shipping optionsTNT Express includes customs formsIncluded as part of shipping option, if additional goods data are sent via the Paazl API. You still need to include a commercial invoice yourself.

* If you are interested to view the Customs Declaration Form, click here CN22 and CN23.

Thanks to the Paazl API you can help automate the process of mapping all the data, having it in one place, saving you from entering it manually for each parcel. 

In addition, the Paazl Check-out Widget easily displays delivery options to customers so they can pick when and how they would like their parcels delivered. You can’t solve for longer delivery lead times but you can at least manage expectations up front.

  • Final retail price. Due to import taxes, it’s possible that customers will have to pay a supplement when their parcel is delivered that you cannot anticipate upfront. This might come as a surprise to them and make them feel as if they are suddenly paying more than usual. While this is out of your control, you can still communicate about it as clearly as possible on your webshop. Make sure it’s clear up front this is a possibility, and why it happens. In addition, help train your customer service representatives so they’re prepared to answer questions.
  • Extra warehouse. Is your warehouse in the UK or on the mainland? Be sure to look into opening an extra warehouse. If you already have warehouses in the UK and the mainland, ensure they’re fully stocked and prepared to respond to a higher volume in demand.

Check which of your carriers have decent-sized local fleets and networks, all while taking into consideration that they will also experience an increase in demand on the ground, and in cities include green delivery options. 

Beyond the practicalities for your e-commerce channels, ensure you stay up to date with official information on Brexit. The British government has put together some useful information, you can read more about the temporary tariff regime for no-deal Brexit, and you can consult your local British embassy as well as national information on Brexit.  No matter how many twists and turns Brexit takes, you can be prepared!

Are you curious how Paazl can help you prepare for Brexit? Find out more about our carrier management and delivery experience tools.

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