Let’s talk about International E-Commerce Shipping!
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There’s a common misconception that International shipping at Drop is “slow and awful”.   We want to take a moment to provide some details (and data!) about how International E-commerce shipping works, and what the experience looks like from end to end. Expectations When people think about courier services delivering packages, they typically think of a Fedex (or UPS, or DHL) truck picking up the box, putting it on a Fedex truck, flying to another country, putting it on another Fedex truck, and then finally delivering it to your doorstep.  This is known as end-to-end delivery, and it’s an amazing and incredible service that is extremely expensive. For example, a 20x30x15cm box that weighs 1.5 kg (this is the typical metric dimensions of a headphone or keyboard shipment) going from NY, USA to London, UK costs $240 for 5-day end-to-end service via Fedex.  That is the retail rate charged to a customer that walks into a Fedex depot.  For large businesses that ship a lot, you can expect discounts of around 50% of that rate- so for arguments sake we can assume it’s really only $120. With this service you can expect that:
  • Your parcel will be delivered on time
  • Your parcel will basically never get lost
  • You can always call a customer service line and find out exactly where it is, redirect it, or do whatever you need.
End-to-End service is what the courier companies pride themselves on, and it’s what makes them billions of dollars a year.  The customers are typically businesses that need to reliably move cargo, parts, and documents around the world in a reliable manner. As mentioned earlier, this service is extremely expensive and cost prohibitive for nearly all e-commerce transactions, (except when you’re buying expensive/small items like Laptops, etc). Reality So the actual service provided by Drop, and the vast majority of International E-commerce providers, is one that uses a mosaic of different courier services who continually hand-off the package depending on network availability.  Instead of Fedex carrying the parcel end-to-end, we’ll often see a route like:
  1. Fedex picks up the parcel at our warehouse and takes it to a port.
  2. DHL will take the parcel on one of their planes, and fly it to London.
  3. Royal Mail will take the parcel from DHL and deliver it to the household.
What’s unfortunate about a service using a patchwork of networks is that no single carrier takes responsibility over the delivery of the package in a timely manner (or at all).  If things are slow, or get lost, they can all (reasonably) point fingers at each other as being the culprit.  Ultimately, there is little brand or reputational damage on the line with these services and the quality of the service reflects that. The second problem is that these parcels are marked to typically use excess capacity within the network.  In layman’s terms, these packages get loaded onto planes or trucks when there’s leftover space on a pre-scheduled route, and if there isn’t, they sit and wait until there is space.  This means that the time it takes to deliver the parcel can be highly variable. Despite these drawbacks, the advantage is that the price of the service also reflects that.  That Fedex parcel that we quoted above, costing $240 retail, or $120 (discounted rate) to move, will cost as little as $25 when shipping via an International E-Commerce service. A $25 courier charge makes a $150 order 'economically feasible' for most people, compared to paying $120 to ship something that cost $150. The frustrating part about this economical service is that it’s missing two of the most important questions when you’re trying to track your parcel…
  1. How long will it take for it to get to me?
  2. Is it lost?
For the first question, carriers often don’t know “when there will be space on the plane” to move your parcel, which means no delivery estimate can be made. For the second question, packages are often in limbo between one carrier and another, so neither can affirmatively say they have it and that it is not lost. With all of this, we don’t mean to scare you away from placing an International order with us, we simply want to inform you of what to expect from the delivery process.  We also have two important things to remind you of:
  1. Less than 1% of parcels that we ship internationally are definitively lost.
  2. The ultimate responsibility to get the parcel to your door is ours, and ours alone.  If your package gets lost in transit, you’ll be provided with a full refund (or we’ll ship you a new unit if it’s available).
So while the process of watching your parcel’s tracking number “not update” for two weeks may be extremely stressful and frustrating, rest assured if that were it to happen we’ll make sure you’re looked after when everything is resolved. We typically use 6-weeks as the cut-off time for declaring an international parcel as lost, and you'll see why in the data... Data Not surprisingly, the most common International country that we ship to is our neighbors to the North, which is Canada.  An important thing to remember is that all couriers use business days (not calendar days) when counting their delivery times.  All data presented is from Drop.com international shipments and spans September 1st, 2020 to Oct 1st, 2020:
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You will notice that about 5% of lucky customers hit the courier jack-pot and get their package within 3 business days of their order shipping.  That would look like:
  1.  Place order on Monday
  2. Order ships Tuesday
  3. Order Delivered by Friday
In these situations, an order shipping internationally to Canada will typically beat a coast-to-coast domestic USA shipment! In the distribution, you can see that the majority, 32% of packages, take 6-7 business days to arrive at their destination.  Based on when during the week you ordered, this will often be close to two weeks after you count the weekends.  Similarly, the 4-5 day bucket will almost always be one full calendar week (6-7 calendar days), unless you ordered Sunday, and it shipped on a Monday.   Most importantly, we want to show you the “tail” of the distribution, which is the unfortunate 5.78% of orders that take 11-15 days, or the nearly 0.5% that take 16+ days.  While these percentages may seem small, we ship thousands of packages so we have dozens of customers that fall into this range on a weekly basis- you’ll often hear/see them in our discussion system showing concern about their parcel. In fact, you typically only hear about these 'horror stories', because the happy customers don't post! As mentioned above, there really isn’t much that we can do about “speeding up” or “getting more tracking” about these packages.  They’re (slowly) working their way through the system, and almost always will be delivered, but it could take as long as 4-6 weeks to reach the final destination. Our customer service team may seem like they're doing nothing about the situation, and the reality is that waiting to see what happens is really the only option. At the 6 week mark (in nearly all situations), if the parcel hasn’t been delivered we declare it as lost and we'll dispatch another one (or provide a refund). We'll contrast Canada with Australia, and show you what the data looks like:
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You can see the stark difference between Australia and Canadian shipping speeds. Virtually no orders are delivered in less than 7 business days, with the majority in the 11-15 day bucket. Once again looking at the tail, we see that over 1% of orders take 26+ days to deliver. Understanding that about 1% of orders are lost, it shows that at the 5-week (25 business day mark), there's about a 50/50 chance your order will be delivered versus lost forever. Here is the data from a handful of countries that we ship to:
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Stay tuned for another article about International Taxes and Duties.
(Edited)
thumb_upBigCheese22, jxliu, and 14 others
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pancakelimited
0
Nov 22, 2020
what is the average time for packages to arrive in Ireland?
Heather.V
8
Nov 25, 2020
Right now, we're seeing an average transit time of 14 days to Ireland.
RayF
23764
Oct 27, 2020
One word Kevin: camels! Think about it--before there was UPS, before there was FedEx, there were CAMELS!
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TamPrs
205
Oct 27, 2020
From my experience, your intentional shipping is fine. Especially on small items but I'm all ears for any improvements.