For retailers gearing up for the holiday season, international markets are expected to play a major role in e-commerce purchases, according to a new survey by logistics company DHL. Despite vexing geopolitical events such as Brexit and the tariff war with China, respondents said that serving these markets will be key to a strong holiday performance.
Holiday sales grew to $126 billion in 2018, according to the National Retail Federation, and 71% of respondents said they anticipated an increase in 2019 sales. While this is lower than in 2018 (78%), it still reflects significant opportunity in the e-commerce space.
There was a similarly positive outlook for international sales, even though 72% told DHL that they expected global economic issues to impact their businesses. Brexit didn’t stop 30% of retailers from listing Europe as their biggest anticipated e-commerce market after the U.S.; similar numbers were given for Asia Pacific (27%), despite the tariff wars, and for Mexico and Canada (25%), which is being impacted by the USMCA trade pact conversation.
In response to this predicted demand, retailers also said their biggest priorities and challenges related to logistics. The time sensitivity of the holiday season creates additional pressure for retailers to efficiently deliver purchases.
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Fast international shipping (49%) ranked ahead of good customer service (31%), a slick website (14%) and social media marketing (6%), in terms of what mattered most to customers during the holiday season. Conversely, order fulfillment (31%) was seen as a bigger challenge than staffing (29%) or competition from other retailers (23%).
“These findings suggest that despite global trade concerns, businesses are optimistic about the holiday season and it will remain the most profitable e-commerce shopping period of the year,” DHL said in a statement. “Working with an experienced logistics partner to ship internationally during the holiday season can help companies navigate these global issues, as well as complex Customs rules and varying shipping deadlines.”
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