DHL pilots new international e-commerce returns process

DHL pilots new international ecommerce returns process

Parcel volume globally grew 17 percent last year to 74.4 billion parcels. This is up from 63.6 billion in 2016, according to Pitney Bowes Shipping Index. That means on average there are 2,300 parcels shipped every second across the world. With cross-border e-commerce booming, sources say DHL is testing a new international e-commerce returns process to officially deploy in 2019.

Building a supply chain for international returns

Domestic returns are already a challenge for retailers and international returns represent a completely different set of challenges.  DHL has stepped up and decided to tackle the increasingly complex international returns process. It’s only natural that DHL leads the charge in this initiative as it currently serves 220 countries and has existing relationships with customs agencies. Currently, the pilot is being tested on returns flowing from the U.S. to the United Kingdom and the U.S. to Australia with plans to go live in 2019.

DHL plans to manage reverse logistics by covering all areas of cross-border returns. According to Charles Brewer, DHL CEO of e-commerce, this includes a straight return to the product seller, consolidation of return shipments at the warehouse and distribution center level, disposal of low-value returned items, and the recovery, repair, and repurposing of returns deemed to have a shelf life.

The future of cross-border e-commerce

The internet has made it easier than ever to access global markets. A consumer looking to purchase a product at the lowest price might end up buying from a seller in France. No longer are consumers stuck shopping at their local retailers, but are free to buy a wider range of products from retailers across the globe. This also implies that retailers are no longer just in competition with the store down the street, but the seller on the other side of the world.

Yet shipping costs are still a major challenge for businesses that are sending product internationally. Fluctuating customs duties and fees are one of the biggest challenges in cross-border e-commerce. According to DHL data, worldwide e-commerce is valued at approximately $3.7 trillion. Of that, $1 trillion of that amount is cross-border e-commerce. As the number continues to grow, so will the need for an efficient, cost-effective returns process on international goods.

Related: Understanding the challenges and opportunities of cross-border e-commerce

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