Executive Briefings

Cross-Border Hubs Hustle to Keep Up With E-Commerce Demand

Analyst Insight: International e-commerce, also known as cross-border e-commerce, is growing at a rapid rate, but is faced with a number of challenges such as currency, delivery times, customs and returns. As a result, logistics providers such as FedEx, UPS and Pitney Bowes have acquired niche players to expand international e-commerce capabilities. Combined with these niche players, logistics providers are utilizing global gateways to reduce costs and delivery times. - Melissa Runge, vice president of analytical solutions, Spend Management

Cross-Border Hubs Hustle to Keep Up With E-Commerce Demand

According to Forrester, global cross-border B2C e-commerce will more than double over the next five years to reach $424bn by 2021. China will drive much of this growth with its expected share of the cross-border e-commerce market to grow from 27 percent in 2015 to 40 percent in 2021.

China's first free-trade zone in Shanghai has benefited from cross-border growth, including reducing clearance costs for customers. The FTZ encompasses Waigaoqiao port, Yangshan port and the Pudong International Airport. It also includes companies JD.com, Suning Commerce Group, Amazon and the first platform for online purchasing of imported goods established in the FTZ, Kuajingtong, which has attracted more than 400 vendors, reaching almost 10,000 orders daily.

SEKO Logistics recently added additional warehousing and fulfillment capacity in Hong Kong as part of its effort to develop an e-commerce gateway for retail and high-tech customers targeting China’s online consumer market. According to SEKO Logistics, Hong Kong also acts as a gateway for online retailers selling products into other parts of Asia, including Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

In Europe, the Netherlands’ international airport, Schiphol, has taken the lead in simplifying e-commerce imports. Teaming up with Dutch Customs, a simplified e-commerce declaration called VENUE has been introduced. VENUE-authorized shippers can submit a pre-declaration leaving out one or more particulars, such as the Harmonized System (HS) code with goods valued at 22 euros or less, requiring no supplementary declaration and speeding up the clearance process. The advantages of VENUE are the ability to keep cargo moving smoothly without the need to generate HS codes along with reducing administrative time and costs for both Customs and the authorization holder. As a result, this will speed up delivery times.

In the U.S., it varies by provider. Wilmington, Ohio, looks to be an upcoming powerhouse when it comes to cross-border e-commerce. Wilmington is the location for Atlas Air and Air Transport Services Group, both of whom have leased airplanes to Amazon. Even though the airplanes will fly to numerous destinations, Wilmington will likely remain an air and fulfillment hub.

For DHL e-Commerce, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle are primary international gateway processing centers and for FedEx and UPS, Memphis and Louisville, respectively, remain the largest hubs for each of these providers.

By 2020, managing such headaches as customs and taxes will ease for many destinations; however, it will be a slow approval and implementation process as it will be necessary to work with government agencies. Other issues such as returns will likely persist into 2020 and beyond. Still a headache for domestic e-commerce, cross-border returns will take creativity to solve.

The Outlook

Beyond 2020, cross-border e-commerce will continue to grow particularly as the influence of emerging markets gains traction. This in turn will result in the need to implement best practices learned by connecting cross-border e-commerce among developed countries and/or regions as well as develop local partnerships for warehousing and final mile delivery. Enhanced track-and-trace capabilities will further be needed as cross-border e-commerce capabilities expand throughout the world.

According to Forrester, global cross-border B2C e-commerce will more than double over the next five years to reach $424bn by 2021. China will drive much of this growth with its expected share of the cross-border e-commerce market to grow from 27 percent in 2015 to 40 percent in 2021.

China's first free-trade zone in Shanghai has benefited from cross-border growth, including reducing clearance costs for customers. The FTZ encompasses Waigaoqiao port, Yangshan port and the Pudong International Airport. It also includes companies JD.com, Suning Commerce Group, Amazon and the first platform for online purchasing of imported goods established in the FTZ, Kuajingtong, which has attracted more than 400 vendors, reaching almost 10,000 orders daily.

SEKO Logistics recently added additional warehousing and fulfillment capacity in Hong Kong as part of its effort to develop an e-commerce gateway for retail and high-tech customers targeting China’s online consumer market. According to SEKO Logistics, Hong Kong also acts as a gateway for online retailers selling products into other parts of Asia, including Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

In Europe, the Netherlands’ international airport, Schiphol, has taken the lead in simplifying e-commerce imports. Teaming up with Dutch Customs, a simplified e-commerce declaration called VENUE has been introduced. VENUE-authorized shippers can submit a pre-declaration leaving out one or more particulars, such as the Harmonized System (HS) code with goods valued at 22 euros or less, requiring no supplementary declaration and speeding up the clearance process. The advantages of VENUE are the ability to keep cargo moving smoothly without the need to generate HS codes along with reducing administrative time and costs for both Customs and the authorization holder. As a result, this will speed up delivery times.

In the U.S., it varies by provider. Wilmington, Ohio, looks to be an upcoming powerhouse when it comes to cross-border e-commerce. Wilmington is the location for Atlas Air and Air Transport Services Group, both of whom have leased airplanes to Amazon. Even though the airplanes will fly to numerous destinations, Wilmington will likely remain an air and fulfillment hub.

For DHL e-Commerce, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle are primary international gateway processing centers and for FedEx and UPS, Memphis and Louisville, respectively, remain the largest hubs for each of these providers.

By 2020, managing such headaches as customs and taxes will ease for many destinations; however, it will be a slow approval and implementation process as it will be necessary to work with government agencies. Other issues such as returns will likely persist into 2020 and beyond. Still a headache for domestic e-commerce, cross-border returns will take creativity to solve.

The Outlook

Beyond 2020, cross-border e-commerce will continue to grow particularly as the influence of emerging markets gains traction. This in turn will result in the need to implement best practices learned by connecting cross-border e-commerce among developed countries and/or regions as well as develop local partnerships for warehousing and final mile delivery. Enhanced track-and-trace capabilities will further be needed as cross-border e-commerce capabilities expand throughout the world.

Cross-Border Hubs Hustle to Keep Up With E-Commerce Demand