May 20, 2010, 2:58 PM

Details on shipping costs boost conversions among international customers

Conversions rose at Online Commerce Group, an online retailer of customizable home goods to customers in 223 countries, after it began providing landed shipping costs to shoppers, the retailer says.

Conversions increased at Online Commerce Group, an operator of 170 niche e-commerce sites selling home furnishings, after the retailer began providing landed shipping costs to international customers, the retailer says.

Online Commerce, which sells products like customizable seat cushions and decorative pillows to customers in more than 200 countries, uses Bongo International’s fulfillment application for international shipping. Bongo’s software calculates shipping rates, cross-border customs duties and international taxes, and the company provides retailers with an application programming interface to automatically provide the landed cost of shipping for international online orders.

“One main concern of OCG was conversions,” says Neil Kuchins, senior sales manager for BongoUS. “How a business can convert a viewing customer to a paying customer is every business owner’s dilemma.”

Bongo also supports shipping to overseas customers with fraud-screening services and a U.S. address for consolidating international shipments. When a foreign shopper enters the checkout section of OCG’s CushionSource.com, for example, a Bongo logo invites her to sign up for an international shipping account.

After she enters her name, address, phone number, e-mail address and payment card account number into a form hosted by BongoUS.com, Bongo’s software checks her credit and screens her for any past online fraud activity; once approved, the shopper is provided an address at Bongo’s facilities in Bridgeport, CT, to receive a domestic shipment from the retailer that Bongo then forwards to the customer’s final overseas destination.

Shoppers pay either a service fee of $5 per shipment, or a flat monthly fee of $15 for unlimited shipments. These fees are in addition to the shipping fees the consumer pays the retailer for the domestic shipment to Bridgeport and for the overseas shipment to their final destination. For the international leg of the shipment, consumers can consolidate orders from multiple retailers that offer Bongo’s services, which can save on overall shipping costs, Bongo says.

The company currently works with about 800 U.S. online retailers. Bongo offers its services for free to retailers under a two-year service agreement. 

Bongo ships internationally through FedEx Corp. and DHL and typically provides shipping rate discounts of about 25% off conventional rates, the spokeswoman says.

Connecting to Bongo through its application programming interface integrates the shipping cost calculation and fraud-screening processes as part of the retailer client’s automated online customer ordering process.

At OCG, Bongo’s application programming interface was integrated into all of the retailer’s niche sites in four days, the retailer says. “The overall process was well thought out by Bongo in making the necessary international steps fairly simple for both the residential and commercial customers living outside the U.S.,” says Scott McGlon, OCG chief executive. “That was important to us since it can be very intimidating in trying to handle the multiple steps.”

Retailers that don’t integrate with Bongo through its API can view international orders through a BongoUS web portal, which lists orders captured from a client retailer’s web site and indicates which ones have been approved following a credit check and fraud-screening. The retailer then forwards that order information to its fulfillment center for shipment to Bongo’s Bridgeport facility.

 

 

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