UK retailers continue to receive a growing number of online orders from abroad – and the trend is set to continue, according to research released earlier this week.

Figures from the most recent Delivery Index, compiled by e-tail trade body IMRG and eCommerce technology provider MetaPack, suggest that there will be 161 million cross-border deliveries this year but this is expected to rise to 384 million in 2017, if current growth rates continue.

Average cross-border order values are reportedly £55 for transactions in the EU and £61 for those conducted in non-EU countries, and as the UK eCommerce market matures, British retailers are increasingly looking to foreign climes for growth in online sales.

Women's sports equipment specialist Sweaty Betty is soon to launch eCommerce operations in Europe and Australia as it tests these markets ahead of potential store roll-outs. At a recent British Retail Consortium (BRC) event on international retailing, Mark Smith, finance and operations director at the business, said the company is an omnichannel retailer that will "only go online with the view to opening shops".

Debenhams' focus in recent years, meanwhile, has increasingly shifted towards international retailing, and the company expects a third of its business will be done outside of the UK in the next few years. John Scott, head of international business development at the department store chain, used his presentation at the BRC event to highlight the significant economic potential of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, and the consequent opportunities these emerging markets will present to the retail industry over the next decade.

As retailers develop their international strategies and as cross-border transactions and deliveries become a larger part of their overall revenue pool, there is a structural shift developing behind the scenes to support global trade.

This month saw the emergence of wnOptimise, a new system partnership between supply chain software solutions provider Virtualstock and logistics firm wnDirect, that the companies say will put to an end to "the costly and time-consuming ping-pong often seen in global shipments".

With the aim of stopping retailers from shipping goods around the world just to fulfil an order – as well as limiting the opposite scenario when unwanted items are returned – the wnOptimise tool seeks to give companies control and complete visibility of their supply chain and ensure goods are shipped via a more efficient and cost-effective route.

It comes at a time when retailers are focused on reducing the cost of returns and increasingly looking at the benefits of building a local presence in international territories, but also as the delivery industry itself is investing on a global scale.

UK-based MetaPack announced this week that it is expanding its reach by opening offices in Germany and France, with the goal of providing better eCommerce delivery choices for European retailers and their customers. MetaPack has appointed Henning Berndt as managing director for Central Europe, as well as recruiting ex-Royal Mail, Swiss Post and DHL man, Philippe Bailly, as country manager for France.

In Germany, MetaPack plans to build on the foundations built by the XLogics business it recently acquired, and then grow in Switzerland, Austria, Poland and beyond.

Patrick Wall, CEO of MetaPack, said: "The eCommerce market is changing rapidly. It is a very exciting time to be on the forefront of these changes and to be here to help European retailers improve customer experience and deliver more competitive delivery services to their customers."

The aim is seemingly to replicate the model established in the UK – a nation widely regarded as a leader in online retail systems and consumer eCommerce adoption.

Indeed, the most recent IMRG-MetaPack Delivery Index showed that, following a slight drop in 'on time' deliveries in April, May saw the highest level of performance so far in 2014 in terms of UK delivery efficiency (94.61%) – a figure that is also up year on year.

Although failed attempted delivery levels during the month were up slightly year on year to 4.39%, the overall trend appears positive, with more than nine in ten orders delivered by the UK's carriers reportedly meeting consumers' expectations.

Andrew Starkey, who is head of e-logistics at IMRG and is in charge of compiling the report, was upbeat about the current state of the UK retailing and carrier industries.

"It is a testament to UK retailers that so many orders are coming from overseas, and we think these numbers will continue to rise," he explained.

"Within the UK the growth in orders is underpinned by the quality of delivery provided by our carriers with 95% of deliveries were made (or attempted) on time last month. We have already said that the UK e-retail is emerging from the economic doldrums, but it looks like we could see some major milestones reached in the next few years."

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