Alpha Industries, a seller of popular military-style outerwear like bomber jackets, parkas and pea coats, has been involved in ecommerce since 1997. In recent years, it was running into issues around long transit times for cross-border deliveries and a lack of transparency on costs like duties and taxes for international customers.
“Even though we had it all over our website that we didn’t collect them upfront, we would get calls complaining about unexpected duty and taxes charges, and customers were taking it that Alpha was being dishonest about the total cost,” said Stephanie Cohen, ecommerce manager for Alpha Industries. “A lot of them were really upset, and some would even refuse the package.”
Cohen said the final straw came when Alpha Industries launched a site review platform in 2014 and started to get a lot of one- and two-star reviews. “A huge theme was the fact that people were not happy with the ecommerce experience,” she said. “We were getting slammed left and right on reviews, and it was translating to social media. One woman in the UK said it affected Christmas orders and slammed us every way she could.”
At first the company explored what it would take to craft its own software solution to deal with tax and duty costs, while another would handle shipping, consolidation. “It ended up being a nightmare,” Cohen said. “While we could have put the pieces together, it would have put a tremendous workload on our team. Everyone pushed back.”
Then a director at Alpha Industries’s Tennessee distribution center, who was using UPS for domestic shipments, told others in the company about UPS’s 2014 acquisition of i-parcel. Shortly thereafter Alpha Industries decided to tap UPS i-parcel as its cross-border ecommerce partner. This gave Alpha Industries access to a network of 40 last-mile carriers, as well as airlines and customs brokers, through a custom integration to its platform.
UPS i-parcel acts as the merchant of record for Alpha Industries, handling payment collection for merchandise and processing all duties, fees and taxes. As a result the company was now able to delivery orders faster, with fully landed costs, and gain economies of scale and savings it could not achieve on its own. UPS i-parcel also allowed Alpha Industries to provide local country “welcome mats” based on a shoppers’ IP address, and currency conversion on the fly, and reduced fraud risk with its own built-in solution.
Since launching UPS i-parcel in January, Cohen said Alpha Industries has seen a 123% increase in its volume of international sales compared to the same period in 2015, adding some of this growth was attributable to the brand’s efforts.
“We made a concerted effort to get the word out to our international customers to tell them, we know what wasn’t working, we heard you, and here’s how we’ve changed the experience to make it more beneficial,” she said. “And the customer response, including reviews and sales, has been very positive.”