The past few years have seen a phenomenal growth in the adoption of internet shopping by consumers throughout Europe. However there are still fears that its progress is being hindered by the failure in provision of logistics services, especially on an international basis.

In 2011 the European Commission published a green paper which initiated a consulting process concerning how e-retailing, and in particular international e-retailing, could be encouraged. It concluded that consumers are put off from buying over the web not least because of the cost of shipping; the poor returns process put in place and worries over reliable delivery.

One of the options which the Commission suggested, whether seriously or not, was a return to an agreed tariff of shipping charges, a regulatory tool last seen in some EU countries in the early 1980s. Unsurprisingly this particular suggestion has sunk without trace. Instead the Commission has developed a series of other objectives which include.

  • Increasing transparency for all players in the e-commerce supply chain
  • Improving availability and affordability of delivery solutions
  • Enhancing complaint handling and redress mechanisms

A session which I will be moderating at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos goes to the heart of these issues. It will assess the level of further evolution required if internet shopping is to go cross border; what new partnerships and business models are possible, if the barriers are to be overcome?

There is no doubt that international e-commerce is a huge opportunity for logistics providers and retailers. However old frameworks, business models and thinking will prevent these opportunities from being exploited.