Shipping domestically is easy, orders flow into your website or marketplace platforms, labels and invoices are magically printed and a courier picks up and delivers. It’s not the same when shipping overseas where suddenly there are customs codes, tariffs and import duties to worry about, let alone deciding if the retailer will pay the costs or if the consumer will be stung by unexpected costs and charges when a courier turns up not just with the parcel but with an invoice that has to be paid on the spot. Hurricane Modular Commerce was founded to streamline all of the intricacies of international ecommerce and make it as easy to sell and buy cross border as it is to make an purchase domestically.
We wanted to find out what Hurricane can do to solve the problems retailers face when selling overseas and how they can smooth cross border trade so asked Martyn Noble, CEO of Hurricane who told us there are five key steps they can assist with:
- Improved retail basket conversion during the customer browsing experience
- Offer accurate visibility of all costs (product, shipping, tariffs) at the checkout, providing clear, concise charges up front
- Provide clean, electronic customs shipping information and avoid risk of parcel delays.
- Eradicate the risk of ‘calling card cost shock’ and order refusal upon demand for monies.
- Reduction in call centre complaints and negative social media backlash.
The ‘Who’ (The People with the Passion)
CEO, Martyn Noble, officially co-founded the Northampton-headquartered software company with his long-time friend David Spottiswood back in 2016 from an original ‘kernel of an idea’ conversation during the summer of 2014.
The name for the joint enterprise was decided when the two met up at the RAF Club, London (in the very early hours of the morning!!) “We wanted to ‘take the market by storm’ and happened to be looking at a painting of a Hurricane aircraft, the unsung hero of the Battle of Britain.” Sounds profound but many great ideas have been borne out of admiration for the historic. “In a world of future tech, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia”.
Now in 2020, Hurricane has grown to a global team of AI tech genius’s to compliance experts and service support colleagues in addition to retail, tech partner, postal and carrier clients across the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands and Australia, with partners in the US and Asia.
“We see part of our mission as helping to inform people across the ecommerce sector about how best to start or quality check that they’re ready to ship products cross border smoothly and put them on the right track, in light of some fundamental changes in the international delivery chain over the next few years”.
The ‘What’ (The Reason for Being)
Simply put, Hurricane is a SaaS (Software as a Service) company that offers access to its data information, through its easy to adopt API and charges on a transactional basis, which means that you pay for the levels of usage aligned to the size and activity in any typical year or from known forecasted volumes.
Hurricane focus on Customer Experience and Global Shipping Compliance uniquely wrapped up into 4 key pillars:
- Classification of goods
Be Clear – “You are only as good as the description codes you ship”.
Ship with the confidence of accurate global export codes (to assign the correct 6 – even 8 or 10 digit commodity shipping codes to each item description for sale to drive accurate duties and tax calculations at checkout)
- Prohibited & Restricted item screening
Be Right – “Only ship the right products to the right places”
Avoid fines or even worse! (check that the products being sold to world-wide destinations are legal, to minimise risk of customs delays or refusal)
- Duties & Tax calculator tool
Be Visible – “Provide accurate landed costs, help avoid Calling Card shock”. Shoppers would rather know than not know (helping to provide transparent and accurate costs for customers to avoid ‘calling card shock’ for additional monies upon delivery with associated risk of refusal or return)
- Denied Party screening
Be Safe – and legal, maintain your shipping Integrity “Send to the right people, not the wrong ones” (minimising the risk of doing business with a denied individual or entity and the potential fines – or worse – that can accompany it)
Using all 4 Pillars works brilliantly to ensure stock is as compliant as it can be to de-risk shipping regulations and keep to the delivery promise offered at checkout BUT they’re not all joined at the hip so you can choose which of them to introduce at various points in your ecommerce development.
The ‘How’ (Ingenious Tech and Simplicity at its best)
Bluestone is the tech… it ‘Knows’ Language and ‘knows’ where you’re coming from!
Our remarkable tech team have developed an even more astounding true deep-learning AI (Artificial Intelligence) called ‘Bluestone’ which lies at the heart of everything we do and is our unique method for the Classification system to understand how detailed product language & context works in identifying item descriptions in order to match them against the most appropriate customs commodity description and subsequent HS6 (or 8-10 tariff) shipping code.
- Bluestone has read and understood over 100 billion lines of English text with all its language nuances and will also accept Multi-Lingual descriptions for classification – “it’s extremely smart”!
- If you’re classifying in Australia… it knows when products have subtle or completely different terms for the same thing e.g. in the UK or anywhere else in the world and presents options when you may wish to consider the variances – humans are not out of the picture just yet!
- Bluestone learns every time a product is mapped and mapped again, gaining accuracy in the repetitive nature of products and building global knowledge with every new addition.
- Our Expert compliance team is on-hand to support clarification of results and ‘feed’ more new items daily into Bluestone to help it continue to learn and grow.
To get the most from our 4 Pillars, we turn to our API Specification that we affectionately call Aura…
‘Aura – The Titan Goddess of the fresh, cool, morning breeze, bringing change’
Aura is our latest API release that provides entry to Hurricane’s rapid services and marks a step change in functionality that drives the 4 Pillars.
Data solutions have been overhauled, making it super speedy – milliseconds to check an item. Aura API speaks to Bluestone and allows you to check stock descriptions and screen for Prohibited & Restricted products to certain country destinations as early as when items (SKU’s) first arrive in the warehouse or at the end checkout process when a customer selects and pays for the order at checkout.
It’s always best to have ‘solid & clean’ SKU data available for customers beforehand but Aura works her magic to make sure Duties & Taxes are calculated on the information presented to her at checkout too.
If you have your own HS6 codes already, she’ll work with that but be careful – if you present Aura with a description that may not closely match the HS6 code, she’ll work out the code for the fast customer experience and send you an exception afterwards to check your accuracy – NOT hers!
“So for us the combination of Bluestone and Aura is a perfect match to propel the system forward. Our tech couldn’t operate without the Hurricane teams who work tirelessly to make sure the AI keeps learning and absorbs the myriad of incoming data feeds, keeping us real-time and forever learning”
To stop us getting lost in the wonder of the tech innovation – we constantly remind ourselves of our founder principles that it’s our expertise, experience and knowledge that drives and grows our data content BUT its’ the tech that make the application lightening fast and simplifies the complex!
The ‘Why’ (The Passion to Make a Difference)
Martyn says “Being in and around global trade for many years, we felt like the cross-border ecommerce shipping experience was where we were in the UK domestic delivery market 10-15 years ago. Orders turned into parcels on the back of a decent website shopping experience but then joined a disjointed delivery chain where a number of hurdles had to be jumped collectively by the seller, the carrier and the customer with sometimes inadequate information or status updates about who does what and when with whom.
Social media has made customer complaints way more visible AND audible around additional charges the customer didn’t realise they had agreed to, extra surcharges levied by carrier or postal services the customer was completely unaware of and finally the levels of customer service in answering complaints around refusal or return of goods varied from OK to dismal!
We wanted our information to make a difference in helping sellers / retailers see the benefits of making available accurate duties and taxes transparency at checkout (or hover messages even at shopping browsing stage) versus delivery duty unpaid (DDU) as so many still do today.
Our amazingly fast API software solution does that in milliseconds at checkout.”
We wanted the expectation and excitement that customers feel once they’ve bought something online to spread across the delivery journey – no matter how many miles a parcel and its contents travel.
The last thing anyone wants is for a parcel to be sat in customs awaiting checks or in a carrier depot awaiting payment of monies – and unless a seller has a water-tight elegant recovery customer service response in place, that’s a sure recipe for understandable frustration and poor star ratings.
So, we set out to help make the way any ecommerce business (from SME’s to Corporate online and multi-channel retailers) can ensure their stock inventory is “good to go” from the very start”. Classification of goods or aligning the right description code to an item is the foundation of good practice and accuracy.
When the buyers start buying, merchandisers start merchandising and the web-ecommerce designers start planning the browsing shopping journey; all that great work is at risk for the want of small 6-digit (or up to 8 and 10) HS codes that pack a large customs punch!
Just because they’re not often seen doesn’t make them any less crucial to the success of brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. What we do at the start, really does make all the difference at the end from the operational warehouse to the voice of customer social media…
That’s why we wanted everyone to know that “We are Brilliant at the Boring” we wanted to shout loudly that our “Tech wizardry silently gets on with its work in the background” so when people tell us they nearly forgot our tech is there, our job is done. And well done.
The way we’ve built access to our Hurricane API magic makes getting the right data really straightforward, we work with our clients to understand the points at which it’s important to know the information so they can plan for customer success opposed to handling customer problems.
One of our most simple straplines explains perfectly how we feel about providing the data that helps ship:
“To the right people
in the right places
at the right time
for the right costs”
The last bit of the ‘Why’ is based on the deliverables.
This is why we believe you should look ever more closely at how you can achieve cross border growth in a way that provides a customer experience that breeds brand loyalty for you – not the opposite.
Often, it’s the Boring stuff that allows the exciting growth to happen.
And for that, we firmly believe data and great communication along the delivery chain wins every time.
If, by meeting us in this article for the first time makes you think about how good your own roadmap plans are in the cross border customer experience and compliance landscape then we’ve done a piece of good.
Hurricane can help you if you are asking any or all of the following questions:
- Do I have stock item (SKU) shipping codes for all the products I sell cross border and if so… How good are they?
- Have I checked that I can sell all my products to certain countries and have removed those I can’t?
- How many complaints have I received from customers unhappy about the shock of additional monies due and if so… How did I manage the elegant recovery?
- Am I currently open to social media backlash around my international shipping offer?
- Do I know whether I’m selling to someone on a global denied party list?
If you have any specific questions about your business, we’d love to hear from you.
Watch out for our updates in the coming months, keeping you updated on key topics such as regulatory cross border customs changes this and next year in terms of ‘what does it mean’ to real improvements in the customer journey through transparency of messages.