International shipping, everything you need to know

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When thinking about expanding your business, going international is often an exciting but scary option. One of the reasons why international business is so stressful is international shipping. Where do you even start with preparing for your international business? Is there a right or wrong way to go about it? And what do you need to know before you start? We wanted to write a little something to help you understand the ins and outs of international shipping: how it differs from domestic shipping and where the difficulties lie.

Identifying where to ship to

When you first consider international shipping, it is likely to be because you wish to expand your business internationally. So, first things first, how do you identify where to start?

You need to track the current demand of your products and do some market research in the countries that you are considering shipping to. It is inadvisable to enter a country’s market without doing the research first, obviously. However, when thinking about your international shipping there are other elements you also need to think about like import tax etc.

You also need to consider the basics like the languages you will need for this market expansion and differences in the market. Just because a product is a bestseller domestically, does not mean that this will necessarily be reciprocated abroad.

Always start small

Our advice would be to always start small with international shipping. Whilst it might be cheaper to mass produce and thing on a big scale, you will loose a lot more money if your international venture goes wrong.

Think about light and durable items

If you’re stuck with which items to start with (when starting small!), think about more lightweight and durable items that sell well and try those first. They will be cheaper and easier to transport the long distance so are much more likely to arrive in one piece. This not only means less returns and complaints but will also allow you to practice with easier to ship items first and get into the swing of things before trying anything big and complicated. 

Don’t forget import taxes

The cost of international shipping often involves the cost of import taxes. It is up to you whether the cost of these are passed on to your customers or not. Regardless, it is something worth thinking about. Some countries will have much higher import taxes than others, so it might be worth looking at these before you start deciding where you want to ship to.

Always take note of country regulations

As well as import taxes there are also ample regulations on products that you can and can’t sell in certain countries. For example, in the US there are restrictions on certain gadgets with lithium batteries. Depending on what the countries rules are, you might just not be allowed to ship there. Before you start considering international shipping you definitely need to check this. This is particularly relevant for countries with a lot of rules and restrictions generally. UPS has a great tool for researching and finding out more about international shipping regulations. You can check it out here: https://www.ups.com/ga/CountryRegs

Extra paperwork

Partly because of regulations and import taxes, there is a bit of extra paperwork that goes with international shipping. The list varies depending on where you are shipping to and from but basically you will need:

  • A commercial invoice: this is the bill for the shipped product from the seller to the buyer that proves ownership and payment. This means that officials can determine the actual value of the product shipped.
  • Export packing list: this includes information about the buyer and the seller, the invoice number, dates, transport details, package dimensions etc. Basically a list of details about the package being shipped.
  • Duties and taxes: forms with the required information about duties and taxes. Key factors include elements like the quantity and value of the items being shipped.
  • You might need other paperwork and you can read a little more about this here

Delivery options vs cost

When shipping internationally you need to weigh up the cost of your delivery options vs your customers wait for their items. If you use cheaper delivery options, it may take a lot longer for the items to reach your customers (I.e. by sea opposed to by air mail). However, sometimes, your customers will be willing to wait for the lower cost. Do your research and find out what best suits you customers and decide whether saving them time or money is most appropriate.

In general, when thinking about international shipping, there are many more things to consider then during domestic shipping. However, cost is one of the most important factors to think about. Did you know that one of the biggest reasons for cart abandonment is the cost of shipping?  You also need to consider the logistics, can you realistically start shipping to multiple countries at once for example? Despite the increased number of things to think about, international shipping can actually be a very beneficial and worthwhile growth investment for your business. Did you know that cross-border purchases will make up 20% of worldwide eCommerce by 2022? Part of the beauty of shopping online for the consumer is that it really doesn’t matter where they are buying from, so their choice is automatically increased. Also, eCommerce businesses that offer international shipping are growing, on average, 60% faster than those that don’t!

So, if all this sounds good to you but you don’t know where to even begin, get in touch with Complete Packaging today to find out how we can help you with your international shipping.


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