International Shipping: What You Need
Updated: Sep 9
We are here to help you navigate what it means to ship internationally and what you need to know before you even send your first package. We first want to preface this by saying we will be shipping internationally from the United States. If you are shipping from Europe to the US, then this resource is probably not for you. Though it is commonly known that shipping internationally comes with extra cost, it can also be a challenging and complicated process. Depending on the country you are sending the package to, each country has its specific requirements. Like Australia, some countries do not accept certain items to be shipped, such as living things or even garden seeds. Other places will not allow carriers to deliver packages worth more than a particular value and require more effort. Although these requirements don't usually apply to online retailers selling small parceled goods, it is something to keep in mind when opening up international shipping.
6 Action Items to Help Ship Orders Internationally:
Use a Shipping Solution
First and foremost get yourself a shipping solution. Better yet, get yourself DesktopShipper. DesktopShipper helps automate the hard parts of shipping internationally. Shipping internationally has so many moving parts and DesktopShipper manages those parts all in one centralized place for easy access. DesktopShipper allows for your shipping services to be displayed for what makes sense for your international shipping strategy. It also helps with automated VAT, currency exchange, and customs forms. DesktopShipper makes the shipping part of international shipping easy.
Make sure your online store is accessible to overseas consumers
It can be challenging for individual countries to access certain websites due to country restrictions or VPNs. Certain countries need specific website VPN structures. A good example is how Netflix is different in every country. Netflix England will have other offerings than Netflix US. Every company structures its international sites differently, and it is best to pick a country or two at a time to roll out free shipping before overwhelming your company. Some customers who enjoy shopping in the United States will use software to shop in the United States. Usually, when that happens, you still need an American address to send the items to. When shipping abroad, you must make sure that the website's shipping information is set up accordingly.
Understand the Currency Exchange
The USD holds a unique worth when compared to other currencies. On top of that, every country sees the value of products and items differently. Though the price you would pay for something in the US would be equal to $1 USD, it most likely won't be similar in rate when it sells in another currency. Price fluctuations due to currency differences may come from it costing a lot more to import and transfer the product from one country to another. It could also cost more to set up the infrastructure to run a business in that country. Lastly, it could just be what the native consumer is willing to spend on the product. Many consumers in other countries would pay a premium on an item because it came from a specific country or brand. Generally, this happens when the brand is designed or well-known but can also be true for niche markets and high-quality goods. If you represent a radical new product that the country has never seen before, it can be hard to predict what they will pay for it or if they will even like the product. It is essential to research before investing time and infrastructure in selling in a new country.
Know What Can Be Shipped Where
As previously stated, not every country accepts all goods. Some countries have higher standards of entry than others, and that is something you need to decide before entering a specific market. Even if you are starting with a few products or specific product lines, it might be best to reassess shipping to that country if your company does carry forbidden items.
Customs Forms can add another layer of confusion and headaches. Every time you ship goods overseas, whether you are shipping as a business or an individual, you must fill out a customs form. International countries require these forms no matter the size of the package or the items being sent -- even when shipping to United States Army Bases worldwide, customs forms are required. Usually, customs forms expect notation of cost of goods sold, how much the customer is purchasing the items for, the weight, what category of the item they are (such as essentials or gifts), and date, to, and from. Every country requires different information on customs forms. A package will not leave the United States without an adequately filled form. The best way to streamline these forms is to work with a shipping solution, such as DesktopShipper. We auto-fill out the documents based on the customer's check-out information and connection to the item's SKU. This automation saves your company time and energy when shipping abroad.
Specific Shipping/Return Policy for International Shipping
Your company should have a shipping policy clearly stated on your website. This policy covers local shipping but should expand when shipping internationally. There should be a policy for every country you ship to, preferably, but it is okay to bundle countries when appropriate. Good examples of bundling knowledge would include "all of Europe" or "all of North America."
Cost-benefit analysis of actually shipping abroad
Shipping abroad is undoubtedly expensive and often requires new employees and new infrastructure to handle the workload. A cost-benefit analysis is a great way to see an actual financial benefit to shipping and selling abroad. When you put a dollar amount on a handling cost, you can subtract that from your products' net profit. High handling costs are another reason companies choose to put a premium price on items when selling abroad. Some countries require duty or tax when selling within their country on top of a new handling and shipping price. The consumer sometimes pays this tax, but the cost comes out of the companies' pockets more often. It would be best if you offset all of these elements when shipping goods overseas.
Shipping abroad can be tedious and time-consuming, but on the other hand, it can be wildly beneficial for a brand. Statista has the average order value of an international sale at $147 USD. That's 17% higher compared to the average domestic sale. DHL recently released a study showing that companies that offer premium international shipping grow 60% faster than those that do not. It is vital to have all the facts before entering this new market. Tackle the logistics head-on when looking at your global shipping strategy.