International sales account for a large percentage of total ecommerce transactions and the percentage is growing every year for many online retailers. The process of shipping a package internationally and understanding the regulations and restrictions can be overwhelming, especially for small businesses.
Businesses that are willing to embrace international shipping recognize the significant opportunity. Of course, selling your products or services cross-border will take a lot more than just shipping- it will take an international marketing plan, changes to your website, the ability to deal with other currencies, and a lot more. But in this article, we’ll just look at the shipping aspect – putting the product in a box and shipping it to another country. The following are five things you need to know.
1) Choose the Products Wisely
Chances are not all of your products would qualify as good candidates for international trade. Large items with low price-points may cost more to ship than the price you can sell them for. Some small items that are also low in price may not leave enough room in the profit margin for it to make sense also.
Evaluating your products and determining which ones would be good candidates to sell internationally should be one of your first steps. This will take some research, testing, and likely even some trial-and-error. You may run the numbers and determine a product may be a good candidate, only to find out that you lose money on the transaction when shipping to a certain country.
Unfortunately, there are too many variables to account for up front. You should thoroughly research and calculate which products would make sense to ship internationally, however, understand that you will need to make adjustments along the way as you start getting sales.
2) Check Restrictions and Regulations From the Destination Country
Once you determine which of your products you can sell internationally and make a profit, you need to determine if it’s legal to ship those items to other countries. Most countries have their own restrictions and regulations.
Did you know that you cannot ship foreign calendars to Vietnam for commercial use? It is actually considered a crime to do so.
There are many country-specific rules and regulations and knowing them all would be close to impossible, especially because they change over time. There are online tools, such as the one provided by UPS, you can use to see if it’s legal to ship your item to a specific country and what you will need.
Since there are so many different rules and regulations from country to country, we recommend you start with a small list of countries you’ll ship to. As you gain experience successfully shipping to these countries you can then grow your list to include more destinations.
3) Prepare Your Customs Documents
One essential part of international shipping is accurately preparing the necessary documents. Delays in customs are very common and can usually be avoided by taking the time necessary to have all of the paperwork prepared. The faster your items can pass through customs the faster your customers can receive them.
Preparing all of the necessary paperwork can be time-consuming, which is why we recommend having all of the information you’ll need ready before filling out the customs documents. Things you’ll need include the product’s Export Control Classification Number, Harmonized System Code, and an accurate value and description of your commodity. Also, some products that will be considered commercial products will require you to have an export license.
You’ll also need to determine who will be responsible for paying for any additional fees and taxes that may incur.
4) Determine Your Customs Broker
When you are just starting out with international shipping you may not need a customs broker. However, once you start shipping enough items it will make sense to hire a customs broker. A customs broker will handle the customs documentation on your behalf, as well as handle any issues that may arise.
Customs brokers understand the various rules and regulations of other countries. They understand all of the procedures, item classifications, trade and tariff agreements, compliance rules, and other foreign restrictions and processes. A good broker will save you a lot of time and money.
There are many options for customs brokers, and some shipping carriers offer broker services as well. We recommend you do some research and talk to a few brokers to find the one that will work best for your company.
5) Choose the Best International Shipping Company For Your Needs
By this point you should’ve decided which items you can sell internationally and make a profit, done research on restrictions and rules, looked into preparing customs documents, and contacted a few customs brokers. Now it’s time to figure out which shipping company you’ll use to send your products to other countries.
If you’ve been shipping products within your country you’ve probably made the realization that one company isn’t always the best option for all orders. You may find that one carrier is the least expensive to ship one order, but on the next order, they are one of the more expensive options.
The same can be true for international shipments. There are many variables and to save the most money, you usually need to compare shipping services on an order-to-order basis. However, going to each carrier’s website or calling each one for every order could be extremely time intensive.
What if you could type in the shipping details, click a button, and compare the rates from multiple carriers all from one screen?
And it doesn’t stop there. Once you determine a carrier to use, you can purchase the shipping, print the label and an invoice, and track the order all from a centralized website. We’ll even send you tracking notifications letting you know when your items pass through customs and reach their destination.
Dan Allard is a marketing specialist, guitar player, and father living in The Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In his free time he’s usually reading business and marketing blogs, watching Shark Tank, or pretending he’s Iron Man because he has an Amazon Echo. He also enjoys finding great deals online and finding ways to reduce shipping costs.
Secureship® offers an online service that helps businesses and organizations ship more
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