In the past, international shipping existed as something of an anomaly in the ecommerce marketplace. Though a few businesses were willing to send packages across country borders, many retailers shied away from selling to international consumers, given the hassle involved in preparing both packages and shipping documents.
But in today’s world, the Internet has broken both digital and geographic barriers, meaning that customers from around the globe may be browsing your website and expecting the same level of service as domestic shoppers. These days, failing to offer international shipping can lead to missed opportunities and lost sales that can cut into your bottom line.
That said, international shipping isn’t as daunting as it seems! While the process involves a few more steps than domestic shipping, Endicia helps to make the process easy. Here’s what you need to know…
Steps in the International Shipping Process
If you’re thinking about making the leap to international selling, when it comes to shipping you’ll need to go through the following steps:
- Make sure that your item will be allowed into the destination country, based on country-specific regulations and prohibitions.
- Choose a mail class for your shipment, either by comparing rates on your own or by allowing customers to select their preferred service level option.
- Package your shipment using durable materials.
- Print postage and complete the necessary customs documentation.
- Ship your package and confirm that it’s received by your customer.
Read on for our tips on how to makes these steps as easy as possible!
Packaging Your International Shipments
Before you even begin to worry about printing international shipping labels, give your product packaging some attention. Because international shipments involve more stops and more handling, it’s even more important that your goods are protected.
The easiest way to package your international shipments is to make use of USPS packaging supplies for Priority Mail International and Express Mail International. These boxes tend to be quite sturdy and, since they’re available for free from the Postal Service, can cut back on your shipping expenses.
However, depending on the size or shape of your items, it’s possible that using your own packaging might make more sense. Use Endicia’s software to compare the rates using the different types of packaging, including international Flat Rate options. It’s also important to be aware that the USPS’s International Mail Manual places the responsibility for providing strong envelopes or durable packaging materials squarely on the sender’s shoulders, so if you do use your own packaging, make sure it’s of good quality.
Printing International Shipping Labels
Your first stop when it comes to printing international postage and shipping labels should be Endicia’s International Mail Advisor, which will quickly show you the size/weight limits and the delivery standards for your chosen mail class. Most importantly, though, this program will also provide you with information on any country-specific restrictions or prohibitions that exist for your package’s destination. You’ll know before you ship that your item is allowed into the country, avoiding rejected packages and additional costs.
If these factors check out, next you’ll need to select the international mail class that best meets both your and your customer’s needs, whether it be the lowest cost option or the quickest delivery time. We recommend the USPS’s Express Mail International, Priority Mail International or First-Class Mail International. If you ship using both the USPS and common private carriers, you can also use Endicia’s Platinum Shipper tool to compare rates on each package, before you ship.
The next big concern that you and other international shippers will have to face is the customs form. When done by hand, this paperwork can seem intimidating. Fortunately, Endicia simplifies the process with prefilled customs forms that take the hassle out of international shipping.
A few of the different ways that Endicia’s products can help you to complete your customs form include:
- Printing integrated shipping and customs forms that eliminate the need to hand write required information and help get your packages on their way sooner.
- Minimizing confusion by automatically selecting the correct customs form, based on package type and mail class.
- Saving your customs information to template forms so that you can easily recreate your shipping documents when sending similar items overseas.
- Providing an easy-to-use feature for identifying and including the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) codes that can help packages go through the customs process faster.
Easy Ways to Simplify the Process
Endicia’s software can walk you through the international shipping process in a way that’s intuitive and easy to use. But if you’re still unsure about delving into this business opportunity, try the following ideas to test the waters and see if international selling works for you:
Sell to other English-speaking countries
Overwhelmed by the idea of translating your listings? You could start instead by selling and shipping only to countries where English is a common language. Together, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada account for around half of the global ecommerce market, so you can expand your business without adding too much to your workload.
Once you feel confident shipping to these countries, consider growing your business further and expanding to other foreign language countries one at a time.
Start with small packages
Certainly, a two pound electronics package is going to be easier to ship internationally than a five ton automobile. Cutting your international shipping teeth on smaller packages will give you the knowledge and confidence needed to navigate more complicated transactions.
Work with Endicia partners
If you’re confident in your ability to ship packages internationally, but want more ways to streamline the process or improve the buying experience for your international customers, check out Endicia’s partners. One company – Shipwire – will store your inventory in international warehouses, cutting down both local shipment times and overall costs. Another partner – Miva Merchant – adds currency conversions and other international needs to your existing online store. With more than 200 integrated ecommerce partners, you’ll have even more convenient resources to help with your international selling needs.
There’s no reason to let concerns around the international shipping process prevent you from taking advantage of a worldwide customer base. Endicia has a solution that will help your packages reach their global destinations at an affordable rate and with as little hassle on your part as possible.
For more insight, check out our ecommerce tips and trends page.
About Jessica Foth:
As Product Marketing Manager for Endicia, Jessica Foth develops and drives business strategy for the shipping market. Her various responsibilities include market analysis, program development and implementation, demand generation, and messaging. Prior to her role in Product Marketing, Jessica managed the Endicia Marketing Services team to develop, execute, and measure marketing campaigns, events, and customer communications. Jessica has a B.A. in Journalism & Strategic Communication from the University of Minnesota.