10 Tips for Successful International Shipping
The Ladingo Team
Going global offers tremendous potential for growth-minded businesses. However, scaling your business internationally is not always smooth sailing, especially when it comes to international shipping. Language and culture barriers abound. Unpredictable shipping costs can crop up and delays are par for the course. Even if you manage to circumvent these challenges, local customs clearance processes and regulations could further complicate the shipping of your goods cross-border or ordering inventory from international merchants for resale in your home country. As a result, you might find the entire process to be overwhelming and deterring.
That being said, with a little determination, perseverance, and due diligence, you can overcome the obstacles associated with going global, start shipping goods internationally with speed and ease and scale your business to new, profitable heights. The benefits of leveraging international shipping to take your business global include gaining access to a much larger customer base and pool of talent, helping many more people through your offering, exposing your company to more and diverse investment opportunities, improving your brand’s reputation, and more.
How can you successfully engage in international shipping and become a cross-border e-commerce powerhouse? Here are 10 tips for navigating the maze that is the international shipping space, so you can sell big, ship big, and scale.
#1 – Assess demand before reaching out for supply
Before you go all out and create partnerships with international contacts to secure goods for importation to your country or supply their country with your offering, be sure that there is a demand for whatever it is you want to ship. Research each market and come up with a strategy for entering each new locality. If there’s already a demand for your offering – great. If not, you’ll need to build an awareness campaign that explains why customers in each target market NEED your product, so as to create that demand, before you start filling containers with the merchandise.
#2 – Know what can and cannot be shipped internationally
Each country has its own rules and regulations about what can and cannot cross its borders and/or be sold, and to whom. For example, the following items may not be shipped from the US to any other country: aerosols, fresh produce, cigarettes, marijuana, perfume (containing alcohol), dry ice, nail polish, ammunition, and more. And there’s a whole other list of items that cannot be shipped TO the US. When in doubt, research import and export compliance laws for the countries you wish to ship to and from and avoid being fined, or having your shipments denied passage by foreign customs agents, indefinitely.
#3 – Learn about all payments ahead of time
To keep your international shipping costs as low as possible and avoid any hidden fees, it’s important that you take the time to study up on what payments need to be made and how much each of them can cost. Standard payments include freight forwarding and last-mile delivery fees, as well as customs, duties, and taxes. These fees depend on the size and weight of your shipment, as well as the products’ value and the country to which they are being shipped. Note that shippers you choose may opt to include additional fees, such as fuel surcharges, and extra costs for weekend deliveries and delivery signatures, which may or may not be important to your customer base.
To keep your costs down, prioritize establishing long-term partnerships with freight forwarders over one-time negotiations. The more you ship with them, the lower your annual shipping rate will be.
#4 – Study your competition
Competitors who have already mastered the art of international shipping should be studied. Learn from their successes, as well as from their prior (and existing) failures, to implement an international shipping strategy that is as seamless as can be – from the start. Ideally, you should observe what your direct and indirect competitors are doing in each new market. Doing so will save you time, money, and much frustration in the short and long-term.
#5 – Double-check all documents & labels
Maintaining your brand’s reputation is just as important as streamlining your international shipping for convenience and profitability’s sake. Failing to complete all necessary documents and labels – and fill them in accurately – can cost your business in time, money, and unnecessary hassle. It is estimated that failed deliveries cost large retailers an average of $85.00 per delivery, as they must scramble to resend those deliveries and make the loss up to their customers. To prevent documentation and labeling fails, double-check each form, name, and address before sending your shipment out.
#6 – Be as transparent as possible
Transparency is a critical part of successful international shipping for two reasons. First, being transparent about your shipping costs, timelines, and processes injects an immediate sense of trust and confidence in your brand among your customers. Second, doing so serves as a form of “checks and balances” for your business, helping to keep you on the straight and narrow, and on top of all stakeholders. This way, all parties involved know what they’re meant to do, when they’re meant to do it, and at what cost.
#7 – Always insure your shipments
When it comes to shipping items internationally, insurance is your best friend. This is because, when you’re transporting merchandise across borders, there’s always a degree of risk involved. Things happen. Shipments can get lost or delayed. Items can become damaged or ruined. But customers still expect – and deserve – their orders. Insurance may ostensibly seem like another added and unnecessary cost, but when in a pinch, it saves you from having to shell out much higher costs to cover replacement items, while enabling you to continue to provide a satisfactory customer experience to all.
#8 – Disclose crucial information (only)
It is critical that you declare hazardous materials and goods in clear, English letters so that your shipments can be handled with the appropriate levels of care and avoid being penalized by customs officials for one reason or another. That being said, it’s recommended that you only disclose exactly the information that needs to be shared and nothing more, to reduce the chances of your shipment falling prey to thieves and pirates. You want to inform, but not tempt anyone to take a peek into your boxes or siphon off some of your wares for themselves.
#9 – Pack and track your shipments well
Packing your shipments properly can protect them against being damaged in transit by bumps and knocks, or even the weather. However, keep in mind that most freight forwarders charge based on your shipment’s dimensions and weight, so be sure to pack your items using the lightest and smallest packaging materials possible You can acquire these in bulk ahead of time, to save you money in the long-term.
Once your goods have left the merchant’s warehouse, they should be tracked until they are received at their final destination. For brands importing items from abroad, this will help you estimate when your shipments will arrive and be ready for resale. For brands shipping items to customers in international destinations, it further promotes operational transparency and confidence in the brand. It can also allow your customers to know when their orders may be delivered, improving customer service.
#10 – Partner with a logistics solution provider
Perhaps the greatest factor influencing efficient shipping is partnering with a logistics solution provider capable of automating and streamlining the entire fulfillment process, from the merchant’s factory to your brand or your customer’s front door. Logistics solution providers, like Ladingo, are familiar with the international shipping process, have connections with international freight forwarding companies, and know global documentation requirements inside out.
With Ladingo’s one-stop-shop for all of your cross-border shipments, you can enjoy international e-commerce shipping without limits. Our API ensures easy integration for all online shops and marketplaces, and our calculators provide full and transparent, real-time shipping rates, immediately upon entering any product’s details.
What are you waiting for? Partner with Ladingo and start implementing successful international shipping practices today!
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