In our online selling journey, we might encounter the occasional deluge of orders from potential buyers overseas. And it would be a truly awful feeling to not be able to accommodate these orders just because you’re based in a certain country and have no knowledge whatsoever on how to conduct international shipping. With the features and tools that Shopify has to offer online sellers, you can breeze through expanding your business and start to venture into International Shopify Shipping.
International shipping opens up possibilities for the growth of your business in many ways you can’t even imagine. Some businesses do not even have domestic markets and focus solely on international shipping yet their online stores have proven to be stable and profitable. Of course, all of these cannot be done if you do not employ a certain, specific, and actionable strategy that is paired with the quality of your products and the value for money that it carries.
In this guide, we walk you through the tricks of the trade. We will begin with tips on how to choose the right products to ship, and where to begin shipping them. We will also fill you in with some details and provide you with some lessons from experience on how to study and work around the rules and regulations that are in effect in your target countries for international shipping.
We will also take you on a crash course on the costs of international shipping, and how to translate them into fair, yet still profitable prices on your goods. By the time you finish this guide, we hope you gather enough confidence to just take that leap and let your product travel the world in, let’s say, less than 80 days.
Choose a product and determine where to ship
Imagine that your product has to travel tens of hundreds to thousands of miles across the globe. You would not want them to be spoiled or destroyed when it arrives at your customer’s doorstep. From the get-go, when we talk about international shipping, we focus on products that are of quality, durable, and suited for long cargo trips from one country to lots of others.
When dealing with delicate products such as food, beauty products, and the tinier pieces you want to sell, make sure you prepare efficient and foolproof systems of packaging and fulfillment to make sure you still give your customers in other countries the best possible shopping experience.
Another tip is you focus on the more lightweight and smaller items when you start. This way, you can ship and fulfill more orders while paying less money for the shipping fees. Even though a single piece may have a smaller return than other larger products, shipping internationally in a considerable volume may accumulate greater income for your business.
And of course, most importantly, sell a product that actually sells. A product that is easily available, or very similar to products offered in your target country would not do the trick. Your product must have some novelty and appeal to the taste of the international audience. Try to start with a product that you think can only be bought in your home country, and advertise it as such. Or if you think a certain product that is produced in your country is of higher quality and has better features than the current competitors in your target market, you can also try selling those too. Studying carefully and doing tons of market research can save you lots of time, effort, and money.
When we talk about where to ship, the rule of thumb would be to start in nearby countries and just a handful of them. We start small and targeted, and from there, expand our customer bases steadily so we do not stretch our operations and ensure the efficiency and quality of the services and products we sell to our customers.
Market analytics and market research on the supply and demand of your specific product in the target country are essential in determining where to ship. You do not want to go where you are not wanted. Also, you need to consider the languages spoken in your target countries as these will be essential in your advertising and operations.
When starting, you should try targeting a certain region that speaks a common language so you would only need to hire specific bilingual employees to do the job for you. If you happen to know a foreign language yourself, you would also have the option to put countries speaking that language in your target list for international shipping.
Study target country’s rules and regulations
The world is massive, and different countries have varying sets of rules and regulations when it comes to cargo shipping. As soon as you decide on the target countries where you plan to ship, you have to carefully study the rules and regulations that are in effect there, and how these rules relate to the rules set in your home country. It is a true hassle if you have prepared everything, and it turns out that your home country is banned from shipping to your target country. So you must keep yourself well-versed in the laws on international shipping and trade between countries that you want your online business to reach.
Some countries have explicit prohibitions or limitations when we talk about certain items, as they may be considered illegal or culturally inappropriate for citizens in their country. There are a few things you can keep in mind in your research on these shipping rules and regulations:
- Study the country-specific regulations. Online resources are available, such as the one that can be found on the website of the shipping service UPS. These provided detailed information on the rules governing international shipping based on origin and destination.
- Make use of news articles, and other official government pronouncements to determine whether a specific ban or limitation is imposed on your product offering. For instance, artworks coming from the US are not allowed to be shipped to Saudi Arabia.
- Do not ship “dangerous goods.” We know you do not want to cause any harm to anyone with your product, but some countries are very stringent and you have to really determine whether your product or some part of it can be a potential hazard during transit. You have to study which specific hazard it might cause, so you can have the option to look for alternative shipping modes.
Factor in the costs
It is not a mystery to us that international shipping will cost you more than domestic shipping. There are a wide array of options for you to try. Thankfully, Shopify has partnered with quite a number of shipping companies such as USPS, UPS, DHL Express, Canada Post, and Sendle to give you discounted rates when you book via Shopify. The catch, however, is that this is only available to merchants in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Some costs that you have to consider when shipping internationally and choosing your shipping service include, but are not limited to:
The shipping costs can be divided into two: the costs you incur to transport your products to the local warehouse of your international shipping service, and the cost you pay to the international shipper to transport your product overseas. Regular postal services actually provide more affordable rates but can be a challenging option when it comes to the type of packages allowed, and the speed of delivery.
It would also be best to choose an international shipper that allows options for delivery speed. This allows you to provide buyers with delivery speed options, for a premium price. Some customers would not mind adding an additional amount to get their package right away.
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Aside from speed, we would want our shipments to reach the correct location. Accuracy of delivery is something that can set you apart in the world of eCommerce. Tracking systems also relieve the anxieties of both you and your customers. Some shippers provide ePacket options that allow end-to-end tracking of your deliveries.
Because international travel is susceptible to the elements, and unfortunate incidents may happen, it is advisable to add that extra layer of security through insurance packages that you or the buyer can use. This becomes more imperative for higher-priced items which are too costly to risk. Having insurance can give both you and the buyer some peace of mind.
Explain your fees
Hidden costs are a total bummer for customers. Surprising your buyer from the other side of the world with an added cost that they will pay upon receiving the item is a totally ineffective strategy. And it might severely damage your reputation. Shopify has communication tools, wherein you can explain all the costs that international shipping entails. You have to justify well to your potential buyers why you charge higher for international shipping.
For example, if they pay a premium for tracking and insurance, you can explain to them that you did that to give them an extra layer of security and some peace of mind. We’re sure they would appreciate it and they will be more confident with you handling their shipments. You also need to factor in the duties and taxes that have to be paid in their country’s local customs offices.
However, make it a point that you do not let your customers shoulder all the extra costs. This might turn off quite an amount of potential buyers. In fact, if you do have some extra budget, a Free Shipping promotional option might go a long way and make your product more popular and preferred in your target country.
Trust is key in any business transaction. So maximize all the tools available in Shopify – from the product page, profile page, and chat mechanisms to communicate and negotiate with your customers on how you can help each other in the obviously heavier costs of international shipping.
In deciding how much you should charge for international shipping, consider these factors, and don’t forget to include them in your message of explanation.
You must consider all the materials needed for secure international-grade packaging such as durable carton boxes, bubble wraps, or stuffing. Keep it simple and economical but make sure it can withstand whatever it may encounter during transit.
Shipping prices will vary depending on your preferred courier. As said earlier, if your profits allow it, Free Shipping promos can boost your sales. Shipping rates by different carriers can also be studied and compared via Shopify and you can seamlessly arrange with them through your account. If you have a steady and consistent shipping volume, you might also want to consider availing of a flat shipping rate.
These include the different costs of logistics involved in shipping your product internationally, which certainly involves more steps than domestic shipments. Some customers would not mind paying a bit more for handling costs if you can prove to them that deliveries are being handled in the most professional manner possible.
Duties and taxes
Some products, especially those with higher prices, are subject to taxes and duties when they arrive in your target country. Make sure you have knowledge of how much taxes are to be paid, so you can consider them in your overall pricing strategy.
The usual setup is that these are paid by your buyer when they receive the shipment in the country of destination, but you may opt to pay these in advance and have it reflected in the overall pricing so your customers wouldn’t have to worry about them. When duties are unpaid, your customer might have a difficult time claiming their shipments. That potential incident is something we want to avoid to the best of our abilities.
By now, you would have a relatively solid idea of what you would need to do when preparing your online business to dominate the world market. Before you set off, do not forget to trust your instincts and trust the metrics, start small but sure, then take another step until you reach the whole world.