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Running an eCommerce Business

What Merchants Should Know When Considering International Shipping

What Merchants Should Know When Considering International Shipping

by John Larkin

John runs the blog here at eCommerceLift and is a verified Shopify Expert. Interested in an initial growth consultation? Click here

8 years ago

What Merchants Should Know When Considering International Shipping

Working out the process of shipping can be a huge headache for merchants. Balancing costs so that it is still affordable for customers while also being worthwhile financial for your store can be a delicate task.

Store owners often have to ask themselves if they want to do international shipping. As a store owner you want to process and fulfill as many orders as possible but logistically and financially it might not be worthwhile for your company.

In order to help you decide whether or not to ship internationally and what information you need if you intend on internationally shipping, we have put together a list of everything merchants should know about international shipping.

What’s Your Product? 

If you have a compact, easily packaged, sturdy product then international shipping might be a breeze but unfortunately most products aren't this way. The simple fact is your product might just be unsuitable to be shipped internationally. This can be for a number of reasons such as the financial costs, size, perishability and so on make it difficult to ship internationally.

Assess the appropriateness of your product and what might be an obstacle to you shipping it internationally. You may find that there is just no possible way to ship them and make it worthwhile for your business. 

Is there a demand?

Opening your shipping up to a larger audience with multiple countries might seem like a great idea. The idea of a new market, extra sales and potential growth for your store can be alluring. But before you jump on board do you actually know if your product is in demand?

This is where it is time to do some market research. First, look at if you have gotten requests from international customers asking about your products and see where they are coming from. If it is a substantial amount then you may have a market for your product and you can further research the market from here.

Alternatively, you may be clueless as to whether your product is in demand in an international market so you will have to conduct research into markets you believe might be interested in your products. Most businesses look close by to similar markets and gauge the similarities and differences, competitors and the potential size of market so that you know that this is a wise move and valuable for your store.

Don’t try to conquer the world

Internationally shipping is more complicated than wrapping up a packaging and sticking it in the mail. Each country is different and having a one size fits all for the whole world just won’t work. We suggest targeting just a few countries first that you are assured will have an interest in your products. 

Geographically close and culturally similar countries are usually the obvious choice and is common practice with most merchants as there usually won’t be a substantial difference in shipping rules and regulations. Shipping from Canada to the USA or from the UK to Ireland, these are a great way to ease your business into international shipping and further down the line you can gradually expand your businesses reach to other countries instead of jumping all in. 

Get to grips with international laws and regulations 

Every country has differing rules of what can be imported and exported as well as regulations and restrictions about how and what products can be shipped. These potential restrictions and rules could have a substantial impact on whether you can ship your product to certain countries, the price they are shipped at and the various hoops you might have to just through just to have you products delivered to your customers.

Taxes and duties also will differ between countries and products and could add a large amount of money onto the price of your shipping bill adding to the issues you must consider.

It is therefore essential that you learn as much as possible about what might impact your ability to ship to a country, figure out how to overcome the various problems that could arise from them or assess whether it is possible for you at all.

How will you ship? 

Choosing how you are going to ship your products as well as who is a vital aspect of international shipping. There are a number of different avenues and routes that you can choose to go down with each offering different pros and cons.

For larger companies, they generally use a third party logistics company. They often deal in certain regions and are great for high numbers of shipments. They are also flexible on price and are valuable for building relationships with and helping you figure out some of the annoyance of shipping.

Most smaller stores however, will choose to integrate with a service such as UPS, Fed Ex, DHL and so forth. This route is valuable for small business owners as you receive the assurance and experience of working with these large companies enabling merchants to learn more and feel secure. However, negotiating a price may be difficult as many of these large shipping companies have set rates and can only offer so much in regards to reductions in rates and discounts. Shop around though as you may be surprised at the differing rates each one gives you. 

Shipping internationally could be the right move for your eCommerce store, opening it up to a new market and increasing your sales. However don’t just dive in head first. Instead investigate and analysis so that you don’t end up losing out instead of gaining.


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