How To Increase Your E-commerce International Shipments

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international freight and parcel shipping

Looking to increase your e-commerce international shipments?

Are you a small business just getting started and trying to determine how to expand internationally? Or possibly a mature business that has had issues with international shipping and can’t find a cost effective and reliable method? InXpress is here to help by providing practical advice in our guide for increasing your e-commerce international shipments.

We have the opportunity to speak with many businesses who struggle with shipping internationally. This makes sense on the surface as a majority of shipments are performed domestically and require less time and paperwork than international packages. So when a customer asks a business to ship a package to South Africa, panic immediately sets in and doubt surfaces as to the ability to actually ship that package. Fortunately, with just a little bit of research and understanding of international shipping, businesses owners are finding joy in reaching new markets and gaining another happy customer.

First things first, what options do you have?

For US based retailers there are a variety of options to choose from including USPS, UPS, and DHL. Each carrier has its advantages and disadvantages so its good to know what your objectives are in advance.

DHL – largest international carrier by volume. They specialize in international packages and have a wide network of customs brokers who assist in clearing your shipments quickly. Most packages arrive in 2-5 business days under the Express Worldwide delivery option. DHL also provides a Same Day Service for packages that need to arrive quickly. Costs are typically higher than slower options provided by UPS and USPS. There is also a program that provides heavily discounted rates for e-commerce businesses if certain conditions are met.

UPS – most recognized carrier in the US providing both domestic and international shipments. There a number of shipping options to choose from including Worldwide Express, Worldwide Saver, and Standard. Additionally, UPS offers an Express Critical service for your time sensitive deliveries. You will find prices to be both higher and lower than DHL depending upon the service selected. Shipping times tend to be slightly below those of DHL, but significantly better than USPS.

USPS – offering first class and priority package shipments across the globe. From a pricing standpoint, first class packages offer the lowest cost compared to DHL and UPS. There are fewer weight breaks on the shipment options which means you can get the same price for packages under a defined weight limit. Delivery time is considerably slower for first class, and packages are normally handed off to the destination country post service for final delivery.

How much should I expect to pay?

Carriers utilize zone level pricing for determining rates, so there can be a significant difference in cost depending on the final destination. Here a number of items to consider before getting an estimate:

  • What is the final destination of the package? You may be shipping a package across the border to Canada, but if the final destination is remote your shipping costs will be higher. This is the same for international locations outside of North America.
  • How fast do you need to get it there? It goes without saying that expedited services are going to cost more than standard services.
  • What type of product are you shipping? Some items require special handling or permits such as hazardous materials or large bulky items. In these cases there may be additional duties and taxes required.
  • When are you shipping your products? Every carrier assess a fuel surcharge and this will fluctuate throughout the year. Carriers may also assess a peak-season demand charge for high volume shipping months.

Fortunately DHL, UPS, and USPS have provided online calculators to assist with quoting shipments. These calculators can be located at the following links:

DHL – Shipping Estimate

UPS – Shipping Estimate

USPS – Shipping Estimate

What Documentation do I need?

Unlike domestic shipments which require very little documentation, international shipments require a number of very specific documents. These documents include (but not limited to):

  • A proforma or commercial invoice detailing the specifics of the shipment including quantity, price, weight, and HTS code. If you are unfamiliar with HTS codes please refer to our post on finding the appropriate HTS codes for your products.
  • A packing list which indicates contents by box.
  • A certificate of origin to identify the country of manufacture.
  • An airway bill which is the contract between you and the carrier for the transport of your goods.

Next Steps After You have The Basic Down.

Now that you have the basics of international shipping down, what can you do to improve or increase your shipments? If you are just starting out, it may be best to start in countries that are close to you or have limited barriers to entry. The more complicated the process is, the less likely you will want to continue shipping internationally. Try out a few shipments. Test your suppliers capability. See if your shipping platform can perform as expected. And most importantly get feedback from your customers. They will be your true test of what is working and what is not.

Once you feel confident shipping to easier markets, its time to branch out to other destinations assuming the demand is there. You will quickly find out whether the market is a fit for your businesses by how much time you spend on your shipments. Depending upon the value of your shipments it may or may not make sense to continue.

If you are still unsure about shipping internationally, feel free to reach out and a member of our team will be happy to answer any question you may have.


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