International Shipping – What to Know to Do It Right
Outside the U.S. borders is a huge marketplace of opportunity. So, why do many ecommerce businesses hesitate to expand in this direction? For many, it’s because shipping parcels to other countries can be a complex process, with some particular pitfalls. Documentation requirements for shipping across international borders are strict and vary by country, and the type and value of items play a more important role. There are also more challenges in terms of carrier options, cost, and transit times. Let’s look at some of the things you need to know to do international shipping right.
When shipping across international borders, the seller is responsible for understanding and following the specific customs regulations, duties, and taxes of the country being shipped to. The forms will differ by country, but the most commonly required documents are the Commercial Invoice, Export Declaration, Certificate of Origin, Toxic Substances Control Act form, and the U.S. FCC Form 740.
There will also likely be fees that must be paid. The amount due is determined by the Harmonized System (HS) code, product value, and trade agreements. The Harmonized Code governs the duties and taxes that are applied according to the category the product falls into. Sellers sending parcels beyond domestic borders will need to establish a clear international shipping policy that outlines what the seller and recipient will each be responsible for.
Choosing an International Carrier
Even more than domestically, with international shipping it’s important to take factors beyond cost into account when choosing a carrier. Tracking information, signature on delivery, and insurance against damage or loss are necessary services, but you should also consider how potential fees that the shipment might occur will be handled.
Proven reliability in delivering to the specific countries that matter to you is a top priority — as is the ability to provide the transit time your customers are looking for. Because rates and delivery times vary greatly in international shipping, it’s important to carefully review the service levels you are paying for. Experience with the necessary documentation is of course a must-have.
The ideal type of international carrier is one who can serve as your partner in providing knowledge and guidance in matters like determining what you need to charge the customer in duties and fees, as an estimate of the final cost of each shipment. Choosing the right parcel carrier will go a long way in determining your success and profitability in international markets.
As with most else, there is software that will automate a lot of the paperwork for you and reduce the complexity of the international shipping process. In addition to the capability to print out customs forms and other important documentation, many software solutions will determine the harmonized code for each shipment. The decision whether to invest in this type of specialized software will take into account the time savings as well as the savings from the reduced likelihood of costly errors, particularly if several countries are being exported to.
For any e-retailer, expanding the customer base to the populations of other nations offers potential for greatly increased revenue. Working with experienced international carriers and leveraging the power of shipping software make it possible to cost-effectively move into that greater market.