Many online store owners ask themselves, Should I sell my products internationally? Is it too much work? How do I do it?
And while it often does require a few more steps (and means some higher shipping rates for your international customers), it’s a great way to let your business reach new heights.
Why? Because selling and shipping items to internationally opens up many more opportunities for you to connect with customers around the globe. And rather than limiting your online store to those who live within your home country, you’ll be able to share your fantastic offerings far and wide.
And guess what? International shipping isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. To prove it, we’re going to walk you through a few different options for international shipping, as well as the major things you need to know before you enable international sales in your online store.
How to choose an international shipping service
First things first: You’ll need to pick an international shipping service. Lucky for you, there are many different options. The best one for your online store will depend on your products, item value, and your shipping priorities (like speedy delivery, tracking numbers, low cost etc.)
Cost is probably the biggest deciding factor here, so we’re going to do our best to share realistic rates. To give you a better idea of what the costs and delivery times look like, we’ll use the same example across all providers. (Obviously, your needs will likely be different.)
For our purposes, we’ll be shipping a 2x2x2 package weighing two pounds from Springfield, Illinois (USA) to London, England with a declared gift value of $20.
Now let’s dive in to a few of the top providers as well as their pros and cons.
UPS offers a variety of fast international shipping services, which can typically can be guaranteed within
Here’s what this service offers for our example:
Pros: Fast delivery with reliable tracking. If you want your orders to arrive quickly, UPS may be a good option to consider. Bonus: There are sometimes discounts for frequent use and
Cons: It’s expensive. This option makes more sense if you’re shipping a large volume of orders (For example: if a wholesaler wanted to buy a large volume of products from you to sell in their own store.)
As you can see, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to send a low value
FedEx is another solid option for fast, reliable international shipping if you’re shipping high volume or valuable orders. Again, as you’ll see in the example below — it’s not cheap.
Pros: Fast, reliable delivery with a tracking number. There are also often discounts for frequent use and
Cons: Expensive. Not always good for
If you live within the United States, the USPS is almost always going to be the cheapest option. The same is often true wherever you live — the domestic provider that delivers your home mail likely has an international shipping department for a more affordable rate.
Pros: Much more affordable.
Cons: No tracking number for first class mail, and it’s a much slower delivery process. Some orders can take up to
Find the Best Rate
If you’re still not sure which option is best for you, there are tools that can help you find the best possible rate, like ShipGooder. This resource lets you compare rates between USPS, CanPar, TNT, Canada Post, FedEx and UPS, and will automatically tell you which provider has the lowest shipping cost and the fastest delivery speed, like in the example below.
As you can see, the common denominator across all providers is a larger price tag for international shipping costs. Yes, it’s true that it’s more expensive to ship international orders, but some of your customers may be willing to pay for these costs. Giving them the option to get your product shipped to them (wherever they may be) allows to to reach more customers and be more inclusive, too.
And remember: international shipping costs can be passed along to the buyer. You don’t need to take a big hit on your prices to open the doors to your international customers.
Once you’ve selected an international shipping service, you’ll need to make sure you complete the shipping provider’s required documentation.
Tip: Keeping a stack of the common labels you’ll be using at home will allow you to do this part at
Documentation for international shipping often includes information about:
International packages must pass through customs upon exit of your country and upon entry into the destination country. On your shipping provider’s customs form, you’ll be asked to provide information about:
- The recipient (name, address)
- Package value and weight
- Content’s value and weight
Some shipments will require fees related to duties and taxes, based on product value, product use, and trade
FedEx outlines the requirements for international packages shipped as gifts:
Additionally, each country as its own list of customs information that you’ll need to get familiar with before shipping an international package. On your provider’s
For example: On the USPS customs page for Belize, you’ll find the following list of prohibited items, as well as other
Speaking of prohibited items, some countries have special regulations or restrictions on specific international products.
UPS, for example, has restrictions on certain types of goods that are being shipped internationally, which can only be contractually shipped where service is allowed. Their list of restricted items includes things like: Alcohol, animal products, furs, tobacco, plants, perishables,
Next, it’s time to pack up your international order.
Your international shipping provider will likely have packaging supplies you can you can use at no additional charge (just pick them up
Your item will be handled at multiple locations, so use bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and air packets to keep your item snugly within the package. Items should not rattle, roll around, or shift within the box or envelope you’re using.
Because the risk of damage is higher for international shipments, it may be a good idea to consider purchasing insurance for your international orders. Your insurance cost will be based on the package value, so it will vary depending on what you’re shipping.
This is an additional optional cost you can pass along to the buyer. By either adding on an additional fee at checkout, or by including this estimated cost into your item price, both options give buyers a sense of protection about their international purchases.
If you’re concerned about your order making it’s way to the final international destination and you want a step by step update of your package as it makes its way to the customer, be sure you have a tracking number. This number is important for your own records, and should be shared with the buyer as well.
Should your package go missing, this tracking number is proof that the order was indeed
If an international customer needs to return an item, it’s a good idea to have a clear return policy established and noted on your website.
Why? Because you don’t want to surprise your customer with an unexpected
Make it clear in your store policies whether or not you allow returns for international orders, how long those returns typically take to be processed, and what the projected return shipping fee will be. Be as upfront as possible with your buyers so they know what to expect from the returns process.
International Shipping: Easier Than You’d Think
Now that you know how to choose an international shipping provider that’s right for you as well as the major elements that go into the process, you can see how simple the whole process really is.
Are there a few more steps for shipping international orders? Yes. Do they cost a bit more to ship? Yes. But is it worth it to open your online store up to more potential customers around the globe? For sure.
Don’t be intimidated by international shipping. With a few preparatory steps, you can start to see your products delivered to countries all over the world. And that’s pretty exciting.