International Shipping: Picking a Provider & Shipping Around the Globe

Jul 13, 2016 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team
International shipping
Posted Jul 13, 2016 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team

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

UPS offers a variety of fast international shipping services, which can typically can be guaranteed within 1-5 business days. On their website, you’ll find a chart that outlines their different international delivery options.

Here’s what this service offers for our example:

UPS

UPS

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 high-volume shipping.

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 one-off item via UPS. If your item value is only $20, you shouldn’t be paying $100+ in shipping.

FedEx

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.

FedEx

FedEx

Pros: Fast, reliable delivery with a tracking number. There are also often discounts for frequent use and high-volume shipping through this provider as well. If you plan on sending large quantities of stock on a regular basis, this option makes sense.

Cons: Expensive. Not always good for low-value items and one-off orders.

USPS

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.

USPS

USPS

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 2-4 weeks to reach their international destination. You can upgrade to a more expensive service through USPS via Priority Mail (see below), but it’s going to be significantly more expensive.

USPS

USPS

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.

ShipGooder

ShipGooder

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.

Documentation

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 home–and saves you from standing around in their office filling out paperwork. Some providers will also allow you to print custom shipping labels at home. Both are time-savers.

Documentation for international shipping often includes information about:

Customs

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 agreements–and these fees must be paid by the shipper before they can be released from customs. However, most countries allow gifts to entry the country duty-free if the value of the gift is below a specific amount. For example, in Great Britain, no duties are charged if the gift is less than 36 GBP.

FedEx outlines the requirements for international packages shipped as gifts:

FedEx

FedEx

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 country-specific customs page, you’ll find the size/weight limits for packages, the insurance costs, areas where expedited service is available, and a list of prohibited items.

For example: On the USPS customs page for Belize, you’ll find the following list of prohibited items, as well as other customs-related details:

USPS

USPS

Regulated/restricted items

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, e-cigarettes, firearms, and seeds. Be sure you’re aware of the restricted items for your shipping provider so you’re not putting yourself or your customers at risk.

Packaging

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 in-store), but aside from the actual shipping packaging you’ll use, you’ll also need to ensure you’ve safely packed your order for its long journey.

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.

Insurance

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.

Tracking

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 shipped–and it protects you as a seller. You can report the tracking number to your shipping service so they can see where it was last checked in–and they can help resolve the issue from there. All UPS and FedEx orders come with tracking numbers, but USPS orders depend on the shipping tier–so make sure you pay extra for tracking through this service if you need it. You can easily track packages for your orders with Aftership and Shipway applications from the Ecwid App Market.

Returns

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 $50-100 return shipping fee.

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.

About The Author
Lina is a content creator at Ecwid. She writes to inspire and educate readers on all things commerce. She loves to travel and runs marathons.

Stay up to date!

Get free e-commerce tips, news and inspiring ideas delivered directly to your inbox

Also read