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International Shipping: Picking a Provider & Shipping Around the Globe

13 min read

Online store owners often ask themselves, “Should I sell my products internationally? Would that be too much work? How would I even go about doing it?”

And while international shipping often does require some additional steps (and higher shipping rates for international customers), it’s a great way to help your business reach new heights. Why? Because selling internationally opens up opportunities for you to connect with customers around the globe.

No more limiting your online store to those who live within your home country. Instead, you’ll be able to share your fantastic offerings far and wide, wherever interested consumers reside!

And guess what? International shipping isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. To prove it, we’re going to walk you through all the things you need to know to enable international sales in your online store. So hop aboard the International Shipping Express, and let’s get to selling!

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How to Choose an International Shipping Service

First thing’s first: you’ll need to pick an international service. Luckily, there are a ton of options. The best one for your online store will depend on what you sell, how expensive your items are, and your shipping priorities (you know, like: fast delivery, tracking numbers, low cost, etc.)

To find the best possible rate, use shipping management solutions to compare rates between carriers like USPS, DHL, Canada Post, FedEx, and UPS.

While it’s true that it’s more expensive to ship international orders, international customers will likely be willing to pay for these costs. Giving them the option of buying your product and getting it shipped to them (wherever they may be) opens your business up substantially, and allows you to be more inclusive of a wider variety of products as well.

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 an international customer base.

Documentation for International Shipping

Once you’ve selected the right international shipping service for your business, you’ll need to make sure you complete the shipping provider’s required documentation.

Tip: Keeping a stack of the common shipping labels you’ll be using handy will allow you to do this part at home–and save you from standing around in an office filling out paperwork. Some providers will also allow you to print custom shipping labels at home. Another time saver you should consider!

Documentation for international shipping often includes information about:

Customs

International packages must pass through customs upon exit of your country and upon entry to the destination country. On your shipping provider’s customs form, you’ll be asked to provide information about:

  • The recipient (name, address)
  • The package’s value and weight
  • The package content’s value and weight

Some shipments require fees related to duties and taxes—based on product value, product use, and trade agreements. The shipper must pay these fees before the packages can be released from customs.

However, most countries allow gifts and small items to enter the country duty-free if the value of the gift is below a specific amount.

Additionally, each country has 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.

Regulated/restricted items

Speaking of prohibited items, some countries have special regulations or restrictions on specific international products.

These lists of restricted items often include 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 of package confiscation.

Packaging for International Shipping

Next, it’s time to pack up your international order.

Your international shipping provider will likely have packaging supplies you can use at no additional charge (just pick them up in-store), but aside from the actual packaging you use, you’ll also need to ensure you’ve safely packed your order for a long journey.

Your item will be handled at multiple locations, so use bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and air packets to keep your item snug in its package. Items should not rattle, roll around, or shift within the box or envelope you’re using, as that can cause damage along the way, and increase your risk of having to deal with international returns.

Insurance for International Shipments

Because the risk of damage is higher for international shipments, it’s 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 also an optional cost you can pass along to the buyer—by either adding an additional fee at checkout, or by including this estimated cost into your item price. Either option can give buyers a greater sense of confidence in the safety of their international purchases.

International Shipments Tracking

If you’re concerned about your order making its way to its final international destination, and you want step-by-step monitoring 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–so 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 can help resolve the issue from there.

Some carriers always provide orders with tracking numbers. For others, it depends. Make sure you pay extra for tracking through this service if you need it. You can easily track packages for your orders with Aftership.

Returns

International customers sometimes need to return items. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a clear return policy established and noted on your website ahead of time. 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.

Learn more: How to Write a Good Return Policy for your Eсommerce Store

Must-Have Tools for International Shipping

Managing international shipping for your online store is a breeze with the right tools. Ecwid provides various solutions to simplify an online seller’s shipping routine, from printing shipping labels to packaging.

Print Discounted Shipping Labels at Home

International shipping costs are one of the main things that stop business owners from selling across the globe. Luckily, with the right tools, you can save on them significantly — up to 50%!

With Ecwid E-commerce, you can buy and print discounted labels for USPS international shipments. The best part? You can do that right from your Control Panel!

After you print a shipping label, you just stick it on the box and request a pickup to hand over the package to the carrier. That’s right, you can ship your package from your home — forget about lines at the post office.

With Ecwid E-commerce, you save both time and money on international shipping:

  • Access exclusive USPS pricing for Ecwid merchants to ship internationally at the lowest possible cost.
  • Don’t waste time on post office visits. You don’t have to go there anymore to buy labels and ship packages.
  • Create international shipping labels faster. No need to use third-party software. Everything happens in your Control Panel, and the labels are automatically prefilled to avoid typos.

Learn more about buying and printing shipping labels with Ecwid E-commerce.

Other Shipping Tools You Can Use

With Ecwid E-commerce, you can print discounted labels for USPS shipments if your business is located in the United States and you ship from the United States. If you are not from the US, check out the following solutions you can install from the Ecwid App Market to buy shipping labels (keep in mind that the following apps require a monthly subscription.)

Easyship
If you plan to ship to the UK, Italy, France, Germany, or Asia, you can purchase shipping labels with Easyship. But what’s most important for international sellers is that Easyship provides full import tax and duty visibility, and correct document generation.

Learn more about Easyship, and install it from the Ecwid App Market.

Shipstation
This shipping management and automation solution is available for sellers based in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. You can also use Shipstation to automate the repetitive tasks you do to prepare your orders for shipping, like adding notes to orders, or including a return label.

Learn more about Shipstation, and install it from the Ecwid App Market.

ShippingEasy
One of the main benefits of ShippingEasy for international online sellers is the auto-population of customs forms. You can save your international shipment information into your account settings. Then it’s automatically applied to all your international shipments during the carrier and service selection process.

Learn more about ShippingEasy, and install it from the Ecwid App Market.

Sendcloud
This shipping software is designed specifically for European sellers. It connects Europe-based sellers to major carriers, and offers other seller benefits such as stress-free returns throughout Europe and branded tracking notifications.

Learn more about Sendcloud, and install it from the Ecwid App Market.

Upgrade Your Packaging

Everyone wants to be memorable, right? One of the best ways to stick in a customer’s mind is to use visually appealing and/or packaging, no matter where you ship it to. So why not design and order custom packaging for your international shipments with Arka.

Their packaging is made in the US from eco-friendly materials, and available for international shipping. Other benefits include:
boxes optimized for shipping rates—no extra costs!
options for low-volume orders—get started with 10 boxes at a time.

Learn more about Arka, and install it from the Ecwid App Market.

International Shipping: Easier Than You’d Think

Now that you know some things to think about when picking an international shipping provider, as well as the major elements that go into the process, hopefully you breathe a little easier. We hope this article has revealed how simple the whole process really is.

Are there a few more steps that go into making shipping international happen? Yes. Do these orders cost a little more to ship? Yes. But is it worth it to open your online store up to more potential customers around the globe? Definitely!

The moral of the story: don’t be intimidated by international shipping. With a few prep steps, your products can be delivered to countries all over the world. And that’s pretty exciting. At least, we think so.

And if you still have questions about taking the first steps on your international shipping journey, just let us know—either through our support team, or in the comments section below.

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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.

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