In the world of eCommerce, international shipping is becoming a more important focus for businesses. Online sales continue to grow at an astonishing rate, with the average value of an online order now significantly higher than a domestic one. The average value for sale from a desktop computer is over $120, while the average value of a sale from a mobile device is almost $85 (in the USA).
Setting distribution or shipping limitations as a business can mean missing out on potential revenue from the international market. Expanding to international customers can elevate your business beyond competitors. However, international shipping is a complex process that requires a careful approach.
From negotiating rates to preparing documentation, shipping overseas is an enormous undertaking for a business, particularly if they have limited resources. To maximize the chances of a successful international expansion, businesses must pay attention to the tips and guidance given by industry experts.
Familiarize Yourself With Customs Rules and Regulations
Rules and regulations differ from country to country in terms of international shipments. Government bodies and international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) take responsibility for ensuring goods that transfer between nations are genuine, safe, and legally sourced.
In the United States, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is in charge of clearing all goods that enter the country. They enforce trade laws, making sure imports are compliant with regulations.
The regulatory and customs bodies encourage importers and exporters to become familiar with country-specific rules, regulations, and laws. In particular, shippers must pay attention to the mandatory duties and taxes from both the country of origin and the final destination.
Mistakes or oversights can lead to delays, fines, and sometimes, the confiscation of goods.
Track Demand for Your Products
Before committing to an international shipping strategy, it’s important for businesses to determine the level of demand for their products overseas. While there may be an interest in your products or services, you must also consider the financial viability of an international business venture.
There are numerous analytical software tools available to monitor interest in your offerings. However, you can gauge demand for free using Google Analytics and crunching the numbers in relation to specific key performance indicators (KPIs).
Some useful metrics to consider include:
- Average online order value
- Online store conversion rates
- Online store sessions by location
- Online store sessions by social media source
- Repeat online store visitors
- Total online store visitors
- Online sales attributed to digital marketing efforts
If the estimated interest aligns with the potential for profit, taking your business international may be worth it.
International Pricing Strategy
Coming up with a pricing strategy is an essential step in successfully shipping internationally. While freight rates often fluctuate, shipping overseas is generally more expensive than domestic distribution. This makes it tempting for businesses to cut corners or use complicated pricing structures.
As competition continues to increase with eCommerce growth, opting for a non-complex and transparent pricing strategy is usually the best approach. Two of the most popular methods are to offer free shipping or flat rate shipping. Both shipping options allow businesses to maintain competitive prices.
Almost half of online cart abandonments are due to extra costs, like shipping fees. Offering free or fixed rate shipping means there are no unexpected charges when customers pay for their goods. The most straightforward ways of covering the costs of low shipping prices are implementing a minimum spend threshold or increasing the price of your products.
Understand the Importance of Documentation
International shipping, especially ocean freight, is rudimentary when it comes to documentation. Although shipping services are transitioning to technology, there are still strict procedures regarding documentation. It’s vital to have important documents on hand to ensure a smooth process. Some of the most important documents include:
A commercial invoice is the official proof of sale between the buyer and seller. It includes details of the transaction, including the terms of shipping.
Bill of Lading (BOL)
The BOL is the most important document for international shipping as it is the official contract between the business and the shipper. It must only be signed by official representatives to clear the goods for release.
Certificate of Origin
The certificate of origin is a document that declares the country of origin for the transported goods. It is used to prove that the items are permitted for export and determine the duty owed rate.
A packing list is an important document in the U.S. shipping process because it is needed to clear customs. It contains a detailed item list covering all key information about a shipment, including the weight, dimensions, specific safety recommendations, and type of packaging.
Consider Using a Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Provider
A 3PL provider is a specialist service that helps deal with all aspects of order fulfillment. Their services include distribution, warehousing, picking, packing, inventory management, packaging, and freight forwarding. A 3PL can help international shippers to save time and money, with many of them offering door-to-door services.
Many 3PLs have strategic partnerships with courier companies and other logistics-based businesses, allowing them to take advantage of discounted rates and making them a useful, cost-effective option for businesses. For international shipping, a 3PL enables scalability.
Use the Correct Packaging
Correct packaging is essential for multiple reasons in international shipping. First, it protects goods as they travel long distances and are loaded and unloaded onto transport vehicles. Fragile goods should be packaged appropriately using strong but lightweight materials along with bubble wrap.
Second, packaging influences the size and weight of cargo. Depending on the mode of transport, the cost of shipping is calculated using the actual or volumetric weight. While excessively large packaging may offer added protection to goods, it increases the price of your shipment significantly. Opt for custom packaging and focus on efficiency.
Finally, goods must be labeled correctly. Depending on the category of product, it may require specific packaging. For example, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) sets nine different categories for dangerous goods. Each of these categories has a specific set of rules that set the minimum requirements for transport.
Similarly to having the correct documentation, appropriate packaging and labeling are essential for avoiding delays, fines, and confiscation.
Ship Internationally With a World-Class Shipping Organization
Shipping internationally is made easier when you partner with a first-rate logistics company. At Asiana USA, we combine experience and skill to deliver world-class freight-forwarding services. For more information on how we can help your business achieve its goals, call us today at (855) 500-1808.