If you hope to expand your small business, expand your clientele. Opening up business to international customers is the fastest way to broaden your potential income, but it also presents a new challenge: dealing with international shipping costs. Online shipping makes international shipping easier for business owners and individuals alike, especially when you pay attention to four effective tips that make international shipping more affordable and less complicated.
Do Your Research
What’s perfectly legal to sell and ship in your country may not be allowed in other countries. Before you open your business to international orders, research custom laws in the countries you hope to market your product. Some products may not be allowed to ship at all. Others may be allowed, but will cost you or your customer high custom fees. Some countries collect taxes on international packages from the recipient.
You may not be able to list your entire catalog for international orders. Choose from among the products that will be the least problematic with customs. Allowing shipment to some countries and not others for certain products is also an option.
Choose Lightweight Items
Passing customs is not your only concern as an international business shipper.Practical eCommerce points out that if you choose the wrong items to ship internationally, it could cost you more in shipping fees than it cost the purchaser to buy the item. You could eat the outrageous shipping price yourself, costing you more to sell the item internationally than to not sell the item or you pass on the high cost to your international customers, which will discourage them from purchasing the item.
Consider your products’ size and weight when you decide what to offer internationally. Do a practice packaging and see how much the overall package weighs, not just the product itself. Use an online postage calculator to calculate how much it will cost you to ship, and take insurance and any custom fees into consideration. If the item costs too much to ship, don’t waste the time or money; make it unavailable internationally.
Package items you ship internationally with minimal weight and less wasted space. Both of these practices will reduce your shipping costs. Having less wasted space will also reduce the likelihood of your items rolling around in the box and getting damaged. Find the smallest box that will comfortably fit your order. Have multiple box sizes on hand rather than buying only large boxes in bulk. Pack any leftover space in the boxes with:
- Bubble wrap
- Promotional flyers for your business
If possible, avoid packaging peanuts and newspapers to fill extra space. Peanuts are at least lightweight, but they’re a mess for both you and the customer. Thus, stick to items with static cling. Newspapers bleed ink on items and customers’ hands, and they don’t effectively fill leftover space.
Use Shipping Software
Invest in shipping software to organize your shipping process. Software not only lets you print labels and postage, saving you trips to the post office or other delivery service, but it also allows you to track your packages easily. Keep track of dates shipped and dates received if you use delivery confirmation or ask customers to fill out surveys telling you when they received them. Keep track of which countries are ordering which products. Use this information to strategize marketing opportunities.
Comprehensive shipping software will put information such as customs taxes, prohibitions and restrictions for countries around the globe right at your fingertips, saving you from having to research each country individually. They’ll also let you print filled-in customs forms from your computer, streamlining every international shipment.
Spend less on international shipping and streamline the process with four easy-to-implement practices. The less time and money you spend on international shipping, the more money you’ll have to invest into your company. It may take extra time now to get used to your international shipping routine, but the payoff is worth the initial time investment.
About the Author
Gregory Scott is a small-business owner, blogger and public speaker. He frequently shares his success stories in cutting back his small business’ expenses at conferences.