I’ll start off with the quick answer: Yes you should offer international shipping.
While there’s no specific study to pull from to say just how much international shipping increases an e-commerce store’s sales by on average (since it varies so much on the store and type of product sold), from many personal anecdotes and working with E-Commerce businesses, I can say that for the vast majority of online sellers international shipping is definitely worth it. Some international shipping services state by just offering international shipping, you can instantly increase your store’s revenue by 15%.
People aren’t afraid of purchasing things internationally any more, and offering international shipping shows you are a customer focused business while opening up a brand new revenue channel.
There is a bit of a lingering perception that offering international shipping is difficult, but much of the difficulty is reduced when you use the assistance of shipping software (like ShippingEasy) that can automatically fill out customs forms and all of the required documentation that goes along with an international shipment.
Rather than give a guide on how to ship internationally and a breakdown of each service (which will come next post) I am going to highlight some benefits of offering international purchases and some things to look out for that can surprise you about international shipping so you’re not caught off guard.
Some good things about offering international shipping
- New source of revenue
You just opened up a new channel of sales! You would be surprised how many people stumble upon your site and aren’t living in your country. A quick peak in your Google Analytics if you have it set up can give you an idea of which countries visit your site the most, and can also give you an idea if there is any opportunity to selling internationally.
- More visitors, more links pointing to your site, bigger customer base, more exposure
These are pretty obvious, but more shipments going to more people across the world means more people visiting your site, more chances for liking your social profiles, sharing your pages, talking about your products, and linking to your site to tell other people. These all build off each other and make a difference in the long run.
- Processing international orders with shipping software is a breeze
Shipping software solutions like ShippingEasy take almost all of the difficulty out of shipping internationally. You can print out customs forms completely and accurately filled out, automatically print out any additional paper work and harmonized code for each shipment, and automatically fill out the type of the merchandise being sold (this is important for shipping internationally).
See our support guide on setting up international shipments if you use ShippingEasy and haven’t started offering it yet.
Things to look out for and be mindful of when shipping internationally
While selling and shipping internationally is easier than ever, there are certain things to look out for. Some issues you can run into with international shipments that aren’t present with domestic shipments include:
- When selecting your service – cheaper is not always better
While the USPS has the cheapest international rates with their First Class International service, the tracking on it is not exactly what anyone would call acceptable. Depending on the service you choose, lower end services only track up until the destination country or the destination city within that country, with no way to tell if the package was finally delivered, relying on that country’s mailing service to ensure the package reaches its final destination. Depending on what you sell, going for a more expensive service with added insurance and delivery confirmation could make international shipments go a lot smoother, especially if you sell high value items.
- New fees not usually associated with domestic shipping can occur
This happens with things like customs fees, duties, city-specific taxes, and other charges that can happen within the delivery process. If customs fees are too high and payment is placed on the recipient, they could refuse the order altogether and want a refund. Depending on the country you’re sending to, final delivery charges can be placed on the seller or the recipient. Each country is different, and each carrier is different as well. You can adjust your international shipping policy with explanations of how you handle customs fees, added tax, and which countries you are willing to ship to.
Some examples of potential added fees after an item ships include:
Canada Post: Their post office can charge a handling fee of CAN$9.95 to the RECIPIENT of any package that is valued over CAN$20.
Royal Mail in the UK can charge a £8 handling fee for non-EU imported goods, and items valued over £15 can be charged by VAT (value added tax).
- International items are scrutinized more heavily, and the items inside the package matter
The value of the items, type of items, and describing those items properly plays a bigger role in international shipments. Some customers will ask that you lower the value on your invoice or send the items to them as a gift so they can bypass some of their countries import fees or customs fees. I wouldn’t recommend you do this, as if you get caught the item won’t be delivered at all and can hurt your future prospects of shipping within a given country. Honesty and accuracy is the best policy when it comes to international shipping so that your packages will arrive to their final destination.
If you’re not shipping internationally, what are you waiting for? It’s easier than ever to offer the service, and you can walk away with more happy customers. It’s a win-win. Don’t let it intimidate you, while there is a bit of a learning curve, it is certainly worth the effort.