Shipping internationally has the potential to expand your client base by millions or even billions of people. However, international shipping forces you to deal with customs, duties, and the laws in other countries. If you are wondering if the expanded client base is worth the extra hassles, the answer depends on your business objectives, budget, and time.
International shipping doesn’t necessarily take up more time than domestic shipping. In most cases, domestic shippers also handle international shipments, and you can usually set up orders in the same online portal. For example, Canada Post ships packages to Canada and the rest of the world, and you can download shipping labels from the organization’s website.
International shipping, whether you’re sending items to the United States or anywhere else in the world, is almost always more expensive than local shipping. For instance, as of 2017, it costs approximately $44 to ship a 20 kilogram package from Ontario to Vancouver. Sending the same package to the middle of the United States costs about $104, and sending it to the Bahamas costs over $800. The high cost of international shipping typically makes it impossible for business owners to offer free or low-cost shipping to international clients. However, you may want to offer shipping to anywhere as long as the buyer pays for it.
To secure cheaper shipping rates for yourself or your customers, consider signing up for a frequent buyer program. For example, Canada Post offers discounts up to 28% on domestic shipping and up to 40% on international shipping for small business clients. To qualify, you must sign up for Solutions for Small Business. Private shippers tend to offer similar deals.
Filling out customs forms is the one way that international shipping can be more time consuming than domestic shipping. Luckily, however, most shippers also work hard to make this aspect of shipping easier for business owners. To that end, you can download customs forms from most shipping websites, and in many cases, you can complete these forms and submit them online.
In some cases, as the shipment moves across borders, it may be subject to unexpected fees or duties. In most cases, the shipper assesses these fees and requests them from your clients upon delivery. To safeguard your reputation, considering being as transparent as possible in regards to fees. For instance, you may want to include a simple warning with each international purchase. Something to the effect of “extra fees or duties may apply on international orders” can work perfectly.
If you process a large volume of orders, you may not want to look into having a fulfillment service help you. Some online retail platforms such as Amazon offer order fulfillment services that product sellers can use. Alternatively, if you do a lot of shipping to a particular country, you may want to work with a fulfillment company based in that country. This way the inventory can be stored in a warehouse in the destination country. Then, when clients submit an order, the fulfillment centre fills it and ships it, saving you time and lowering international shipping costs.