5 Quick Tips for Shipping Internationally

Cross-border online sales may account for a significant portion of total ecommerce orders in just the next few years, according to some reports. But for many small online retailers the task of actually shipping a package internationally and understanding all of the associated rules, regulations, and risks can be daunting.

Last year, Dynamic Business, an Australian publication, reported that international shipments might account for 20 percent of that nation’s total ecommerce purchases by 2017. Similarly, the Boston Consulting Group estimated the “Internet Economy” would almost double by 2016, as tens of millions of users begin shopping online from nations like China, Brazil, and Mexico and worldwide more than 3 billion people access the Internet.

Given these sorts of estimates, selling internationally represents a significant opportunity for online retailers. Setting aside international marketing, website localization, or even dealing with any number of currencies, the job of putting a product in a box, placing a proper label on that box, and having it sent out can be an unknown for a small business owner. What follows are five tips to help a small online retailer get started with international shipping.

Choose Products Wisely

Not everything that a retailer sells is a good candidate for international trade. As an example, a multi-channel farm and ranch retailer based in the Northwest recently received a request from Israel. A horse trainer there specializing in western riding and roping wanted to order several large horse feeders. The retailer ships these feeders within the U.S. for about $140.00 each, but sending the plastic and steel corner feeders to Israel would have been more than $1,500.00.

Try to focus on relatively small, light, and easy to ship items.

Understanding Country-specific Regulations, Requirements

Vietnam makes it illegal to import foreign calendars — yes, calendars — for commercial purposes, according to a UPS informational video. This means that online retailers based in the U.S. may not send quantities of more than 100 calendars to customers in Vietnam. Doing so is a crime.

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