If you haven’t started putting your products out for overseas customers to purchase, you are not preparing your eCommerce business for international growth. Statistica reported that in 2021, retail eCommerce business sales amounted to approximately 4.9 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide.
This figure is forecast to grow by 50 percent over the next four years, reaching about 7.4 trillion dollars by 2025! Any eCommerce business considering starting to deliver products to overseas customers should take advantage of this surge.
Consumer behaviour across the world has changed drastically post-pandemic. Online shoppers are now looking for most of their needs to be met from the comfort of their homes.
Online customers do not care where your eCommerce business is located. If you have a great product with awesome ratings online, they will want to make a purchase.
Ecommerce businesses that have positioned themselves for post-pandemic growth are investing to have their products visible on the online shelves even outside the geographical regions where they had solely served pre-pandemic.
5 Things to do Before Shipping to Overseas Customers;
1. Gather the necessary documents
Just as you’d need to get your passport and visa ready before going on an international trip, you’d also need some legal documents before setting out to deliver products to your overseas customers.
Shipping overseas requires precise documentation that meets the demands of both the country of origin and the destination country.
It is highly important to arm yourself with all the necessary information about your shipments, eCommerce business, and whom you’re shipping to, and most likely obtain a license for your products as well.
Some of the most common documents required for shipping to overseas customers include;
i. Purchase Order (PO)
This is the most basic document you’ll need to put together. Although not issued by the government, the Purchase Order (PO) is a legal document that could save your business if issues arise between buyer and seller.
The Purchase Order shows details of the product being sold, quantity ordered total and unit price, customer details, and other necessary information.
ii. Bill of lading (BOL)
Bill of lading is a legal document issued by the shipping carrier that describes the type of product being shipped, the quantity, and how it should be handled.
The bill of lading also serves as the receipt and must be enclosed in a parcel going to the overseas customer no matter what means of transportation you are using.
The bill of lading should bear three signatures; a representative of your eCommerce business, a representative of the shipping carrier, and the overseas customer who is the receiver.
iii. Warehouse or dock receipt
The warehouse or dock receipt is a legal document that is issued to serve as evidence that the shipment was received by the international shipping carrier and tells at a glance all the necessary information about the shipment such as size, weight, packaging options, characteristics, and more.
iv. Certificate of origin
This is a document that proves that a product was manufactured in a particular country and is eligible for export and consumption by overseas customers.
The eCommerce business is responsible for providing the certificate of origin following the export and commercial laws and regulations of the destination country.
iv. Export license
The export license is a legal document issued by the government. It verifies that the goods in your shipment are eligible to ship in the quantity they are being shipped in. Some countries require this while others do not.
2. Choose your official shipping carrier(s)
After figuring out what documents you’ll need to have ready, the next thing you should do is consider going into a long-term partnership with an international shipping carrier.
These carriers are shipping companies that handle all the logistics and shipping and ensure your shipments get to the receiver. It is strongly advised to use the services of only one shipping carrier for your business so you do not have your shipments all over the place. However, this might not always be the case.
Since customers like having choices and depending on the size of your eCommerce business and the types of products you’ll be shipping, your store may require the services of anywhere from one shipping carrier to up to six.
Some of these shipping carriers deliver faster than others, so if you ship perishable goods, you should choose one of these carriers provided your customers do not have to pay exorbitant shipping fees.
Top 5 shipping carriers to choose for your eCommerce business
There are hundreds of shipping carriers with daily international destinations to choose from but when reputation, popularity, and service delivery is concerned, here are our top picks.
DHL launched in the United States in the year 1970. It has a strong presence in over 220 countries and is currently the largest and most trusted shipping carrier in the world.
The company has three divisions named Express, Global Forwarding, Freight, and Supply Chain. Their shipping charges are relatively steep, but considering that they are reputed as a highly reliable service, they are one of the best to choose from. Their services are also extended to countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Burma.
The American global shipping carrier, FedEx is an abbreviation for Federal Express which was founded in the year 1971 and is today one of the top courier services in the world.
FedEx has competitive pricing, but its coverage area is less as compared to other shipping giants in the market. But, FedEx enables the user to expand into international spaces, which makes it an advantage for them.
The shipping carrier, founded in 1907, United Parcel Services, commonly referred to as UPS, is an American package delivery company with global operations.
It is known to deliver over 15 million packages a day to 6.1 million overseas customers around the world. Its courier express service is one of the best in the world. Their service caters to everyone from individual shippers to mid-large eCommerce businesses.
Bluedart is a Chennai-based shipping carrier that is one of the best-known domestic and international courier services in South Asia.
It basically operated night express cargo flights in consideration of domestic and regional requirements. South Asia’s top-notch courier service has channels across 33,739 areas and services up to 220 countries around the globe.
Bluedart is one of the go-to international courier services when it comes to transporting goods such as electronics, auto-components, textiles and apparel, gems and jewellery, and pharmaceuticals. It aims at offering customers a competitive benefit in terms of delivery experiences.
The United States Postal Service was launched in 1971. USPS is also known as the Post Office, U.S. Mail, or Postal Service.
USPS is an independent agency of the executive branch of the United States federal government responsible for providing postal service in the United States, including its insular areas and associated states. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution.
How to choose a shipping carrier for your eCommerce business
Here are a few factors to consider when choosing your new shipping partner;
1. Product type
The first factor to consider in your search for a shipping carrier is what type of product you will be shipping to your overseas customers.
When comparing a shipping carrier with another, carefully examine sizes, shapes, and offered services to best determine which ones will meet the specific needs of your eCommerce business.
If you ship fragile items like ceramic flower pots or perishable food supplements, consider how long it takes the shipping carrier to deliver similar goods.
You do not want your overseas customers to go through the stress of returning broken or expired products.
A great way to know more about the service delivery of a shipping carrier is to read reviews online, contact their customer care or speak directly with a current customer, etc.
2. Reputation and popularity
While you’re trying to get the cheapest option for your overseas customers, prioritize a good reputation over a few dollars more.
If you select a shipping carrier based on its cheap rates alone, you might end up frustrating yourself and overseas customers when cases like lost shipments and delayed delivery occur.
The most reputable shipping carriers delivering millions of shipments every day to overseas customers include FedEx, DHL, UPS, and the United States Postal Service (USPS).
There are also many popular shipping carriers in different countries, such as Parcelforce Worldwide (United Kingdom), Japan Post Service (Japan), and Royal Mail (London), to name a few.
3. Tracking services
This is a basic feature for a shipping carrier. Your overseas customers expect to be able to see the progress of their order as it leaves your warehouse or office and makes its way to their homes.
To assure your overseas customers that you can meet this necessity, look into the tracking capacities of each shipping carrier you are reviewing to see how this is managed.
Overseas customers will feel more assured understanding that they can see where their shipments are at any given time and are more likely to pardon delivery delays as they get updated in real-time.
4. Shipping and delivery speed
Your overseas customers want to receive the orders as soon as possible, to meet this expectation, it is necessary to review and compare the expected delivery dates of your shipping carrier.
If only to present your customers with the convenience of additional options, you might be looking at a period of three days (slightly more expensive) to two weeks (maximum), depending on the countries and shipping carrier involved.
5. Live rates
It is a basic requirement that shipping carriers offer live rates. What this means is that rates should be automatically determined based on factors such as the weight of the products, destination, and other provided details. If your shipping carrier doesn’t offer this, you should look elsewhere immediately.
3. Obtain shipping insurance for your eCommerce business
It is only natural that sometimes shipments become damaged, lost, or destroyed during the journey. This is why It’s very important to obtain your shipping insurance.
Shipping insurance is a service that protects eCommerce businesses against loss, or damaged packages. If an insured shipment does not reach its destination, or if it is damaged when it’s delivered to the customer, then the eCommerce business is reimbursed the declared value of the items in the defective package.
Shipping insurance will cover the costs of damaged, lost, or destroyed items, which is particularly very useful when shipping long distances. In some cases, shipping insurance can also cover the loss of stolen shipments.
Sometimes, items are stolen while en route to their destination, and the risk increases with larger distances, especially when several stops are involved in these journeys.
If you ship valuable products, obtaining shipping insurance would help your eCommerce business financially.
How much does shipping insurance cost for eCommerce businesses?
For shipping carriers, the cost of shipping insurance depends on the value of the items in the shipment. The more valuable the items, the more expensive the package is to insure.
See how much shipping insurance costs for UPS, FedEx, and USPS here:
|USPS Insurance Costs:|
|Value of contents||USPS Insurance cost|
|Up to $50.00||$1.65|
|$50.01 to $100.00||$2.05|
|$100.01 to $200.00||$2.45|
|$200.01 to $300.00||$4.60|
|Every additional $100 value over$4.60 + $.90 per $100 increase||$300 (for a value up to $5,000)|
|FedEx Insurance Costs:|
|Value of contents||USPS Insurance cost|
|Up to $100||$0|
|$100.01 to $300||$3|
|Every additional $100 value over $300||$1|
|UPS Insurance Costs:|
|Value of contents||USPS Insurance cost|
|Up to $100||$0|
|Every additional $100 value over $300||$1.05|
|UPS has a $2.70 insurance minimum, so the value of the shipped product must be at least $300 to qualify for UPS shipping insurance.|
4. Understand country-specific shipping requirements, restrictions, and regulations
According to a UPS informational video, in Vietnam, it is illegal to import foreign calendars for commercial purposes. This means that eCommerce businesses based in the US are not permitted to send quantities of more than 100 calendars to overseas customers in Vietnam. Disobeying this is a serious crime.
Learn how to prevent fraud in your eCommerce business.
This is just one case of the country-specific regulations that can make overseas shipping seem complicated.
To help, UPS has a handy tool (kent directory) in its international shipping information section that helps eCommerce businesses retrieve a list of country-specific regulations.
Simply select the origin and destination countries from a drop-down list and UPS returns information about what’s required or what not to do.
Some internationally prohibited items
According to USPS, these items may not be sent from the United States to any country:
- Air Bags
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Dry Ice
- Hemp-based products (including cannabidiol [CBD])
- Marijuana (medical or otherwise)
- Nail Polish
- Perfumes (containing alcohol)
Some internationally restricted items
Restricted items may only be sent outside the United States if they meet USPS domestic requirements and the shipping requirements of the destination country.
- Cremated remains
- Live animals
- Lithium batteries
- Prescription medicine and drugs
- Perishable items
5. Hire fulfillment companies
It is possible to remove the headache of shipping internationally and reduce all the processes involved, simply hire the services of a fulfillment company like Fulfillment by Amazon, Shipwire, or many others to manage orders from your overseas customers for your eCommerce business.
Usually, the eCommerce business will pay a flat fee per order and the fulfillment company will manage packing, labelling, shipping, tracking, and monitoring all of those pesky country-specific rules and regulations we mentioned previously.
You probably won’t need a fulfillment company if you just started catering to overseas customers and operating your eCommerce business from your basement.
But think about when your orders triple or even quadruple.
You need to send orders out as soon as they’re placed, with hundreds (maybe even thousands) of them every week.
How to select the right fulfillment company to deliver to your overseas customers
You must do your research well when looking for a fulfillment company to handle your overseas orders so here are a few factors to consider.
As a small-scale eCommerce business owner, you’re paying for the fulfillment of your overseas orders so your fulfillment company shouldn’t be charging you for any long-term storage; that’s what a warehouse is for.
Outsourcing a fulfillment company will involve some upfront fees, however, your eCommerce business will be saving on the cost of labour, packaging materials, and more.
Fulfillment companies are also able to get better rates from shipping carriers than any individual eCommerce business could due to the number of products they ship daily, so you want to ensure they’re passing along some of these extra dollars back to you.
These reduced costs often allow small eCommerce businesses to compete with retail giants by offering free or reduced shipping costs to their overseas customers.
According to a report by Invespcro, about 30% of online deliveries made to overseas customers are returned for one reason or the other, so your fulfillment company should adequately have facilities to manage returns.
Your fulfillment company’s software should also be able to help you identify “serial returners.” These are those overseas customers who repeatedly make orders only to return them for awkward reasons.
By identifying these overseas customers, you might hold off on sending them promotional material when you’re having a large scale, or you might send them emails following a purchase highlighting five-star reviews from satisfied customers about the product they just bought to give them more confidence in their purchase.
You want to choose a fulfillment company that offers a wide range of packaging options to suit the products your eCommerce business ships to overseas customers.
Not all boxes are made equal, so to prevent causing damage to your goods, you need to determine the correct packaging type and strictly use them to deliver products to your overseas customers.
Features of order fulfillment software
As an eCommerce business owner, you’ve got a lot going on in your life. You’re already using different tools, applications, and platforms throughout your day-to-day business operations. So, the last thing you’d want to do is add yet another software that’s slow, ineffective, disorganized, and difficult to use to the mix.
For this reason, it’s important to not only do your research on the fulfillment company you’re considering working with, but the order fulfillment software they’re currently running with.
Different fulfillment companies use different order fulfillment software with different features and functionalities. It’s important to understand what your needs and goals truly are. Then choose a fulfillment company that leverages software with features that can align with those goals.
You also want to make sure their order fulfillment software can seamlessly integrate with any other platforms and business software you’re already using.
Shipping and Delivery Speeds
Amazon Prime’s two-day delivery policy is the new normal, which means overseas customers are expecting faster shipping and delivery than ever before.
So, how can you align with these evolving expectations? By working with a fulfillment company that can deliver on them literally. If you don’t, you could lose out on revenue from the 70% of overseas customers who abandoned their carts because of slow shipping and delivery.
Top fulfillment companies should have efficient and effective fulfillment processes that enable them to get your products to your overseas customers as quickly as possible.
This becomes possible when they have numerous, strategically-located fulfillment warehouses and simplified order fulfillment software as examined above.
Watch The Video Below To Get A Better Insight On How To Ship To Your Overseas Customers.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I find overseas customers?
The question here should be “how do overseas customers find me?” You can market and push your eCommerce business onto as many screens as can but one proven way to skyrocket the number of orders from overseas is to start an affiliate marketing program and invite affiliates from overseas to sign up and promote your business
You can create a killer affiliate marketing program for your eCommerce business in five minus or less.
2. What is the difference between a shipper and a carrier?
A shipper is the person or eCommerce business that produces the goods. A carrier is a courier service that handles the transporting and delivery of goods to their final destination.
3. What are the 4 types of eCommerce businesses?
There are four basic types of e-commerce:
i. B2C (Business-to-Consumer)
It is a model that involves businesses shipping products directly to consumers.
ii. B2B (Business-to-Business)
It’s a model that involves two businesses doing business with each other. One business is the customer, and the other manufactures the goods.
iii. C2B (Consumer-to-Business)
This model involves businesses obtaining value from the consumer.
For example, when a consumer writes reviews or when a consumer gives a useful idea for new product development, that consumer is creating value for the business if the business adopts the input.
iv. C2C (Consumer-to-Consumer)
This model is a way for consumers to interact with each other.
Consumer-to-consumer (C2C) is a business model in which third-party companies facilitate transactions for products or services between private consumers without a business participating on either end of the sale
Final Words on How to Deliver Products to Your Overseas Customers
In conclusion, to start your eCommerce business and deliver products to overseas customers, you would need to gather the necessary documents, choose your official shipping carrier(s), obtain shipping insurance for your eCommerce business if you ship valuable products, understand country-specific shipping requirements, restrictions, and regulations, and finally, hire fulfillment companies.
Henry is a marketing and communications specialist. He enjoys helping individuals and brands find answers to their marketing questions. He has spent the majority of his career in the SaaS industry, gaining experiences in areas such as corporate communications, digital marketing, copywriting, and community building.
Henry currently serves as the head of marketing and comms at Metricks.