Tag Archives: shipping

The Beginner’s Guide to Cross Border Shipping

Author: Jennifer Dunn  |  December 12, 2018
cross-border-shipping

As an online merchant, shipping products outside your home country and region can be a little terrifying. What’s up with customs? Why is shipping across a border so expensive? Where did these zillions of shipping carriers come from?

It can be tempting to stick to shipping to customers within your own borders and call it a day. But if you’re not shipping cross-border, you’re likely missing out.

Not long ago, we went over a whole slew of reasons why you should be shipping internationally. This includes all the usual suspects like “the market is out there,” and “your competitors are doing it,” but we think the whole list is worth a read.

And now if you’re sold on shipping cross border, but have no idea where to start, we’re here to help.

Choosing Your Products and Market

Much of your cross-border shipping experience is going to depend on where you are shipping and what products you are sending to customers. It’s a good idea to test your international shipping strategy by dipping a toe in the water before diving in.

Choose your market
Chances are you already know where your products are in-demand. Online shoppers are not always shy about attempting to have an order shipped internationally or writing into support to ask you to support their country.

Take a look at your store’s analytics. Do you get a lot of traffic from a certain country? Is your support team constantly fielding queries asking why you don’t ship to Region X? Then start there, where you know your products are already in demand.

Offerings like ShipperHQ can provide you with detailed analytics on the conversions you are not making internationally, which can give you some insights into the size of the opportunity.

Alternatively, you can choose to test the waters with a close market with long established cross-border shipping routes. In the U.S., that could mean Canada or Mexico. In the UK, that might mean the EU/Continental Europe.

Choose your products
Once you’ve chosen your market, your next step is to pick the products you want to ship internationally. We recommend starting with small, light and durable items. These types of items are less likely to run into snafus when making stops in the international shipping process.

But before you pack up a shipment of lithium ion batteries wrapped in U.S. postage stamps and send them on their way, there are a few things you need to know.

  • Country or Territory Regulations – International shipping between countries is highly regulated, and for all kinds of reasons.  Before you lovingly plaster a label on your first international shipment, read up on the rule. UPS has a handy resource where you can look up shipping regulations and restrictions based on point of origin and shipping destination. Some countries may require that you obtain a license or other special provision before importing goods. For example, you need extra permits to ship meat to Mexico, so they probably aren’t the ideal market to test out your new Steak o’ the Month subscription box.
  • Restricted items – Like the aforementioned lithium ion batteries, some items are universally restricted and/or require a lot of extra hoop jumping to ship internationally. This is because they can be dangerous, like high-powered magnets on an airplane, or illegal, like ivory. ( …Or because they’re postage stamps. UPS will not ship U.S. postage stamps outside the U.S.) But never fear, some restrictions are carrier-specific. So if one carrier won’t ship your product, another may answer the call. Don’t give up!
  • Keep it Simple – Cross-border shipping is more involved than domestic shipping, we suggest you start with high profit margin items that you can afford to lose if your first experiment doesn’t work out. In other words, consider testing the international shipping waters by sending books, not hot tubs.

Once you’ve chosen your products and market, don’t be surprised when things change up on you. Tariffs and treaties and other changes may suddenly mean that a new market opens up, or something that you happily shipped to your customers in Country X yesterday is suddenly prohibited today.

It can be extremely difficult to keep an eye on changes, especially with the current tariff unease worldwide. It’s essential that merchants use software to help them keep an eye on changes, not only  to the cost of shipping, but changes in what can and can’t be shipped.

Nail Down Shipping Logistics

Choose your carrier(s) – You have a ton of options when it comes to shipping items cross-border. Postal mail, like the United States Postal Service (USPS) or Canada Post is cost-effective, but often excruciatingly slow. Express carriers cost more, but can be much faster and offer perks like insurance and tracking that will give you and your customers peace of mind that the purchase is on it’s way.

Understand customs and duties – Think of customs and duties as taxes or tariffs on the items you import. Depending on things like what the product is, what it’s made of, it’s value and quantity, where you’re shipping from and the origin point of your products, you (or your customer) are likely going to have to pay extra as a cost of doing business for importing goods into a country.

You have a couple of options here:

  • Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) – This means you, the merchant, pay all the taxes and fees associated with shipping internationally. You are generally billed by your carrier for these fees. In some cases you may not know the fees until after the order is delivered.
  • Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU) – This means that the customer is on the hook to pay all taxes and fees associated on the package. If you choose this route, be sure to let the customer know up front that they will be responsible for duties, otherwise you could end up with an angry customer.

The other option is to use a 3rd party custom and duties calculator to do all the work for you, and then choose to either pass all, some or none of that cost onto the customer.

ShipperHQ is releasing a solution in Q1 2019 which will handle all your customs & duties. Contact us for early access.

Optimize your Customers’ Experience

Offer varied delivery options – Some of your customers will want their purchase immediately. Others may be more price-conscious and defect to a competitor if the total price climbs too high. One way you can please everybody is by offering up choices. The price-conscious customers can save some money with slower shipping options, while the people who forgot their mom’s birthday can shell out extra for express shipping.

These days, many online shoppers have come to expect free shipping, even on international orders. Check out our guide to offering free shipping without busting your budget here.

Be transparent about shipping costs – The last thing you want to do is surprise your customers with an enormous grand total when they’re about to hit “Buy Now.”  Or worse, shipping something around the world only for the customer to refuse to accept the shipment because of the high duties.

Shipping management software can help you give customers the whole shipping price story up front so you don’t end up with a bunch of products sitting in abandoned carts.  

Are you ready to ship internationally? Do you have any international shipping questions? Tips & tricks? Horror stories?

Let us know in the comments!

 

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Here’s Why You Should Be Shipping Internationally

Author: Jennifer Dunn  |  December 7, 2018
shipping-internationally

When it comes to the problems with shipping internationally, we’ve heard it all – it’s expensive, international customers are demanding, our products are restricted, we can’t figure out customs.

Simply put, those are not good enough reasons to avoid shipping your products cross-border. Here’s why:

Your customers are out there

You have the supply, but is there demand? Survey says: Yes.

The Pitney Bowes 2017 Global eCommerce Study found that 70% of online shoppers shop internationally. And DHL found that every 7th online purchase is now a cross-border transaction.

Demand is only growing. Forrester reports that cross-border shipping will make up 20% of eCommerce by 2022, with sales equaling $627 billion. This is in part because eCommerce giants like Rakuten in Asia, Flipkart in India, and Amazon all over the place are rapidly introducing new populations and markets to online shopping. Familiarity with eCommerce, along with streamlined payments processes, mean more and more consumers all over the world feel comfortable shopping online.

If you’re curious about expanding into a new international market, you can first head over to Export.gov and see a frequently-updated overview of economic conditions in the country or region where you’re planning to sell.

Your competitors are doing it

DHL surveyed 1,800 retailers and 71% of those expected their cross-border sales share to increase.

Pitney Bowes also found that a third of the 1,200 online retailers surveyed considered international selling their top growth lever. In the same report, 93% percent of online merchants either already offered cross-border shipping or planned to by 2019.

For U.S. merchants, going international only makes sense because the U.S. share of global eCommerce sales is steadily decreasing as new markets emerge.

You have the data

The key to your first cross-border market may be hiding out in your website’s analytics right now.

According to the same DHL report, a large-scale analysis run in cooperation with SimilarWeb of the top 1,000 shopping websites in each European country showed that more than 1 in 4 of them had significant international traffic, even in smaller, less-connected markets such as Ireland or Croatia.

Fashion and electronics were the top cross-border sellers, but up-and-coming product categories included beauty and cosmetics, pet care, food and beverage, and sporting goods. Tools like ShipperHQ can provide analytics showing you where your customers and potential customers are located.

It’s getting cheaper and easier

When we talk to eCommerce merchants about international shipping two major concerns crop up over and over again: the cost and the hassle.

When in the U.S. you may be accustomed to shipping a parcel from Massachusetts to California for a few bucks, international shipping costs can appear staggering. And that’s without the addition of customs and duties. Further, unless you’ve nailed down relationships with carriers and set up shipping methods, your items can slip into a sort of a transit black box, with neither you nor your customer knowing exactly where the parcel is nor when it will arrive. Further, online shoppers now demand that their packages arrive quickly after they click “Buy Now.”

Fortunately, as cross-border commerce becomes more common, carriers are meeting the needs of both eCommerce sellers and customers. For example, premium or express shipping solves both the problem of parcel tracking and delivering the order to the customer within the expected time frame after the purchase.

Or, to let numbers do the talking, DHL’s survey found that online retailers offering premium cross-border shipping were growing 1.6 times faster than those who did not.

…And more profitable

According to Statista, the average order value of an international sale is $147 USD, which is 17% higher than an average domestic sale.  Further, DHL’s survey found that around 20% of cross-border purchases were worth over $200 USD. Perhaps savviness around shipping charges has your international customers demanding more bang from their buck (or Euro or yen) in each transaction.

Are you exploring cross-border shipping? ShipperHQ has over 10 years experience with thousands of merchants large and small in the international space. Contact us to discuss your needs, or to start a 30-day free ShipperHQ trial today.

 

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How to Offer Free Shipping (Without Busting Your Bottom Line)

Author: Jennifer Dunn  |  December 4, 2018
Free Shipping with ShipperHQ

More and more, online buyers have come to expect perks like free shipping. And many will shop around if your store doesn’t offer it. In fact, a PayPal study found that 43% of shoppers abandon carts because they feel shipping charges are too high.

On the other hand, offering free shipping can eat into your already slim retail profit margins.

Thankfully, there are clever ways to configuring your eCommerce shipping strategy to alleviate the cost of free shipping. You can get all the benefits – and the competitive advantage – of offering free shipping to your customers, without jackhammering your profits.

Here’s how:

1. Limit Free Shipping to Certain Locations

Limit your free shipping by geography. Shipping to Alaska, Hawaii and across borders for example, is generally more costly than shipping to the contiguous 48 states, so you may want to save your free shipping offer for the people in your country or region.

How to limit free shipping to a certain zone: You can easily set a Carrier Rule in ShipperHQ to limit free shipping.

Read our guide on “How to Set Free Shipping for a Specific Zone” here.

2. Set Promotional Thresholds

As shoppers, we’ve all run into online stores offering “Free shipping on purchases over $50.” Why not be that store? The threshold persuades shoppers who may have visited your store for one thing to add extra items to their carts, and ensures you make enough profit on the sale to cover the cost of free shipping.

How set promotional shipping thresholds: In ShipperHQ, you can set promotional thresholds in just a couple minutes by adding a new Filter and Carrier Rule.

Find out how either by checking out our step-by-step guide on “How to Offer Free UPS Ground Shipping on Orders Over $X” or by watching this quick walkthrough.

3. Limit Free Shipping to Certain Products

Offering free shipping on a refrigerator is likely going to cut into your margin on said refrigerator, and on other sales besides. Be sure to limit free shipping to lightweight products.

How to limit free shipping to certain products: Login to ShipperHQ and create a “Shipping Group.” From here, you can exclude any product(s) you want from any free shipping promotions your store offers.

Read all about “How to Exclude Certain Products from Free Shipping on Orders Over $X” here.

4. Offer Free Shipping to Certain Customer Groups

They say you’re not supposed to pick favorites. But honestly, segmenting customers can be a great way to reward frequent buyers, long-time customers, big spenders, customers in a certain geographic location, or any other customer group to whom you’d like to offer free shipping.

How to offer free shipping by customer group: Most eCommerce platforms allow you to segment customers into Customer Groups.  Once you’ve segmented your customers in the backend of your preferred platform, you can then set up a Carrier Rule in ShipperHQ.

Find our step-by-step guide on “How to Set Free Shipping for a Specific Customer Group” here.

5. Delay Free Shipping and Incentivize Faster Shipping

Chances are your customer wants their order yesterday. One strategy to keep shipping costs from getting out of hand is to offer free shipping on slow and low cost methods like economy and ground (and even delay the dispatch on these goods), but charge as usual or even add a surcharge for two-day or next day shipping.

Why a surcharge? Keep in mind that many customers need their item as quickly as possible, and adding a surcharge to faster shipping will help defray the cost of offering free shipping to customers who don’t mind receiving their items at a snail’s pace.

How to add a surcharge to certain shipping methods: ShipperHQ allows you to easily set surcharges on certain shipping methods.

Find out how in our “Use a Carrier Rule to Mark Up a Specific Shipping Method” guide.

6. Pay Attention to Dimensional Shipping

Size matters. The size of the box you ship your product in, that is. To save money on dimensional shipping, instruct your pickers and packers to use the smallest box or packaging unit available for the order. And try to pack multi-item orders into one package whenever possible. You’ll automatically save on shipping when you use the smallest size boxes and the least amount of cartons.

How to maximize savings with dimensional shipping: ShipperHQ’s Dimensional Shipping Advanced Feature can guide your pickers and packers to the right box for every shipment, a feature that most eCommerce carts built-in shipping lacks. Turn on Dimensional Shipping in your ShipperHQ account to achieve more accurate shipping rates especially when getting rates from carriers like UPS and FedEx or when using USPS Flat Rate boxes.

Read our “Setup Dimensional Shipping/Box Packing” guide to find out more.

Are free shipping costs battering your margins?

Try a 30-day free trial of ShipperHQ and let us get you back in the black.

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