Global shipping sounds too big to handle? We simplify the rules for you so that you can deliver your products around the globe sooner, sell more, and grow your business.
Requirements to sell and ship globally
- A multi-lingual online store that allows different currencies
- A way of providing support in the languages of the countries you ship to
- A delivery company that ships internationally
- A shipping policy
- Knowing what to pay for
The last point is the tricky part:
I recently ordered a phone case from the US to Europe. Taxes were made clear from the seller’s side, but little did I know that extra import taxes were due upon arrival. Luckily, I did not order a washing machine and received some money back after responding with a hefty complaint. You can avoid that stress!
How does global shipping work?
When goods cross borders, they do not have a passport as you probably do. Instead, they carry a bunch of papers that are checked twice – at customs leaving the country and at border protection at their destination.
CISG- Global freight made easy
Luckily, 94 countries have signed the Contract of International Sales and Goods, (CISG), an international trade document, that simplifies global freight. This way both parties, for example, someone from Zambia selling textiles to a tailor in Denmark follow their obligations, which are:
- The seller needs to ship the product to arrive on time, undamaged, and working.
- The buyer needs to pay for the product on time.
- Both parties must agree on a point in time and space from where obligations are transferred from the seller to the buyer. Here Incoterms come into play.
What are incoterms and why should I bother?
Incoterms define the point where and when the responsibility of a product is transferred from the seller to the buyer.
A parcel’s journey from the seller to the buyer as LCL (less than a container load)
Incoterms are the “passports” that allow your product to enter its destination country. They declare which party must pay which costs (packaging, insurance, and taxes) when the item is transported. There are two extreme cases:
- All obligations are in the sellers’ hands, meaning the seller pays for all packaging, shipping, delivery, import tax, and insurance. This incoterm is known as DDP, or delivery duty paid (aka door-to-door delivery).
- The buyer takes all risks with EXW (=ex work). It is as if the seller sells the goods at their home location in a physical shop. Consequently, the buyer needs to pay for all the extra costs involved in getting the goods to their place.
There are currently 11 different incoterms. You need to follow one. State it in your T&Cs and shipping policy clearly. Mention it in your FAQs. Otherwise, your customers will be surprised that they have to pay extra import taxes when the courier shows up at their doorstep.
What global freight solution is best for me?
You, as the seller, do not want to pay all the costs of taxes and transport. So, what is the cheapest way to ship globally? Generally, people try to find the middle ground by having the seller pay at least all of the costs until the package is loaded onto the carriage (ship) at the departure port (FOB incoterm= free-on-board port), and all remaining costs are paid by the buyer. We both know now, why I had to pay extra import taxes for my phone case 😉
Global Shipping Service
Deciding which Incoterm is the best for your business and ensuring that goods pass customs quickly is the job of the customs broker. Carriers, like FedEx, use their own customs broker.
To facilitate the best shipping and insurance rates for your products, we advise you to choose shipping platforms that already work with delivery companies, like Shippo, and have customs documents prepared for you like Parcel Monkey.
Shipping rates do not equal shipping costs
Utilize a shipping rate calculator to estimate your expenses. Established international shipping providers such as UPS, Parcel Monkey, and FedEx also offer calculators to determine your rates. We recommend conducting a price comparison among several options.
The shipping rate is based on mass, destination, and delivery time. Shipping costs depend not only on the physical weight but also on the dimensional weight. The latter incorporates the dimensions of a package. In short, the larger and bulkier a parcel is, the more it will cost to ship out of the country.
Dimensional weight vs. Actual weight. The metric formula for dimensional weight is (length x width x height): 5000. For those that use lbs, divide the calculated cubic measurements by 139 instead of 5000.
If the dimensional weight is larger than the physical weight, then the seller must pay for the dimensional weight. If the calculated dimensional weight is smaller than the actual weight, the actual weight is paid. This is why it is cheaper to ship a 10kg heavy kettlebell than a 500g fancy canvas painting that has a dimensional weight of 16kg.
Rounding it up
Remember in math class when you were used to rounding up or down? Package weights are always rounded up. It is cheaper to send a heavy box of pralines than an extended poster roll. So, stock up on Toblerone- XXL next time at the duty-free shop. ✈
Compare before global shipping
For example, if you ship an item from the UK that is between 3-7 kg, and find you can fit it in a 34x32x18cm box, check if it can be cheaper to ship with another carrier.
Approximate international shipping costs for different carriers
So, how do you ship internationally for cheap?
The trick is to:
- Squeeze lightweight items into small or flat boxes and heavier ones into larger boxes.
- Avoid lightweight large things, like bike frames, tall sculptures, and large canvases.
- Take advantage of discounts and subscriptions. For example, Shipping Easy is free for 25 shipments per month. It gives you discounted shipping on UPS. Consider subscriptions, like the ones Shipmonk is offering.
- Compare prices!
- Avoid shipping items in several boxes
- Do not offer fast delivery. (The fastest time an internationally shipped package can arrive is about 3 days, the normal time is a few weeks).
- Use a fair incoterm (FOB, CFR or CIF)
Global shipping is like a security check at the gate
Check if the country you ship to has import limitations or prohibited items. Did you know that you cannot send watches and jewelry to Azerbaijan or that Vietnam does not import calendars? 😮 Carriers like FedEX or UPS offer a prohibited item search via country.
Be sure everything is packed safely and appropriately. Find sources and inspiration for eco-friendly packaging at Tridas and Huyai.
When the carrier comes to pick up your products, make sure you can provide the following information:
- What are you shipping?
- How many items?
- What is it made of?
- The purpose of your shipment/intended use
- Origin of the product (country it is manufactured in)
- If you are shipping to the US, use the harmonized tariff schedule or HTS code
These answers need to appear on the customs forms provided by your carrier, precisely the packaging list (example from UPS for the US).
Don’t forget to include your commercial invoice, in which you also state the HTS code if applicable. To find your HTS-Code, you can use finders like findhts.com. The unified HTS for soap, for example, is 3401 20 00.
Quick tips for international sellers
- Start to ship to neighboring countries first before conquering the world
- Ship to countries where you speak the language
- Concentrate on delivering goods that are easy to ship (in size, weight, and dimensions)
- No free shipping, instead offer other discounts to attract customers abroad
- Be clear about the costs your customers will have to pay. Include this in an informative video or FAQs, steering away from lengthy and hard-to-comprehend T&C documents.
- Download a template for a shipping policy
- Include your shipping policy and rules in your return policy, and clearly define where the differences are
- Although shipping platforms offer to ship to almost anywhere, stick to the 94 CISG states to be on the safe side
- Offer a multilanguage chatbot to assist your growing customers
- Offer parcel-tracking (a list of carriers that offer to track can be downloaded at AfterShip)
- Know if there are prohibited items
Start global shipping with Webnode Online Store. A multilingual online shop with different currencies and a customer service team speaking more than 40 languages will make your business international shipping easy.
Get an Online Store (ready for global shipping)