Simplifying International Shipping

Category: International Business

Online retail sales are gaining momentum, with a 42 percent increase predicted in the US from 2011 to 2015. But compare that to the 67 percent increase predicted for Western Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America, and it’s easy to see why so many companies are trying to tap into international markets now. Businesses like Macy’s, J. Crew, Williams-Sonoma, Aéropostale, Crate and Barrel, and Lane Bryant have all added international shipping to their websites this year. Neiman Marcus and Ann Taylor aren’t far behind, says The New York Times. Whether it’s to meet existing demand or market test for overseas expansion, getting products global makes smart business sense.

But with international customers comes a whole new set of questions and concerns. Logistics, shipping methods, and customs laws are just the beginning. If your company is looking to tap into these rich international markets, here are some tips to make the process as painless as possible.

1. Have the right forms. Not every country has the same conventions when it comes to addressing mail, so make sure that shipping forms are localized for your new markets. Having a country field is a must, as is the more internationally friendly “postal code” (which might need to accept alphanumeric combinations, not just numbers). Don’t turn customers away because the form rejects the length of their street address, town name, or postal code.

2. Let your customers shop in their comfort zone. People prefer to buy items in their own language and currency, so localizing the checkout process of your retail website is a must. Payment options aren’t always the same either. In Brazil many businesses accept installment payments, while most European countries use direct bank transfers along with major credit cards.

3. Know fees and customs requirements before you begin. You can’t ship butane lighters to Côte d’Ivoire or meat products (including sausages) to Iceland. Agricultural products often face stiff requirements, so be aware of documentation and labeling requirements before packing up an order. Most items shipped overseas must be labeled with information like country of origin and materials used, sometimes in the language of the destination country. Another option is to use a third-party vendor like International Checkout, which takes care of all these concerns.

4. Investigate table rate shipping. What is table rate shipping? It’s where you set shipping costs based on location and price or weight of items in the shopping cart (instead of a flat shipping cost). You’ll also need to consider value-added taxes and other possible fees. While sometimes delivery costs can be more expensive than the products in the cart, many customers are willing to pay for items they want and cannot get locally.

If you’re wondering about how global translation services can make your retail site even more friendly to international traffic and shipping, contact us today!

Photo attribution: errrrrrrrrika