If you offer overseas shipping from your online store, you can reach a much larger audience of potential customers in many different countries worldwide.
However, shipping goods to overseas buyers isn't always straightforward.
Here are some points to consider before deciding to offer overseas shipping.
Certain goods cannot be brought into certain countries.
For example, one country that has particularly strict importation regulations is Australia. Certain food products, plants, cosmetics and several other products are not allowed to enter Australia. There are restrictions on other types of goods.
A full list of the prohibited and restricted products can be found on the website of the Australian Border Force.
If you send goods to a country where their importation is prohibited, they will either be destroyed or returned to you for an extra fee.
Your customer may not know that they are not allowed to import certain items if they have never ordered them from overseas before.
Therefore, it is important to let potential customers know that they are responsible for finding out if importation of the product or one of its ingredients is banned or restricted.
All shipments will pass through customs when they reach their destination country.
For certain items going to certain countries, the following fees may be added:
- customs duties,
- importation taxes,
- goods and services taxes (see VAT compliance for more),
- handling charges.
For example, Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged on certain items entering certain European Union (EU) countries. Compliance with VAT is compulsory once your shipments to a region reach a predetermined threshold.
Customs and importation rules vary from country to country, so make it clear in your shipping terms and conditions that buyers are responsible for paying all these extra costs upon delivery.
Advise potential buyers to ask the customs agency in their home country how much these extra charges will be before they buy an item from your online store.
It's important that your customers know how you will deal with a package that is returned to you by an overseas customs authority. Therefore, include your policy on returned items on your website.
You could, for example, offer a refund if the item is returned in unopened and unused condition, minus shipping charges (including return shipping charges) and other fees charged by the authorities in the destination country.
Postal services in certain countries can be unreliable. Therefore, it's a good idea to use a delivery service that can track shipments online.
However, tracked international delivery services are usually more expensive than non-tracked services. If you offer a non-tracked option, make it clear that the item will not be tracked, and no compensation would be available if it was lost in the mail.
Wrapping Up: International Shipping for Ecommerce
Offering international shipping can extend your customer base significantly.
However, certain issues can arise, especially when you send shipments to particular country for the first time. These issues may take you some time to deal with, and there may be costs involved too.
Despite this, the overall benefits of shipping to customers worldwide usually outweigh the occasional pitfalls.
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