Expanding into international markets is a major milestone for any ecommerce business. But just like any business expansion, international shipping can be full of challenges, setbacks, and important lessons for any size ecommerce company. Use these tips as a guideline to reduce your growing pains and ensure that your international shipping services go smoothly.
Firstly, a solid knowledge of customs requirements and restrictions for the countries you will be shipping to will go a long way in an international shipping program. Research the necessary package requirements and regulations to ensure you are prepared for any hiccups that may cause delays. Also, be aware that some items may be restricted (or at least subject to closer scrutiny) at customs - depending on the item and its destination. USPS has a list of such restricted items, sorted by country.
Similarly, it’s important to research the labeling requirements you'll be subject to, and if necessary, to talk to your 3PL provider about how to handle any labeling errors. In addition to ensuring your labels properly document origin and contents, make sure you have a solid address verification system in place to prevent paying for "undeliverable" returns.
Finally, it can be easy to forget that international shipping routes are LONG. Consider the distance, mode of transportation, and number of handling points along the route, will your package (and product) survive the trip? Customizing your packaging for international shipping may be necessary and help ensure a great unboxing experience – no matter where in the world your customers are.