Should I ship globally?

Whether or not to ship globally is often a prominent question for small businesses and online sellers. International shipping can seem a huge undertaking, full of pitfalls, causing many sellers to avoid it completely. This needn't be the case, though, as global shipping also opens businesses up to huge and potentially lucrative new audiences.

In the last quarter of 2014, eBay had 155.2 million active registered users. For eBay sellers, a refusal to ship globally means there is a huge wealth of customers that could be missed out. However, international shipping can cause many to hesitate, with horror stories of packages getting stuck in customs and dishonest buyers running off with refunds and their packages.

So what are the disadvantages of offering international shipping?

One of the biggest factors that seem to put off many online sellers is the increased cost of postage when shipping abroad. This is combined with the added paperwork and effort perceived to be involved to cope with demands from customs.

Customs restrictions when shipping out of the European Union can be daunting, particularly for those unused to sending overseas. With rules differing from country to country, it can be hard to know just what you can and can't send. The strict regulations and risk of having a package seized at the cost of the business can be severely off-putting for owners. In addition, the correct forms must be completed, adding to workload. Despite these worries, when it comes to customs forms, shipping companies like ipostparcels keep this simple with integrated forms that make it as easy as domestic shipping.

Sending products overseas can prove tricky, so insurance to cover your parcel (and yourself) is important - but can add to the shipping expense.

Lack of tracking can be a deterrent; many parcel delivery companies aren't able to offer tracking or insurance on international items, this of course adds an element of uncertainty or worry into the process, but can be overcome by purchasing insurance for peace of mind. Ensuring you use a respected payment processor such as PayPal will also give you back up in the event of a dispute.

The advantages to sending parcels abroad

Whilst there are some potential risks to shipping abroad, as with many aspects of business, the numerous benefits can massively outweigh the risks.

The most important benefit for small businesses is the reach - the internet opens up a global audience, offering customers around the world the chance to buy your product. By levelling the playing field, businesses of any size can compete internationally; a vital opportunity for growth and increased revenue. Offering shipping internationally automatically opens you up to millions of new customers. This kind of revenue can make SMEs more competitive and innovative, and can even raise productivity.

With niche retail businesses, reaching as wide a market as possible is essential. Online selling is great for this as it opens up access to a large customer base, so maximising on this point by offering global shipping is incredibly important.

Tips for successful overseas shipping

  • Research the countries you intend to ship to, if you are planning on shipping to the same countries regularly then make sure you understand their business practices and cultures, particularly if shipping B2B.
  • Be sure to be on top of guidelines for shipping and customs. Ipostparcels has an extensive range of guides covering different countries and their regulations. Make sure to fill out customs declarations fully and truthfully to prevent holdups.
  • Make sure your terms and conditions fully outline any considerations for overseas buyers. Generally most customers will be responsible for any additional customs duties or taxes but it's best to make this clear to potential buyers - they will thank you for it.
  • Calculate shipping cost effectively - don't lose customers by over-charging for postage and packaging. eBay in particular have strict rules over what you can charge so adhere to this. Ensure your company can offer competitively priced shipping options, one tip to consider is to incorporate the cost into products prices.
  • If you're worried about breakages, ensure to invest in good packaging materials; remember the cost of these can be incorporated into the shipping cost. With experience you can refine your products over time, and focus international sales on small, lightweight, sturdy items - this will minimise the risk of damages and keep costs low.

The final word on global shipping

Overseas shipping needn't be complicated. Sites such as eBay and other online market places make shipping options simple. Even website systems such as WordPress include specialised ecommerce templates and plug-ins which offer a simplified shipping set up.

What businesses should weigh up is if they can afford to miss out on the pool of customers automatically excluded by not offering global shipping.

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Please note if you do not select the “signature required” delivery option, UKMail will not be liable should your items be subsequently lost or damaged after the delivery (see clause 11.7 of the Terms & Conditions). *We define a “Parcel” as a package with dimensions up to 80cm x 80cm x 80cm and a weight of up to 25kg.

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