Selling to a global marketplace can seem daunting at first, but by developing a solid strategy, you could see big dividends in the end.

“The world is your oyster.” Everyone has heard the saying, and every day it is becoming more and more true, especially in the retail industry. If customers want an item, they will find a way to get it. International retailers don’t scare the average consumer anymore. Instead, consumers are searching across the globe in order to find the lowest price and fastest delivery time to get the products they want. They know the world is their oyster to all of their buying needs and this global customer base is waiting for more retailers to begin offering their products on a worldwide level.

If a retailer hasn’t already started offering international shipping, now is the time. Global e-commerce is only continuing to grow. According to Statistica, by 2021, worldwide e-commerce sales will grow almost 246 percent, from $1.3 trillion in 2014 to $4.5 trillion. Now this is something to get on board with, especially with peak shipping season right around the corner.

Unfortunately, this will be one of the shortest holiday seasons in years. With Thanksgiving a week later than usual, that gives only about three weeks of holiday shopping compared to the four weeks customers are accustomed to. This means retailers are using exclusive product releases, artistic collaborations and special promotions to push their products during this short time frame, however, international shipping is another way to ensure record-breaking sales numbers throughout the holidays – and even after.

By incorporating international shipping, retailers can expand their customer base. For example, they can reach the 83 percent of Canadian shoppers already shopping internationally, the 81 percent in Brazil and the other 78 percent in Mexico, to name just a few, according to UPS Pulse on the Online Shopper study. But there is more to implementing international shipping than simply adding it to a shipping strategy. Retailers need to evaluate and overcome the barriers that may stand in their way.

International Shipping Barriers

The first step: find these barriers. It’s no secret higher shipping costs are the first thing on retailers and customers’ minds when it comes to global e-commerce. It is one of the main reasons for cart abandonment from global customers. But understanding the impact the increase in cost has on the customer and their experience will help determine how to combat this issue.

Unfortunately, higher shipping costs aren’t the only barrier when it comes to shipping internationally. The additional fees due to customs, duties and taxes, the limited tracking capabilities and fulfillment concerns as well as the slow delivery times impact potential customers’ decisions and the overall customer experience. While we’d hope customers would understand the additional time and costs it takes getting an order from one side of the world to the other, that just isn’t the case. Instead, retailers need to overcome these barriers and meet – or even exceed – customers’ expectations both domestically and internationally to ensure complete satisfaction.

Another barrier to international shipping is the retailer’s ability to do so. Every shipper wants to extend their customer base but having the technology and capacity to do it, can be an issue.

Overcome the Barriers and Implement International Shipping

Once retailers understand the importance of international shipping and the barriers to its success, it’s time to figure out how to implement it while also keeping a superior customer experience. This is a part that only you can do since every customer base is different and has unique expectations for shipping costs and delivery times. Ask yourself:

  • How much will your customer base pay for shipping?
  • What is the average time it takes for your facility to ship an order internationally?
  • What is your strategy for tax and duty collection? Will your customer be responsible for paying?
  • Are you using shipping software that offers international tracking capabilities?
  • How will you ensure accuracy on customers and documentation?
  • Will you offer multiple international shipping options?
  • Do you have the enterprise technology you need to accomplish this? How do you figure it out?

After you’ve answered these questions, be sure to analyze your current product inventory, shipping team and shipping processes to confirm you have the necessary technology, team members and inventory on hand to handle the increase in business. Once you have established that international shipping is possible, you can then develop an international shipping strategy. This strategy should include a wide variety of shipping options. Customers want choices and allowing them to feel part of the journey will increase their experience. Ease of tracking is also a way for customers to feel part of the shipping experience. With the length of international shipping, retailers must provide a trail of the chain of custody so customers feel confident the order is on its way.

A big hang up for many retailers is ensuring complete accuracy on customs and documentation forms. Without guaranteeing no mistakes, retailers run the risk of delayed or even non-deliverable orders. The best way to avoid this is with global shipping software. In addition to accurate custom forms, this software can ensure the lowest and fastest shipping costs by rate shopping multiple international carriers. The software also guarantees complete compliancy by creating custom shipping labels with whatever carrier you choose and offers order tracking right in the software. Reverse logistics are also an added bonus that your customers may not expect, allowing the entire customer experience to surpass their expectations.

While international shipping may seem overwhelming at first, it is possible. Now is the time to try implementing it into your supply chain. By simply identifying the barriers and with global shipping software on your side, you’ll be able to overcome international shipping in no time at all.  Not only will your sales and customer base grow by reaching this new global market, you’ll live up to the saying – the world will really be your oyster.

This article was originally published in PARCEL Magazine in Fall 2019. View the original version.

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