International Shipping Tips to Go Global Confidently

Expanding your business to new countries and continents can be a wellspring full of new markets to grow your customer base and build your brand. However, if you're new to international shipping, there are operational and logistic challenges – additional layers of complexity compared to domestic shipping – that come with these unfamiliar waters. To scale globally with confidence, you'll need to build your knowledge, processes and resources.

Before sending packages to far-flung lands, use these key considerations to build your best global shipping operation.

Pick the right transportation
Between trucks, trains, planes and ships, there's plenty of transportation options for international shipping. Just like moving packages within the country, the rule of thumb is that the faster the shipping, the higher the cost. However, there are more logistics at play. Picking the best modes of transportation should factor:

  • Delivery timeframe
  • Costs (which we outline below)
  • Optimal departure and arrival locations
  • Shipping consolidation opportunities
  • Local customs.

While these are all critical factors, don't forget about the most important variable – your customers. Their cultural or personal preferences may be different than what we see domestically. For example, some customers care more about low-carbon supply chain than two-day delivery. Offering shipping options based on their preferences could improve the brand's image and please customers.

It's easy to overlook all the details when contacting carriers individually. Leaning on a shipping partner helps bring all the variables together to simplify shipper operations.

Know your costs for better quotes
When shipping internationally, there are all sorts of nooks for costs to hide. Build better budgets and understand carrier quotes better by learning about the full landed costs, including:

  • Government regulatory fees, including export licenses
  • Duties, tariffs and dues from customs
  • Currency exchange rates
  • Payment processing
  • Handling and carrier fees
  • Storage along the supply chain
  • Shipment dimensions, packing and repacking
  • Fraudulent transaction protection
  • Insurance

Incoterms, which incorporate all these factors, help level the playing field when understanding cost considerations between regions. With all the cost considerations and country-specific differences above, shippers should consider a third-party logistics (3PL) company with international shipping experience for more accurate quotes.

Packing for the trip and insurance
The further the distance and the more modes of transportation multiply the potential for bumps and bruises for freight and parcels. Pack carefully, and don't go cheap.

  • Use high-quality boxes, pallets, tape and cushioning.
  • Wrap parcel items individually.
  • Properly secure heavy freight with straps.
  • Consider stuffing boxes with an address label, consignee info and shipper info, just in case.

Depending on the shipment, you may need to comply with packaging, labeling and safety regulations. What's more, these regulations could vary between regions – requiring repacking along the supply chain.

Between the miles covered, changing hands and packing requirements, product damage is an unfortunate reality. Paying a little extra for insurance ensures the profitability of your new global operations while making it easier to work with displeased customers.

Have your papers in order
Documentation can be the difference between customs flagging or accepting your shipments. Your bill of lading (BOL) is just the start. Regional laws will have different trade regulations, requirements and restrictions.

Getting postal codes correct is hard enough – let alone sorting out each country's documentation requirements. But, don't let that scare you away from international shipping. A 3PL can walk you through the requirements for each shipment and make sure shipments are above-board before leaving the border.

Going global with confidence
Expanding globally is an important milestone, helping businesses find fresh waters full of opportunity. But, taking this on without the right strategy and resources is can feel like jumping in the deep end of the pool. If you're ready to go global, let's discuss how we can help build a plan to make the most of global shipping.