What to Know Before You Start Shipping Internationally

With global ecommerce sales expected to grow to almost $4 trillion by the year 2020, the future of retail won’t be defined – or confined – by a country’s borders.  True success today means being able to sell to the world.

Of course, this is not without unique risks and challenges, including the potential for fraud, payment issues and the nuances that arise when selling to people with different cultures. Perhaps the biggest headache, though, comes from managing the many logistical requirements of shipping internationally.

Below, we’ve outlined some of the most important points to consider before taking your ecommerce business global.

Delivery Times

Your typical delivery windows when shipping to the next town over will be very different when you are shipping to a country halfway around the world. To let your international customers know how to adjust their expectations, communicate with your carriers and make sure your website clearly explains the general delivery schedule and options for international shipping.

Labeling Requirements

Different countries may have different rules about the information shipping labels must include. Research these regulations in advance and make the appropriate adjustments to your packaging to avoid unnecessary delivery delays or returns.

Shipping Costs

Shipping internationally comes with a higher price tag, thanks to higher freight rates plus an assortment of taxes, duties and customs fees. The key is to provide as much detail for your customers as possible upfront, with the help of your chosen carrier – because tacking unexpected fees onto an already hefty shipping bill is a good way to alienate even the most loyal customers.

Language Barriers

For any customer anywhere, you want to make things as easy and convenient as possible. When shipping internationally, this may include translating sections of your website into the local language – particularly the details on shipping costs and delivery schedules. Of course this adds yet another expense to doing business in other countries, but an easier-to-understand site may help pay for itself with happier customers and growing sales.


When it comes to global ecommerce, forget what you think you know about product returns. Not only do customers in certain countries have a tendency to make returns more frequently than their U.S. counterparts, some countries also have different consumer protection laws to govern return policies. The key here is to find out as much as you can about how returns work in the countries where you expect to do business, and update your policies – and expectations – accordingly.

International Shipping, International Service

You already know from your domestic experiences that ongoing service and post-sale follow-through are critical to building long-lasting customer relationships. Despite the logistical headaches, then, the same should apply when dealing with customers across multiple time zones. Nobody expects you to monitor your email inbox, phone lines and social media accounts around the clock, but it might be a good idea to contract with a third-party service partner who can help make sure you’re covered twenty-four hours a day, so customers can always get a prompt reply to their question or complaint – no matter where they are.     

As you can see, while global ecommerce has the potential to help your business open up new markets and achieve big sales gains, shipping internationally also comes with its share of challenges. So don’t dive into international waters alone – contact the ecommerce experts at Clearsale for the help you need to get started on your global journey.

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