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Shoppers abroad love to buy from American vendors for various reasons, including better prices, unique items, prestige and the ability to purchase items they can’t get at home.

If you own an e-commerce business, you’ve probably thought about ways to increase your customer base and revenue. One of the easiest ways to meet both of these goals is by expanding into the international marketplace.

While shipping internationally can be an extremely effective way to grow your business, it’s not without its challenges.

Here’s what you need to know about international shipping and how to solve common problems that plague online vendors.

How International Shipping Benefits E-Commerce Businesses

Increased Sales

Taking your e-commerce business to the international marketplace (or even expanding to one other continent to start) comes with multiple advantages. Clearly, you can reach more customers when you’re able to ship abroad. This often translates to a significant boost in sales, thanks to more orders and a larger order size (average order value).

Diversification

But there’s more to it than just boosting your bottom line through scaling. Most businesses try to avoid “putting all their eggs in one basket.” For e-commerce vendors, this means not just selling to a single market.

What’s the advantage of diversifying?

As we’ve seen during the last few years with the pandemic, having your customers spread out around the globe means that even if one location takes an economic hit, you can rely on other markets to keep the orders coming in.

If your business only sells to the domestic market, all it takes is one unforeseen event to negatively impact your bottom line. But when your target audience is spread throughout the globe, you stand a much better chance of weathering political, economic, climate or other unforeseen events.

Sales Consistency

Even under the best of circumstances, having international customers gives your business more consistent income throughout the year. If you sell, say, swimsuits and resort wear, for example, you don’t have to put up with seasonal lulls in North America and Europe if you also ship to Australia, South Africa and South America.

Stand Out from the Competition

By expanding your online store to international buyers, you’ll differentiate your business from competitors, boost brand awareness and tap into a list of other benefits, including:

  • Increase brand awareness, not just for sales now but for future products.
  • Limit product saturation in a small market.
  • Capitalize on American-made merchandise.
  • Reduce the likelihood of returns (you want customers to feel comfortable returning goods, but the fact remains that they’re less likely to if you’re shipping from the U.S.)
  • Launch new products that your current market may not be interested in, but others are.
  • Profit from weaker currencies against the American dollar.

The Challenges of International Shipping

International shipping can be fraught with headaches, high costs and delays if you’re not prepared and well-versed in global logistics, though. Let’s look at some of the hurdles e-commerce businesses face when it comes to international shipments.

Shipping and Supply Chain Delays

Nearly every business has been impacted by global supply chain issues, such as:

  • Pandemic-related delays and lockdowns (recently re-implemented in China).
  • Worker strikes and labor issues, including trucking.
  • Port congestion.
  • Shortage of cranes for freight unloading and warehouse storage.
  • Insufficient number of shipping containers.
  • Limited staffing at ports of entry, including customs.
  • Weather events.
  • International conflicts.

Navigating Foreign Ports of Entry

They must pass through customs, which can pose multiple hurdles for your e-commerce business:

  • Collecting duties and taxes (de minimis values) required by the respective ports of entry.
  • Potentially paying fees or taxes to foreign governments if your export volume is large enough.
  • Dealing with customs delays due to improper documentation, manpower shortages, national holidays, etc.
  • Regulations and laws forbidding the importation of certain products (most countries are stricter than the US).

Once your items clear customs, they must then be transported to the customer. Last-mile delivery can be difficult in many nations. There are huge swaths of Asia, Russia, and Latin America, for example, with little-to-no internal postal service and poor infrastructure when it comes to roads.

Costs

Unfortunately, not all international shipping solutions are the same, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all carrier when it comes to global e-commerce. International shipments require air, ocean, or ground transportation, and sometimes a combination of all three.

Finding the perfect “formula” for cost-efficient, fast and reliable international shipping often requires multiple carriers, a blend of postal and commercial carriers, and access to a global distribution network. Without a custom solution for international shipping, many e-commerce businesses find themselves in a situation where the shipping cost exceeds the cost of their products.

The good news is that e-commerce businesses can mitigate all of these challenges by partnering with a fulfillment company that specializes in global logistics, as well.

Global E-Commerce Fulfillment and Shipping with GLF

If you’re looking to ship internationally, you’ll want to work with a global e-commerce fulfillment partner like GLF that has extensive experience in global logistics and access to a global distribution network. This way, your partnership will include customized solutions for domestic and international shipping services that ensure fast, accurate and cost-efficient deliveries.

Partnering with GLF e-commerce fulfillment means you can take international shipping tasks off your plate, which frees up your staff for other jobs (or keeps you from having to hire more employees). We handle end-to-end e-commerce fulfillment, international shipping and global logistics, including:

As an extension of your business, our team will work hand-in-hand with you to proactively navigate supply chain issues, delays, shortages, price changes and the like. As your proactive business partner, GLF will create customized fulfillment and shipping solutions that support your business goals.

Contact GLF’s team of e-commerce fulfillment experts today to learn how easy it is to open your online store to the global marketplace.