As part of a business decision for an online store, one must decide whether to ship internationally. The great things about opening your client base to everyone is the increased number of potential clients and the ability to virtually meet people across the world. These two reasons are my number one reason why I offer international shipping.
Before deciding to ship internationally, I suggest a number of things to consider:
- Cost (both cost of shipping and related expenses such as additional time, potential for lost mail, etc.)
- Practicality (if you sell small items, its probably practical to send overseas but if you sell large heavy items, it may just cost more to send than the item itself, which often makes it impractical to sell abroad)
It is really exciting to send a package to a country I have never sent before. In fact, I have had the occasion to send packages to countries I did not know even existed.
I’ve also learned (the hard way) how the different countries process mail. For example, when sending to France (I suggest using this precaution all the time), do not use their company or username as the recipient: instead, if the customer fails to provide their name, send them a message or email requesting their full name. In France at least, there are several places where one address is used by many houses so if the name is not recognized, the mail man will not leave it for the residents, which will result in lost mail!
Another tip I suggest is to use the United States Postal Service (USPS) Shipping Assistant when creating labels to adhere onto the packages. The Shipping Assistant will allow you to create both the address label with sender and receiver as well as the customs form that is necessary to ship internationally. This is great so you do not have to go to the post office and spend the time to write on the customs form.
Before the Shipping Assistant, I often had a difficult time determining what was inside the package so that I could write the description and value of the item on the customs form. Often (or rather every time), by the time I get to the post office, the package is sealed along with the packing slip so I would have to guess on the description and value!
In addition to creating a handy shipping label with customs form, if you know the weight of your package, Shipping Assistant will calculate your postage so all you have to do is stick the proper amount of stamps on the package. So, when you arrive at the post office, all you have to do is cut in line and drop off your packages saving you that long wait at the post office.
If you find yourself with many international sales, I suggest purchasing international shipping postage online. The only service that I have found to provide this for First Class International mail is Endicia.com. (If you sign up, please use promotional code 728488 – get one month free.) For $15 a month, you can use their unlimited service to create your shipping labels with or without postage. I find this a valuable tool for several reasons:
- It creates International First Class postage along with the customs form.
- It also creates all the other postage you need such as domestic first class, priority mail, and express mail.
- It will include the electronic delivery confirmation, just like any other online postage service provider.
- It keeps a log of your postage purchases and mail sent so you can easily keep track of who you sent to (I find it very difficult to search for mailing sent on Paypal.com).
- You can print directly onto smaller envelopes such as 6″x9″ and smaller. I find this perfect for my mailings as most of my packages are 6″x9″. This saves you on time (cutting and adhering labels) and it saves on paper and tape! I’ve found a significant saving in time, paper, and tape since I started using Endicia.com.