- Postal couriers (like USPS) have simple pricing structures where you mostly pay for your shipping costs
- 66% of online shoppers check an eCommerce site’s return policy before deciding on a purchase
- Be sure to double-check your customs paperwork before shipping away to avoid holds at customs
Opening your online store to cross-border selling proves to be a wise business move. In fact, store owners’ attitudes towards cross-border eCommerce are very positive, with 50% of respondents agreeing that it’s profitable.
When shipping internationally, it’s possible that issues may occur. However, it shouldn’t scare you away from wanting to take your business worldwide.
If you ever come across these three sticky shipping issues, here’s how you can best solve them.
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1. Surprise Shipping Fees
Postal couriers (like USPS) have simple pricing structures where you mostly pay for your shipping costs. Express couriers (like UPS and FedEx) offer faster and more reliable services with a more complex pricing structure.
Here are some common fees that express couriers can charge.
- Fuel surcharge: This is calculated as a percentage of the shipping costs and varies weekly or monthly depending on the country. The price of gas can significantly impact this fee.
- Remote area/extended area surcharge: This applies to shipping addresses that are far from the usual delivery path of the courier. It’s best to let customers know that these fees may apply for certain locations so they know what to expect.
- Failed deliveries: Express couriers can charge extra for delivery re-attempts, address correction fees, and return fees. An address verification software at checkout can help you avoid collecting a wrong address.
- DDP (Deliver Duty Paid) surcharge: If duty and tax apply to your shipment, many express couriers are qualified customs brokers and can process this for an additional fee. One option to avoid this charge is to choose the DDU option (Deliver Duty Unpaid).
However, it’s worth noting that when DDU shipments arrive in customs, they will be delayed as customs will need to receive the duties payment before it can be released.
Using the DDP option definitely provides a smoother shipping experience. It reduces the chances of shipping delays, which could cost you more money and affect customer satisfaction.
2. Your Shipment Gets Stuck in Customs
There are many reasons why a shipment might be stuck at customs. The reasons can differ in severity from high (your goods are prohibited for import) to low (having the incorrect paperwork).
To get your parcel out of customs limbo, it’s best to do the following:
- Contact your courier directly. Premium couriers can also be customs brokers, so they can figure out what the issue is and help clear your shipment.
- Find out if there are any outstanding taxes to be paid. Arrange payment for any unpaid ASAP to settle the balance.
- Ensure there is no missing or incorrect paperwork. Provide any additional details, corrections, or paperwork that the customs official needs to finish processing.
To help your shipments get through customs faster:
- Make sure your product can be shipped to your destination country. Doing a little research and learning what’s restricted or prohibited can save you from headaches in the future. Easyship’s Countries page is a great resource to check before you ship.
- Provide accurate customs values on your paperwork. NEVER under-declare the value of your items. If customs officials are suspicious that the value of your shipment is higher than you claim, it can be confiscated, take even more business days to get processed, and result in additional fines.
- Choose shipping solutions that provide good tracking. Premium solutions that offer tracking numbers with frequent updates can alert you of the status of your package in customs so you can act quickly.
3. You Need to Process an International Return
Not going to lie: handling international returns is tricky.
Still, it may be worth considering. 66% of online shoppers check an eCommerce site’s return policy before deciding on a purchase. This suggests that having a return policy will get you a higher conversion rate and a better chance of gaining a customer’s trust.
Here's how you can make international returns easier.
- Choose an express courier. They are more reliable with tracking and have the ability to handle any customs issues.
- Consider writing off the item. If the value of the item is less than the shipping cost, it might be best to just send a replacement free of charge instead.
- Find a platform that can automate returns for you. Aftership Returns Center or Returnly can easily set up an automated returns process and allow customers to print shipping labels for returns.
To lessen the chances of returns:
- Have clear photos and descriptions of your items. Taking pictures from multiple angles and having high-resolution photos will show customers exactly what they’re getting.
- Pay attention during order fulfillment. If you are fulfilling orders yourself, make sure you avoid packing the wrong item. If you are using a third-party fulfillment center, ensure they are trustworthy and accurate.
- Start collecting data on why your items are getting returned. This can give you insights into how you can improve the quality, display, description, or shipment procedure for your goods.
Want to know more about international shipping? Check out our guide.