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Top Shipping Mistakes In International Ecommerce and What You Should Do Instead

by Laurel Delaney | January 21, 2014 | No Comments

Hanging-Shipping-BadgesWhen it comes to selling through ecommerce channels, retailers typically focus on their products, the design environment, and content because that’s what sells. But they often forget something equally as critical: shipping.

A seamless shipping method will satisfy your customers and keep them coming back.

Below are eight shipping mistakes most ecommerce businesses make and how to avoid them. (Hint: Knowing what to look out for in the first place is half the battle.)

Not validating addresses. A customer fills out their address incorrectly, and you ship the order based on that address. The customer never receives their merchandise because you weren’t aware of the error.

Solution: Create an automated process that will verify the customer’s information to ensure accuracy. Many independent fulfillment operations offer address verification as part of their services and even allow shoppers to review the shipping details before the order is processed.

Not prepping for inspections. You can’t guarantee that the product ordered is the product in the box, especially if you aren’t packing it yourself (let’s hope not!). Many shipments going through customs require a spot check of the product in the box, along with appropriate documentation.

Solution: Hire a company that will conduct an open-box inspection on relevant transactions to ensure that what is supposed to be in the box is in the box and that it matches all pertinent documentation.

Not completing all customs and duties forms (or not getting help to do them correctly). In most instances, you will have to complete customs and duties forms on international shipments. If you don’t, the product will never make it to your customer’s destination. As a result, not only will you be responsible for product’s return but also for resending it to your customer. The delay might also create a negative impression with your customer.

Solution: Hire a fulfillment operation that knows how to automate the process.

Under or over estimating taxes and duties. Value is determined by the importing country and varies from country to country. Certain governments follow a de minimis value rule, by which duties and taxes will not be imposed on products under a certain value. Other countries have free trade agreements whereby there is a total elimination of tariff rates between two trading countries, as with the North American Free Trade Agreement. There is also the possibility of underestimating taxes and duties for countries where the government has set a particularly high tariff rate on products in a certain industry (for instance, textiles). All of these situations are compounded when the customer is the one responsible for paying the duties and taxes.

Solution: Utilize third-party software that seamlessly handles the variables for you and accurately calculates the final price in the backend of your shopping cart.

Not pre-clearing payment methods. Each customer has their own preferred payment method, and you want them to pay in a way they’re comfortable with. But not all international customers may be able to use the options you offer. For example, you might offer payment options through PayPal and Google Wallet but find out later that 80 percent of your customers can’t use Google Wallet.

Solution: Offer several payment methods that work everywhere, including international credit cards, debit cards and PayPal. Identify the available payment options well in advance of the checkout, and test, test, test to ensure customers can buy no matter where they are located.

Not being clear on shipping costs. While the general rule is imprecise, I know that when I’m shopping online, I’m not spending more than a certain percentage of the total transaction cost on domestic shipping and no more than another percentage on international shipping. The worst case scenario is when a customer pays more for shipping than for the actual product.

Solution: Calculate shipping costs in real time so customers know what they’ll owe before they have to pay for it. Make shipping as economical as possible for customers without losing money in the process. Create a “no surprises here” attitude all the way through to checkout by providing a link to simple shipping options and prices, right up front.

Not double-checking shipping material for the product. Shipping handbags is very different from shipping delicate crystal figurines. Trying to place a delicate crystal figure into the same box that you use for a handbag is a gigantic mistake.

Solution: Prepare packing materials on a product-by-product basis to guarantee it arrives on your customer’s doorstep intact.

Not delivering product on time or not giving a delivery time at all. Customers only care about when your product will arrive on their doorstep. When you give an estimated delivery time based on the availability of the product, you may not be taking into account overseas delivery times. Maybe you don’t provide a delivery date at all because you are unsure of how long it will take for your customer to receive your product. Either way, you may be over-promising and under-delivering.

Solution: Make delivery promises in the form of a couple of options, such as 1-2 days, 3-5 days and 6-10 days, with varying delivery times and prices.

Hand--Package-Coming-ThroughShipping is a critical part of pleasing your customers and ensuring they return. We’ve reviewed a few steps you can take to avoid mistakes, whether you do the work yourself, as with making realistic delivery time promises, or you hire a fulfillment operation to tackle the bigger tasks, such as confirming that customs forms and labels are accurate for each product and destination.

Having a knowledgeable ecommerce team in place that knows the ins and outs on shipping can help ensure products are shipped the same way, every time, with minimal glitches and tailored specifically to your line of products. That’s the only way to optimize your fulfillment operations, more easily sell directly to global consumers and increase sales and profitability for your business.

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