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Thanks to globalization and the rise of ecommerce, the need for global shipping has risen.
While it’s never been easier to ship products around the world, there are still some complexities with cross-border shipping, from the types of products you can sell and transport overseas to the associated costs for different countries.
But fear not! We put together this guide to help you learn some of the ins and outs of global shipping — whether you’re looking to do any of the following:
- Expand where you ship internationally from a single location.
- Break into the United States from another country.
- Fulfill orders from multiple countries.
What is global shipping?
Global shipping is the process of transporting packages from one country to another through a shipping carrier. Its popularity has increased with the rise of international ecommerce selling.
Important things to know about global shipping
International delivery can increase the customer base for an ecommerce business as they can ship globally and not just to their home country.
While businesses of all sizes can offer global shipping, they must be prepared to deal with customs, import duties, and additional taxes that all vary across countries. To ensure a smooth delivery, make sure you have a complete understanding of how it all works.
When shipping globally, you will need to account for any international shipment fees that are applicable to certain products. Known as tariffs, these are government-imposed taxes on goods entering or exiting a country.
You will want to be clear on your website if there will be any duties paid upon delivery for which the customer is responsible.
All global orders need to be cleared through customs of the country they are entering; this involves quite a bit of paperwork. You must include the right details (e.g., tariff codes, dollar value, and product descriptions) so orders don’t get held up. Learn how you set this up in ShipBob’s dashboard here.
Transit times and transportation options
Delivery times vary depending on where you’re shipping from. Often, global shipping can have poor delivery times for non-expedited orders, since it’s being shipped to another part of the world to different governing bodies and sometimes via several modes of transportation.
Alternatively, you can store your inventory in multiple countries to reduce transit times for local deliveries. Global fulfillment also reduces the customs and tariff issues once a customer in the country the inventory is in places an order.
“We had a distribution point in the UK in London, but anticipated that cross-border shipping issues would become more prevalent with Brexit pending, as we realized a good chunk of our customer base in the EU wouldn’t be able to as easily receive shipments from the UK, as it may be more expensive with longer shipping times.
We reached out to ShipBob, as we became more concerned with Brexit and wanted a fulfillment center in the European Union. Beyond taking care of all of our mainland European and Ireland orders, we quickly became very impressed by ShipBob’s transparency, simplicity, and intuitive dashboard.”
Harley Abrams, Operations Manager of SuperSpeed Golf, LLC
The last thing you need to consider is the medium of transportation: parcel or freight shipping; air, sea, or ground; and the time, cost, and reliability of these mediums. You’ll also need to consider the costs against speed, decide how much you will charge for shipping, and determine what works for your margins.
To guarantee shipping insurance as a part of your global shipping program, you may want to add it or offer it to your customers for shipping services that don’t have it built in or for certain order values. Learn how ShipBob handles insurance here.
While international addresses can vary, the following address format is recommended for mail to all global destinations:
- Recipient name or attention line
- Company name (if applicable)
- Street address or P.O. box number
- City or town, principal subdivision such as province, state, or county, and postal code (order of info may vary for certain countries)
- 2-digit country abbreviation (what ShipBob uses)
Also, make sure the country code is correct. Entering an incorrect country code can cause delays, result in a return to the sender, or even have the package delivered to the wrong country. For example, the most common issue is entering UK instead of GB for England. A full list of country codes can be found here.
Certain products are restricted in certain countries. You will need to research if your items are restricted in any countries or with any carriers and make this clear to the customer through your website with a shipping policy page.
What’s stopping you from going global?
If you have an ecommerce business but are afraid of navigating global shipping, read these common misconceptions that prevent brands from offering international shipping.
It’s too much work
Global shipping can be a hassle to manage on your own. Tasks such as taking care of proper postage information and filling out various forms for customs can be time-consuming and tedious to manage.
Athletic brand FLEO Shorts partnered with ShipBob to grow globally, manage what became unmanageable, and access experts who specialize in global shipping.
“We had 3 ecommerce stores connected to 3 different 3PL warehouse management systems, and I had to work 60 hours a week to keep up. All of our backend work had to be done 3 times and wasn’t always consistent.
While our customers were happier and we could grow our domestic business in each country, I was drowning, going backwards in terms of efficiency. While we technically had a global reach and footprint, it wasn’t convenient for us so we kept looking for a better solution.
Then, we found ShipBob. It was somewhat serendipitous and a no-brainer. I always wanted a truly global fulfillment partner — I had been trying to find this solution for years.”
Wes Brown, Head of Operations at Black Claw LLC
It’s too costly
Import charges, taxes, tariffs, and other cross-border fees can add to the total cost of an international shipment. In addition to getting discounted rates, you can also move inventory closer to the big markets you serve.
For example, Bathorium, a luxury bath brand based in Canada, partnered with ShipBob to scale up operations in the United States. With customers today expecting free shipping and a fast turnaround, they knew they had to reduce their transit times and be able to easily calculate shipping costs.
“Our greatest barrier was how expensive it was to ship to the United States from Canada, costing about 50% of our average order value. We spent anywhere from $18 to $25 for a one-pound shipment, and it would take a minimum of 7-10 business days to reach the destination.
Since moving to ShipBob, we’ve seen a reduction of 70% on shipping costs in the US, which helps keep conversions high and went from 20% of our customers being in the US to 40%.”
Greg MacDonald, CEO & Founder of Bathorium
It’s too confusing
Global shipping involves a lot of moving pieces. Tracking orders in particular can become tedious, making it difficult to accurately determine delivery times and have answers for customers.
Australian-based brand Baja Bae wanted a third-party logistics (3PL) provider that could ship their beauty products to their customers around the world while simplifying their ecommerce shipping process and getting time back to focus on their brand.
“With customers located all over the world, a business based in Australia, and products produced in Florida, we have found a truly global solution in ShipBob. They are able to create a seamless customer experience from start to finish.”
Tamarin Oblowitz, Co-founder, Baja Bae
How a 3PL like ShipBob eliminates the pains of global shipping
If you have an ecommerce business and are plagued by the perceived hassles mentioned above, fret not! International fulfillment providers like ShipBob can take care of your global shipping needs, so that you can focus on growing your business sustainably without any compromise on order fulfillment.
Here’s how ShipBob does it:
1. Manages administrative tasks
While international delivery is great for expanding your customer base, it will add a heap of administrative tasks for merchants. Opting to use ShipBob takes away the paperwork and arduous tasks for you, giving you more time to focus on acquiring and retaining customers.
“I used to ship orders myself through the Australian Post. I had to manually fill out customs forms, put together the box, pack every order, and run to the post office myself. It would take me a full week to send out over 100 orders and I would spend up to two hours at the post office.”
Lee Nania, Founder of SubSubmarine
2. Reduces overall costs
ShipBob provides reduced global shipping rates that we negotiate for you and are cheaper than what one company could get on their own.
“When COVID-19 hit, shipping methods suddenly became more limited and expensive to the point where it would not be feasible to ship through the Australian Post to fans in the United States (costing about 20 USD or 28 Australian dollars per package and getting stuck in transit).
With ShipBob, I’m able to offer competitive shipping rates within the US and move more units than I would shipping from Australia with ridiculous postage prices.”
Lee Nania, Founder of SubSubmarine
3. Delivers faster
In addition to offering expedited shipping for international orders, ShipBob can offer distributed fulfillment centers to store your inventory and get your orders delivered faster. With multiple strategic locations, we automatically ship orders from the location closest to the destination address.
“As we started to hit that first inflection point of growth, it became apparent we needed to look for a 3PL that could help us expand geographically and also drive down shipping costs and expenses.
We distribute inventory across ShipBob’s fulfillment network so we can be closer to major distribution hubs, shipping carriers, and more of our customers.”
Michael Peters, VP of E-Commerce Operations at TB12
4. Uses the right technology
ShipBob has proprietary technology that gives merchants real-time updates on inventory stock levels, orders being processed, and international tracking for orders that have shipped via UPS, DHL, and FedEx.
“ShipBob has multiple fulfillment centers in the US, one in Canada, one in the EU, and one in the UK. All locations filter back into one centralized warehouse management system, so everything is under the ShipBob umbrella.”
Wes Brown, Head of Operations at Black Claw LLC
5. Eliminates human error
As your global order volume increases, you will need a seamless system that is efficient and reliable. ShipBob’s 3PL software lets merchants track orders being picked and packed and automatically sends tracking back to their store so it can be shared with their customers.
“ShipBob provides tracking, even for international orders, and helps with overseas customs. Through ShipBob, I can use DHL and other shipping services to help meet customers halfway.
I can keep customers updated in real time. I just hop into my ShipBob account, have a look at their order, and see where it is. I’m also able to fully manage my business and logistics on the go.”
Lee Nania, Founder of SubSubmarine
6. Has a global fulfillment network
ShipBob’s global fulfillment centers allow you to manage all inventory, orders, and shipments from one central fulfillment platform and login.
For example, men’s grooming brand BAKblade partnered with ShipBob in 2016 and has grown globally since by distributing and storing their inventory in ShipBob’s fulfillment centers in the United States and across the world.
“As we expand our online presence into Canada, both directly and selling through Walmart, we knew we needed a trusted fulfillment partner with a physical presence in Canada.
We have seen that Canadian customers order more when they know the order ships from within Canada and they do not need to worry about additional taxes if the order comes from the US.
From our history through the years with ShipBob, it was a no-brainer to expand into other markets with them, knowing that they have done their due diligence to meet the ShipBob standard.”
Marc Fontanetta, Director of Operations at BAKblade
How to get started with ShipBob’s global shipping and fulfillment solution
ShipBob is a leading fulfillment partner for ecommerce brands by keeping costs low, ensuring orders are delivered in a timely manner, and optimizing the order fulfillment process overall. Get started with ShipBob by following these easy steps.
1. Request a quote at ShipBob
You can start the conversation with our fulfillment experts, see if we’re a good fit, and get a pricing quote from ShipBob.
2. Set up your account
ShipBob has native integrations with the top ecommerce platforms and marketplaces to easily connect ShipBob’s technology to all the places you sell online. Once your products are synced, your account configured, and we have your inventory, your store will automatically send new orders to ShipBob. Learn how to set up your international ship options in ShipBob here.
3. Send us your inventory
You can send inventory to any combination of ShipBob’s fulfillment centers in the United States, Canada, and Europe and ship globally or domestically to any country in the world.
4. We take care of fulfillment
Once we receive your inventory, our team will manage the picking, packing, and shipping process for you. That way, you can save time and energy by focusing on more money-making initiatives, rather than on logistics operations. You can also grow into more fulfillment centers (in more countries) over time as you expand into new markets.
“International shipping is very important to us — not only in terms of costs but also the customer experience. When I found out ShipBob was expanding into both Canada and Europe, I knew we wanted to expand our physical footprint with them.
This offers us the ability to reduce taxes and tariffs that come with international shipping. Now, our Canadian-based orders see a large reduction in shipping costs. We want everyone to get our products in a few days or less with no duties at delivery. Our goal is to remove the barriers to purchase.
Now, our customers can get their packages without spending an extra 25 euros or Canadian dollars on duties and taxes after purchasing. ShipBob has helped us extensively throughout the process and we look forward to accelerating our growth outside of North America.”
Nikolai Paloni, Co-Founder of Ombraz Sunglasses
Interested in learning more about how ShipBob can improve your global shipping capabilities? With ShipBob, you can expand your geographic footprint, provide international shipping rates, and offer best-in-class ecommerce fulfillment and shipping services.
Request a pricing quote below and we’ll get in touch to see if we’d be a good fit for your business.
Global shipping FAQs
Global shipping can seem like a lot if you’re managing the order fulfillment process on your own. Shipping services provided by a reliable 3PL like ShipBob can make international delivery for your business much easier. Here are some questions that ecommerce brands have about global shipping.
1. How long does global shipping take?
2. How much does global shipping cost?
3. Why should you use a 3PL for global shipping?