International Shipping: Global eCommerce Rates & Shipping Carriers
There’s a whole world of business opportunities out there. I mean that literally. The entire planet is available to buy your products and services, and if you’re only selling domestically, you’re tapping into a very small portion of it.
Perhaps you’re feeling the need to make a change. Maybe a few customers have reached out to you, asking if you could send your products internationally. Or perhaps you’re just looking for a new way to expand your business.
The global marketplace is awesome, but for eCommerce sellers, there is one major drawback: International shipping can be incredibly complex. As an online seller, you already know that fulfilling orders within the States is hard enough. Now you have to deal with all the complexities of shipping, plus the added challenges of customs, duties, and international taxes.
In this brief guide, we will present a few initial steps you should take to start shipping internationally. We’ll go over the basics of shipping costs, shipping rates, and the shipping carriers you should consider. Keep reading to step into the world of international shipping.
Table of Contents
How Much Does Shipping Internationally Cost?
What will you pay to ship your products internationally? There’s no single answer, because it depends upon a number of factors, including:
- What size package you’re shipping
- If your package fits in standard sized packaging
- How much it weighs
- Where it’s going
- How quickly you want it to arrive
You’ll also find that costs will vary significantly between carriers. Of course, if you set up a business account and start doing volumes of business, you may qualify for discounted rates. Keep reading for a comparison of some actual shipping rates below.
International Shipping Costs To Consider
Shipping internationally inevitably comes with a bit of sticker shock. You may be used to the cost of shipping domestically, but all the extra expenses of international shipping can be overwhelming.
In order to ease some of that shock, we’re doing a quick breakdown of the added expenses you can expect. One key thing to keep in mind: Many of these expenses will be the customer’s responsibility.
- Duties: Also known as tariffs, duties are customs charges on incoming shipments. Duties vary in price, depending upon the sending and receiving countries and the contents of the package. Paid by the customer.
- Tax: Additional value added tax (VAT) or general sales tax (GST) charged by the destination government. Paid by the customer.
- Fees: Some countries charge additional fees for processing packages through customs. These fees are in addition to duties. Paid by the customer.
- Higher Shipping Rates: Shipping across longer distances comes with, of course, higher shipping rates. And you will be shipping not only further but also by air, and airmail comes with its own expenses. If you’re currently using UPS or FedEx, you’re already paying fuel surcharges for your ground shipments. International air shipments can come with slightly higher fuel surcharges. Take a look a UPS’s international fuel surcharge rates (updated weekly) and FedEx’s info on fuel surcharges.
Be sure to clearly communicate these additional expenses to your customers. If customers refuse to pay the necessary fees when the package arrives, you may lose your product or have to pay to return it. Create a clear international shipping policy and display it prominently on your checkout page.
Beyond the monetary costs of international shipping, another expense to consider is the time and effort required to make it all work. You can make things a little easier with the pricing calculator from MyUS.com and ShippingEasy’s international seller’s shipping guide. Or try a service such as Parcel Monkey or EasyShip, which can integrate with eCommerce platforms including Shopify, eBay, and Amazon and promise to find the lowest price for you.
How To Ship Internationally
Ready to learn the basics steps of international shipping? Let’s get started.
Select Your Destination Country/Countries
As much as you’d like to ship your products across the entire world, for many merchants, major global expansion is not immediately practical. The best advice when it comes to international selling is to start small and gradually build.
As you choose your destination countries, keep in a mind a few factors. First, consider your current customer base. Who is buying your products now, and who has asked to buy your products from elsewhere? You should also consider site translation and payment processing options. After all, international customers will need to read and understand your site and submit payment information for this all to work.
Evaluate Shipping Regulations
Next, you’ll need to decide which products to make eligible for international shipping. Some of this may be based on logistics (it may, for example, be more trouble than it’s worth to ship a sofa to Guatemala), but some of it will also be based on product restrictions.
Each country has its own list of regulations regarding what can and cannot be imported and exported. Some of these restrictions may be surprising to you. For example, you are not allowed to send smoked salmon to Australia or playing cards to the Philippines.
Take a look at what products cannot be exported from the US on MyUs.com and USPS.com. Then, head over to the useful TradeAbility tool from UPS to check import regulations for your destination countries.
Learn To Manage Customs Forms
If you dive into international shipping, filling out customs forms will soon become a part of your everyday life, and you want to do it well. Take a look at general customs information from the US government, and then learn from Stamps.com’s advice for filling out a customs form.
Something to consider: Many shipping software solutions (like Shippo and ShippingEasy) include features for auto-filling these customs forms. If you aren’t using shipping software already, we absolutely recommend you take a look at a few of our favorites via our shipping software comparison chart.
Decide On A Shipping Carrier
For many merchants, this step is the hardest. International shipping rates are complex, and what’s right for one shipment may not be right for another.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for shipping (domestic or international), and your shipping strategy will need to be flexible in order to be cost-effective.
We’ll discuss shipping carriers and rates more below.
International Shipping Rates
|Shipping Provider||Best For|
|USPS||A range of shipping options, timelines and pricing, with reliable tracking|
|FedEx||Fast shipping, for those willing to pay|
|UPS||Fast shipping with guaranteed delivery times|
|DHL||Reliable service for high-volume shipping|
|FBA Export||Amazon.com sellers, especially those already using FBA|
As we’ve said before, international shipping rates vary widely depending upon the product, the package dimensions, the destination country, and the shipping carrier. So, it’s impossible to summarize shipping rates, but we can provide you with a few helpful resources that will allow you to calculate those rates for yourself.
First, understand the differences between the two categories of carriers.
Private VS Public International Shipping Carriers
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is a public carrier, which means that some shipping expenses are subsidized by the federal government. Many merchants find the USPS to be the cheapest way to ship domestically, and some say it’s the cheapest way to ship internationally.
When you ship this way, the USPS will deliver your package to the public carrier in the destination country. The public carrier in your destination country (such as the Canada Post or Royal Mail) will then deliver your package to your customer’s doorstep. Beware, this exchange can slow the shipping process a bit. However, when you ship internationally with USPS, you can be assured of reliable tracking service.
To calculate estimated shipping rates, take a look at USPS’s international shipping options.
While the USPS passes shipments onto the next public carrier, a private carrier handles a shipment from start to finish. Because one carrier manages the entire shipping process, there tends to be more security in the process. The private carrier is responsible for your package, and you’ll have just one service to contact if something goes wrong.
|Shipping Service||Price||Delivery Time||Details|
|Global Express Guaranteed||Starts at $67.80||1-3 business days||Available to 190 countries, including overnight to Canada|
|Priority Mail Express International||Starts at $45.95||3-5 business days||Available to 190 countries, including some with optional guaranteed date-certain delivery|
|Priority Mail International||Starts at $26.90||6-10 business days||Available to 190 countries, includes tracking and up to $100 insurance|
|First-Class Package International||Starts at $12.25||7-21 days||For packages up to 4 pounds and up to $400 value, with strict size limits|
Here are three of the most popular private shipping carriers:
FedEx ships to 220+ countries and territories, and they offer freight shipment options as well as international package delivery options. Look into your potential expenses with FedEx using their rates calculator or by taking a look at FedEx’s overview of rates for international shipments.
|Shipping Service||Price||Delivery Time||Details|
|FedEx International First||Starts at $9.50||1-3 days||Available to 90 countries|
|FedEx International Priority||Starts at $57.01||1-3 business days||Next-day delivery to Canada, Mexico, & Carribean|
|FedEx International Economy||Starts at $54.46||2-5 business days||Ship to Canada, Mexico, & Puerto Rico in 2-3 days|
UPS is another reliable international carrier. UPS manages a huge shipment volume, shipping 3.2 million packages and documents internationally each day. With UPS, you can choose from more a range of options for shipping to 220+ countries and territories, including every address in North America and Europe. Check into UPS’s brief guide How to Ship Internationally, as well as their landed cost calculator, which includes price estimates for factors such as duties and taxes.
|Shipping Service||Price||Delivery Time||Details|
|UPS Worldwide Express||Starts at $47.27||1-3 business days||Available to 59 countries, guaranteed next-day to Canada|
|UPS Worldwide Saver||Starts at $76.53||1-3 days||Available to 220+ countries|
|UPS Worldwide Expedited||Starts at $82.45||2-5 days||Available to 220+ countries|
Unlike the carriers already discussed, DHL is a private carrier that specializes in international logistics. They employ over 380,000 individuals in more 220 countries and territories and move more than 400 million shipments around the world each year. DHL offers delivery options that will move your international shipment to its destinations in as little as one day or up to two weeks, depending on where it’s going and what you’re willing to pay for. And beyond their regular international shipment options, DHL offers a special service for online sellers: DHL eCommerce. This service is intended for high volume shippers (those who can demonstrate that they’ve sent over 100 packages internationally and/or domestically each day for three months), so it may not be the service you start out with. However, DHL eCommerce is a good logistics solution for those who meet the requirements. To learn more, take a look at our blog post What Is DHL eCommerce? and visit DHL’s webpage.
|Shipping Service||Price||Delivery Time||Details|
|DHL Express Worldwide||Starts at $82.13||1-6 business days||3,000 DHL facilities around the world|
|DHL eCommerce||Contact DHL for info||Contact DHL for info||Available only to high-volume shippers|
A Great Alternative: FBA Export
If you’re an Amazon seller, you have another option available to you. Instead of choosing from the carriers listed above, you can let Amazon handle international fulfillment on your behalf.
FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) is Amazon’s in-house warehousing and fulfillment program. For a fee, you can send your products to Amazon’s many warehouses and have Amazon’s employees and robots pick, pack, and ship products for you. And with FBA Export, you can start sending those products to over 100 countries.
In order to use FBA Export, all you have to do is enable export functionality on your FBA account. There are no additional fees for merchants who are using FBA Export to ship their Amazon orders internationally. However, merchants who want to use FBA Export to ship products from their own online site will have to pay some additional fees. This type of warehousing plan is called Multi-Channel Fulfillment or MCF.
The great thing about FBA Export is that Amazon will handle all of the complexities related to international shipping. They will identify which of your products are eligible for export and fulfill your international orders. They also manage import duties and customs clearance for you. Your customers will pay the shipping costs and customs duties, and all you have to do is determine which products you’d like to exclude from the program.
If you’re already selling on Amazon and using FBA for your fulfillment, FBA Export is an easy solution for your international shipping.
Which International Shipping Carrier Should You Use?
If you’ve been considering international shipping, now is your time to act. You have all the resources you need to assess your shipping options and decide what’s right for your business.
So, dive deep into your store’s analytics. Find out which products are good candidates for international sales and which countries might want access to those products. Look into customs requirements for the countries you’re thinking about shipping to, and make sure your products won’t get hung up at customs or require excessive fees.
Next, consider the size or sizes of your typical shipment, packing items as closely yet securely as possible to keep the package as small as you can. Measure a typical package and visit websites for the shipping carriers discussed above. You can enter the package dimensions to receive an actual price quote and delivery estimate for various locations. Think about your anticipated volume of shipping, and talk to the carriers to see if you qualify for a discount based on that.
Plan for international shipping success by starting small and building slowly. Rather than offer global delivery, dip your toes into one or two international markets or a single region, such as South America or Europe. Most carriers can ship anywhere you want, but some may offer competitive pricing. So pick a carrier — balancing delivery time and shipping costs — update your website to alert international shoppers, and get started shipping!