What You Need to Know About Exportation in the United States

What You Need to Know About Exportation in the United States

Your customers don’t care where your business is based. Modern consumers expect products to be available internationally. In fact, Statistica estimates that worldwide ecommerce sales will grow from $1.3 trillion to $4.5 trillion, and the global competition for customers is increasing. 
If you own an ecommerce business – or you’re considering starting one – you may see shipping internationally as a hassle. 
Many companies struggle with shipping internationally, especially when they’re small, but the struggles will be worth it for a new market of international customers.
Fortunately, international shipping is well within reach for small businesses with the right logistics partner. Learn more about what you need to know for international shipping for US goods.

Why You Should Ship Internationally

Choosing to ship internationally can be a big decision, but the opportunity to reach new customers and fuel growth far outweigh the initial investment and process. 
Your customers are no longer restricted to your local area, state, or country. In fact, online shipping has grown tremendously all over the globe.
Thinking that international shipping means Canada, Mexico, and maybe the UK? Think again. Emerging middle-class markets in Asia, Africa, and South America expand the customer base far beyond what many business owners could dream of. Thanks to social media and SEO, it’s easier than ever for these emerging markets to discover and purchase international products.
Here’s how to get your ecommerce business setup for shipping US goods internationally.

Choose Your Shipping Model

Establishing a shipping and fulfilment process depends on your business model and ideal market. Here are some questions you should ask to decide the best shipping model for your business:

Are You D2C, B2C, or B2B?

Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) is common for wholesalers. These businesses eliminate the middleman and sell directly to customers. Sellers have more control over the merchandise and processes, while the consumer gets lower prices. 
Business-to-Consumer (B2C) is the most popular ecommerce model and involves businesses that sell directly to customers. They differ from D2C businesses in that they don’t manufacture the product themselves, but sell existing products to consumers.
Business-to Business (B2B) is a manufacturer or distributor that sells directly to other businesses. In most cases, a consumer doesn’t buy products directly from a B2B business. Typically, businesses buy from a B2B business in bulk or large-scale. 
D2C and B2C businesses share a similar business model, since they usually handle small to mid-size orders and ship directly to their customers. Here are the shipping options to consider:

DHL or FedEx Courier Services

DHL and FedEx are well-known and convenient courier options for many businesses. Most major ecommerce platforms, such as WooCommerce, offer seamless integration with international courier companies for instant shipping rates, easy label printing, and simple shipment scheduling. If you want to get started with international shipments in a small business, this is the simplest way to go.

Multi-Carrier Shipping Aggregator

Multi-carrier shipping aggregators, such as Shippo, are a great choice to reduce shipping costs and produce import and export documentation for international shipments. Depending on the packages and features you choose, you can add order management, automatic shipping labels and packing slips, and other convenient features. This is suitable for larger shipping needs.

Regional Logistics Service Providers

Regional logistics service providers are the most professional option for international shipments. Logistics providers focus on delivering exceptional service to their target areas and know all the common shipping routes. These providers also have experience with the tariffs, compliance, and documentation for your shipping needs, saving you from having to do that time-intensive work yourself. 
Here are some established logistics service providers:
  • Savo Store: Delivery to East Africa
  • Fastway Couriers: Delivery to South Africa
  • Yamato Transport: Logistics for Japan
  • Yun Express: Logistics for China
B2B shipping and fulfilment needs are different than D2C or B2C. If you’re selling merchandise or equipment to other businesses in bulk, you may need to ship high volumes to several countries. These complexities are a bit more challenging than shipping directly to consumers, but there are ways to streamline the process.

Freight Forwarding

Freight forwarders take a lot of the stress out of the shipping process by arranging the logistics of large orders from end to end. Different providers offer different benefits, however, so here are some things to consider:
  • Experience: Hiring a freight forwarder is intended to make your life easier and simpler, so you’ll want an experienced company that understands customs, laws, and regulations in both the US and the destination country. A mistake with customs can result in a lot of added costs and a potentially unhappy customer, so it’s vital to get a freight forwarder that knows what to expect.
  • Reputation: Along with experience, a freight forwarder’s reputation is important in trusting them with your business’s shipping. You can ask for references from other businesses they’ve worked with or check online reviews to see if they’ve provided exceptional service.
  • Network: Established freight forwarders should have a network of connections in different countries, allowing them to negotiate better rates and handle customs brokerage in the destination country. Their network connections impact your bottom line, so make sure that they have the necessary skills.
  • Features and Services: Many freight forwarders offer additional packages and services to handle more of your workload, such as customs brokerage and cargo insurance. If possible, have them handle as much of your shipping needs as you can to limit the time and mistakes you may make as a new international shipper. 
  • Price: International shipping services are not a good choice for bargain shopping, but you should understand what you’re paying for and what you can expect. Your freight forwarders should be able to give you a rate quote and an itemized list of what it includes. Check for fine print and added fees, such as origin handling and transfers, that can add to your costs unexpectedly. 

Regional Freight Forwarders

If your target market is regional, it may make sense to get a regionally focused freight forwarder, such as Savo Store, Yamato, or Yun Express. These freight forwarders are likely to have an in-depth understanding of regulations and compliance in their market focus, rather than the entire global market. 
Some regional freight forwarders also offer Delivered Duty Paid service. This means that the seller has responsibility for the products until they reach their destination, which includes customs brokerage. While this may add to your burden, buyers are usually more comfortable knowing that their customs responsibilities are taken care of in advance. 
In addition, some regional freight forwarders offer door-to-door logistics services in their chosen service area, saving you time and hassle. They’re familiar with the origin and destination and handle all the obstacles, giving you time to focus on your business-critical tasks.

Challenges to Expect When Shipping Internationally

Even with the best partner companies, challenges may still arise during international shipping. Fortunately, you can prepare for some of these in advance. 
Unpredictable customs duties and tariffs: These are fees levied against imported international goods. You can prepare by researching your destination country and product category. 
Sharp cost fluctuations: Costs can rise unexpectedly during certain times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Prepare for transportation costs to rise amid crises or busy periods.
Transit delays: These may occur during busy times of year or crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. Shipping delays and longer transit times are common, so prepare for this inevitability by factoring extra time into your shipping and handling period.

Tips to Reduce Friction for You and Your Customers When Shipping Internationally

  • Always ship Delivered Duty Paid. This eliminates any unexpected customs duties and tariffs in the destination country.
  • Negotiate volume discounts whenever possible. Shipping rates are usually negotiable, especially if you ship a high volume of goods each month.
  • Choose a reputable, reliable regional logistics service provider. An experienced shipper can help with unexpected delays or obstacles with shipping, saving you time and stress.
  • Book your freight forwarder as early as possible in the shipping cycle to secure space in the transportation chain. This helps protect you against unexpected delays from crises or busy periods. 

Expand Your Customer Base

If you haven’t started international shipping yet, now is the best time. The market is growing and expanding, giving you a larger potential customer base than ever before. Though it takes some time and planning, setting your business up for international shipping is a small task for a large potential return in the future.

-- Author Bio

Sidney Karnaja is the founder of Savo Store, a logistics and procurement services provider that works with corporations, start-ups, and non-profits, to help them acquire and transport goods to their offices in Africa. Savo Store also operates a platform that allows individuals in Africa to shop hassle free at any U.S. retailer. Sidney founded Savo Store with the goal of eliminating some of the hurdles that plague cross-border transactions between Africa and the rest of the world.
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