Shipping your products around the globe has been a hot topic in recent months, among craft businesses, especially for those who were struck by Etsy’s recent free shipping guarantee scheme. This has led to some scrapping their international shipping offer altogether.
In all of this confusion, today on the podcast I wanted to set the record straight and tell you why international shipping is your best option if you sell online and how to set up a system that is easy for you to implement.
Here's why international shipping is a fantastic opportunity!
It’s expected that global ecommerce will be worth $4.8 trillion USD by 2021, with 2.1 billion shoppers buying goods and services online, according to Shopify. Compare that with $2.8 trillion USD in 2018 (Statista) and you can see the phenomenal growth expected in this selling space in just a few years. To give you an idea of how many of those shoppers are buying internationally, it was reported by Pitney Bowes that that figure was around 70% in 2017, which was up 6% from 2016.
Yes, it’s true that domestic markets may grow, but depending on the political and social economics of where you are in the world right now, you may not see the same rate of growth in your country as global businesses might. For example, here in the UK with Brexit looming, we still aren’t sure if we may actually face a recession after initially leaving Europe. If this is the case domestic sales may faulter for our businesses and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine craft businesses could be one of the worst hit categories of product-based businesses. Offering international shipping could bring in some extra income and our craft products could be much more attractively priced whilst the pound is so low.
So, think of your overseas business opportunity as;
A new source of income – creating as many manageable revenue streams for your business is a good thing to do, because it means you are no longer relying on income from just one source.
A widening of your audience – in order to increase your sales, you need to regularly take action to grow your audience. Many of us immediately think that means marketing and yes, in a way that would be a first choice, but marketing is complicated and can take time to show results. Taking a simple step in changing your shipping terms for your business could open yourself up to a wider audience much more quickly and bring you tangible results.
If you are struggling to get sales off the ground, or you are struggling to set your business up for trading online, then I recommend joining my weekly Handmade Business Podcast newsletter which is packed with tips and tricks on how to grow your sales effectively, sustainably and correctly, so that you can enjoy the rewards of a successful craft business.
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How to get started with international shipping
Watch the video here;
Or listen to the podcast here;
In order to offer this new service to your overseas customers there are several things you need to do;
Set your shipping prices – speak to your main carrier and get a price list of their charges. Here in the UK you can use Royal Mail’s Price Finder. Once you have researched your costs you can work out what you will charge your customers. Based on weight, value and the size of the package they are ordering and if this cost should include packaging, etc. This will give you the final price you need to charge your overseas customers. You may even decide if you wish to offer fixed cost shipping, or free shipping to certain destinations, having completed this research.
To make life easier I have always grouped countries together in simple bandings, so that my shipping policy feels simple to understand and costs easy to work out. For my business this looked like; ‘UK’, ‘Europe’ and ‘Rest of the world’ and tiered in price by weight for each category.
From here you can make a simple table that you can put on your website for customers to follow – remember not everyone will be reading your language as their first language, so simplify your shipping table for ease of understanding.
Understand your legal obligations – Your carrier should be able to give you the exact details of what you need to include with each of your overseas packages, dependant on the destination and for most countries it will be fairly similar. For example, here in the UK we must include a CN22 to non-EU countries (which includes those countries in Europe that aren’t part of the EU) for packages valued up to £270 and a CN23 for those above (see Royal Mail customs forms page). In the likelihood that we may leave the EU at the end of October 2019, then it may be that we need to include these forms on every package (so keep in touch with your carrier for details).
You should also consider other countries import rules. In this case I sat with my local post office owner and showed him what I made, how it was packaged and talked at length about what safety rules I needed to adhere to for exporting to overseas countries. Here in the UK the government has a shipping dangerous goods policy which is something we need to adhere to for internal shipping and importing goods from overseas. It is likely that other countries have something very similar for your to use in your decision process.
At this point you have an understanding of the obligation information you should include in your shipping policy and where you can ship your products to without breaking laws.
Decide where you will ship to – Personally when I started, I opened my doors to everyone and began to exclude those countries who I had one or two issues with over time (very rare that that happens, but you will soon spot those countries where shipping your goods isn’t viable as an option), some might say that was a silly move, others are likely to have done the same. So, the decision of where you choose to ship to is entirely yours to make.
What you could do, in order to help you decide is to;
Look at your website’s traffic and see which countries are already visiting your site with regularity. Open your doors to these countries first of all in order to maximise your conversion rate from the traffic you are already getting.
You could do your research with your carrier - Royal Mail have an incident board which you can follow. Here you may see similar reports coming up time and time again for certain countries. This could help you establish some destination boundaries you wish to place on your policy.
You could consider countries who have a high number of same language speakers, which would make life easier for your customer service communications if you need to make any.
Create a shipping policy that includes international shipping details – Make it clear and easy to follow. If you need help with this, check out my recent podcast episode where I showed you the best way to write your shipping policy. In that podcast you also get a written template you could easily adapt if you wanted to.
All in all my experience of shipping overseas in the eleven years I ran my craft business was mostly very favourable and I have some great stories about customers who l lived in faraway lands… like the time one of my parcels had to ride on horse back up a mountain from the airport, to reach my Fijian customer! Or the time when I was paid to wash some a fleece to ship into Australia, so that customs would accept the package and my customer could gain the experience of spinning a fibre from a sheep breed she had never heard of.
Shipping internationally brought me a deeper connection with a wider audience and led to my products being featured in overseas podcasts and sold at overseas knitting retreats. All income and business connections I would never have had, if I hadn’t opened my business up to international customers.
My advice is to do your research, plan your policy and take the leap in to overseas shipping, it’s not as hard as you think and it’s often an easy way to increase your sales.