How to manage international shipping for US sellers expanding into Europe

5 September, 2022
6 minute read
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Are you an eCommerce seller looking to expand your brand from the US to Europe? We understand that this process can be confusing, and you may find it daunting, but you are in the right place. Welcome to the world of cross-border shipping!

Shipping to Europe has its requirements – with many factors to be considered such as customs duties, longer delivery times and border restrictions of particular products. It sounds a lot more complicated than shipping locally, but the growth potential for your business should be enough to drive you to explore this expansion route.

This process doesn’t need to be complex as there are only a few slight differences to shipping locally.

Time – Customers want speedy delivery options

Shipping to Europe can vary in timescale, dependent on the shipping company you choose to send your items with. The EU has an advanced transportation system, with delivery times being between 7-10 days and 4-6 weeks in economy (when shipping with Atlantic Express Corp. for example). 

Cutting the delivery time can be achieved by utilising 3PL warehouses, choosing warehouses in multiple locations close to your target customers could decrease the delivery time massively. By using this method, you can store your products near key logistical routes and have the potential of next day delivery. A bit like Amazon FBA’s network, drip feeding into sites across Europe could decrease delivery times and increase your sales potential. 

Do the research - Where and who are my customers?

Understanding where the majority of your customers are placed is a key statistic to know when choosing your shipment company, as well as identifying what products you will be shipping. 

But let’s strip this back to basics. How do you decide what countries to expand into?

  • Not branching out too far can help you set realistic expectations for your customers on delivery times and costings. This approach to shipping to Europe will give you a buffering period as well as providing you with an honest feel of what it is like to expand internationally.
  • Knowing your customers location – Having access to your eCommerce shop's traffic statistics is key to knowing what market you should first place your efforts to. Once the countries have been shortlisted to loyal customers and it shows retention rate is high in these areas, allow this to be your focus when starting your expansion journey.
  • Be sure that your product fits the audience of your target country – It is important to research scale to market opportunity, locate your competitors in Europe and consider that there may be some markets that suit your product offering more. Do not let your expansion go wrong at the first hurdle, this is an important step to avoiding failure and gaining access to a market in need of your products.
Worried about losing track of your parcel?

Overall, international shipping is reliable but there is a small chance of lost, damaged, or stolen products.  However, there is a solution: Package Insurance. This offers sellers the safety net of being reimbursed for the value of the missing good in full. Is that more cost? Yes, it is, but some shipping companies can insure packages for free, so be sure to look around and find a company that has this generous offering.

There are other options – parcel tracking is another beneficial method to assure the safety of your parcel. This provides sellers 24/7 tracking details. By using such a service, it gives the seller the opportunity to give their international customers reassurance their parcel is en route, as well as providing a thorough customer service for each buyer. Customer service is another way for sellers to improve retention rates, gain increased ranking and grow their brand. 

The million-dollar question – What shipping company do you choose?

Now to the crucial part of your overseas shipment decision, choosing your courier. The US market has hundreds of international shipping companies, therefore, making the choice for sellers challenging. There are unqualified shippers that falsely promote their capabilities – here are a couple factors to consider when deciding. 

  • Experience, Experience, Experience

Do your research of their previous shipments, have they been to the locations you want to reach and are the reviews stating they are providing a quality service for their clients? 

  • Costs

Compare the rates of alternative shipping customers and weigh up the best fit for your business. But how is the shipping cost estimated?

When sending packages internationally, several factors determine the shipping rates. The price depends on the country you’re shipping to, the weight and the size of your parcel. The longer the distance and the bigger the parcel, the more international package shipping costs. It is that simple! 

Most companies use a calculator to accurately estimate their costings. However, be careful, this may not always be the overall price. Think about insurance, import and duty tax, plus any additional fees that you may encounter along the way. 

Compliance – a requirement not a choice!

This is one of the main factors that expansion journeys never come to fruition. It can be a scary part of the process when shipping to Europe, as each country has different regulations on cross-border parcels, and it is down to customs to regulate these rules. 

It is important to declare the right value of your shipping contents when leaving the US. Each parcel requires to pay duty and importation tax, and this can vary between the countries it is trying to enter. It is down to the sellers themselves to follow and comply with customs regulations when sending their packages internationally – do your research beforehand and understand your marketplaces requirements. At Global Ecommerce Experts we can educate you on the requirements you need to meet and how we can help get your products compliant!

How is it calculated?

Taxes are based on a fixed percentage per destination country (and sometimes state or province). Duties, on the other hand, depend on several factors such as: 

  • The value of the item/s
  • The country of origin/manufacture
  • What materials have been used to make the products

By default, the importer (i.e. the customer) is responsible for any taxes or duties on the shipment and will need to pay them before they can receive their order (within the final purchase price). 

It’s important to be clear with the buyer about additional fees to manage their expectation and avoid returns and chargebacks. It is important as a seller that you have a clear return policy on your website.

To provide a smoother buying experience to your customers, you can choose to be responsible for paying these fees, this is called Delivered Duty Paid (DDP). In this case, you need to collect these fees upfront. 

From a logistical standpoint, you will buy the appropriate shipping label DDP and include customs documentation with your international shipment.  The correct customs paperwork required for an international shipment can vary by country. But typically, these two documents will be required: a commercial invoice and an export packing list.

The commercial invoice helps prove ownership and payment. Used to determine the true value of the product(s) being shipped, this document helps the country assess customs duties and taxes. 

What can and can’t I ship internationally?

Once again, it is down to the destination country. Checking what goods are prohibited at each of your parcel’s locations is required, to avoid your shipment being rejected and as a result, your customers failing to receive their items. There are lists provided from each country in Europe to show what is or isn’t allowed on entry. Over Europe there are a few common item categories that are not allowed in most when shipping from the US, these can be found online, explaining each countries regulations when it comes to product importation. 

So, how can Global E-commerce Logistics help you?

Global E-Commerce Logistics work exclusively with eCommerce sellers to ship their products around the globe quickly, efficiently and at a competitive price. As an Amazon SPN Partner (Amazon Seller Preferred Network), and having worked with thousands of eCommerce sellers, we are experts in product logistics and associated formalities.

We offer: road freight, a complete door to door service on a daily basis within EU and UK boundaries including next and same day service, air freight to worldwide destination routes ensuring the fastest and most cost-effective options, and sea freight. Global E-Commerce Logistics manage the entire process with one point of contact of regular sailings including container loading and de-stuffing. We have partnerships with global leaders to ensure competitive prices and capacity.

Whether you are looking to ship containers from Asia, air freight from the USA or road haulage to Europe, we can help. The most economical method of shipment, combined with the most reliable route, is always recommended by ensuring shipments forwarded by sea or air at the destination on time and at the right place.

For sellers that are new to these markets, our on-hand experts can ensure both your business and products are compliant with the regulations to the end destination countries should this be required.

Global E-Commerce Logistics can offer a complete end to end solution by safely collecting and delivering your products into our 3PL facility or Amazon fulfilment centre, complete Customs Clearances, provide direct and indirect representation. We are not only logistical experts, but we are your one-stop-shop for all international expansion journeys. If you want to know more about how we can help you expand internationally, reach out to us at Global Ecommerce Experts.

In addition, if you need assistance with managing and growing your Amazon business in Europe, eCommerce Nurse is there to support you. We provide support in all European marketplaces through account management, advertising management, marketing support and consulting. Please contact us for more information.

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