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Ready to take your e-commerce business global? Follow this seven-step checklist to start shipping overseas…

Setting up your international shipping policies and processes can seem overwhelming, but it all comes down to investing some time in research before launching into new overseas markets.

While it’s vital to understand your new international markets, you’ll also need to do a cost analysis for each target destination to ensure country-specific duties, taxes and shipping costs don’t price you out of the market.

Follow these seven steps to start shipping overseas:

Step 1: Do your market research

Thorough market research should always be your first step before investing in an international expansion. Identify one or two overseas territories where market demand for your product is high and assess your competitors’ offerings to ensure you can compete on price and quality. Also clearly define your unique selling point and understand the specific value you offer your new customer base.

Step 2: Check regulations and duties

Once you’ve identified the countries you’d like to focus on, check their import regulations, duties and any special taxes they apply to incoming goods. These fees will need to be built into the shipping costs you charge your customers, so it’s important to do a cost analysis to ensure they don’t price you out of the market. You’ll also need to gather the relevant customs forms and documentation required for each of your target destinations.

Step 3: Assess delivery timeframes and costs

Talk to several freight companies about their delivery timeframes to your target countries. This will help ensure you are giving your new customers accurate delivery information to avoid customer frustrations. This is also a good time to gather some delivery costings for your most common package sizes and weights.

Step 4: Implement an international shipping policy

Now you’ll need to write an international shipping policy for your website. As well as setting out delivery timeframes and processes, you’ll also need to establish how you’ll handle international product returns. That is, will you cover the costs of faulty goods? Are your shipments insured? Will you accept change-of-mind returns at the customer’s expense? Be as clear as possible here to avoid disputes down the track.

Step 5: Optimise your packaging

Optimising your packaging will help reduce your international shipping rates and keep your products safe and sound on the journey overseas. Ensure your box size fits your product with minimal wasted space and use lightweight packaging materials such as air bags to protect your goods without adding extra weight.

Step 6: Find a shipping provider

International shipping quotes vary wildly between freight companies depending on the destination country and the requested delivery timeframe. Ensure your customers get the best deal with an online shipping aggregator integrated into your shopping cart that gathers and compares quotes from a range of shipping companies.

Step 7: Launch your marketing campaign

With your international shipping processes set up and ready to go, it’s time to announce your entry into the market. Consider joining the online marketplaces (such as Ebay, Alibaba and Etsy) that are most popular in your target countries to gain initial market traction, and trial a Google Adwords campaign to send customers to your e-commerce site.

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