E-commerce made it a breeze for a shopper to buy something from the other side of the US, and now retailers and delivery companies are making it just as easy for shoppers to buy something on the other side of the world! According to a 2015 USPS report, almost 40% of consumers are shopping more via website, catalog, or phone compared to two years ago.


Having a successful online business includes offering easy international shipping options. If you are considering plans to grow your online business, now, more than ever, is the time to start.


More than 80% of online consumers live abroad, and the international online market is growing 51% faster than the domestic online market. Plugging into local global markets is easier than you may have thought. You can be successful in the world of international mail and e-commerce.


There are many solutions available to decrease costs and manage your communications in the international marketplace. The 2014 numbers published in September 2015 rank the top 10 marketplaces:

1) China

2) U.S.

3) United Kingdom

4) Japan

5) Germany

6) France

7) South Korea

8) Canada

9) Russia and

10) Brazil


Are you surprised to see that the US is not the number-one online marketplace? Many people are. According to Internet Retailer, more than 10 million Chinese consumers purchased 34 million products from foreign brands on Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd.’s Groupon-like group-buying site in the first nine months of 2015.


Nearly half of those imported goods purchased on Juhuasuan.com were food products, and 77% of the purchasers were women. Studies show many Chinese consumers, especially those in the growing urban middle class, don’t trust the safety of Chinese food, skin care, and nutritional products and often seek out foreign brands.


Royal Mail’s January 2016 study of UK Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) e-retailers revealed growing business confidence. Eight out of 10 SME e-retailers are confident they will experience increased sales in 2016. Almost three quarters (74%) of SME e-retailers increased their sales in 2015; this is the highest level in the last three years. Fifty-eight percent reported increased sales in 2014, and 49% reported sales growth in 2013. The most common factor in driving customer satisfaction is on-time delivery.


The growing trend shows that consumers and business managers research purchases online before buying in stores, with a high percentage purchasing online. The ease of the return process and better quality products have fueled the amazing growth phenomenon.


Take into account the following considerations, goals, and solutions to decrease costs as you manage international communications:

Quantity: Are you sending more than 50 packages at a time? If you are, you may want to consider using a service provider. If you are not, you may want to download a free desktop software solution from the United States Postal Service to help you navigate the requirements.

Weight < 70 lbs / Dimensions: Is your product lightweight? If it is, you have excellent lower cost shipping solutions available to you.

Arrive in 2, 8, or 14+ days: When does your product HAVE to be there? Consider offering a free or discounted shipping option to your international customers. If they need it there sooner, let them buy up to a faster service. Use the faster services as a profit center.

Destination Country: Each country has specific regulations as to what you can import. For example, you cannot send cameras to China, shoes to Italy, or e-cigarettes to Mexico. The USPS’ International Mail Manual is a great resource for a list of the restricted items by country.

Full-Cycle Tracking and Proof of Final Delivery Critical: Do you need a receipt for the product? There are some shipping methods that will provide this for you, at a cost.

Customs Fees, Duties/Tariffs, and Taxes: This can be complicated! That’s all I have room to write in this article. Good news: There are software solutions to help manage this.


Balance speed and affordability. Here’s a chart to illustrate your choices:

USPS Product

Delivery:

Business Days

Weight Limit

Pounds

Price

USPS Retail

Shipping Partner

Global Express Guaranteed®

1 – 3

70*

$$$$$$$

X

X

Priority Mail Express International®

3 – 5

70*

$$$$$$

X

X

Priority Mail International®

6 – 10

Ordinary Parcels 70

(*varies by country)

$$$$$

X

X

First-Class Package International®

Varies

by destination

0 – 4

$$$$

X

X

EPacket® 28 Countries (IPA w/delcon)

6 – 10

0 – 4.4

$$$

X

International Priority Airmail™ (IPA®)

6 – 10

0 – 4

$$

X

International Surface Airlift™ (ISAL®)

10 – 21

0 – 4

$

X


DIY or Partner

When it comes to home repair, I’m a “Do-it-Yourselfer” (for most simple things). For over 20 years, when I would get a question about international mail and parcels, I called the company I’ve worked at since October of 2015. Why? Because like many topics, there are experts in the various segments or specialties, much like the medical field, or any industry. I had all I could do to stay current with domestic mail working with just the USPS! International mail reaches over 200 countries, and involves numerous country-specific posts and carriers.


If you have fewer than 50 parcels in your mailing cycle, only have a few delivery service requirements for your package, and are a “Do-it-Yourselfer,” you may want to register for and download the USPS’ free software solution Click-n-Ship® Business Pro™ from their Business Customer Gateway. If your volume is higher, and you want flexible options for fast or slower delivery, you may want to consider a shipping partner.


One new facet of international mail I’ve learned (unlike domestic) is that international mail is classified as “competitive” with the USPS. Most domestic US mail falls into the market dominant category, meaning that you work solely with the USPS for processing and delivery. While mailing with the USPS is an exceptional solution, it is not the only method to reach the world.


There are a multitude of access points and posts able to process your mail and parcels, and just as many prices associated with them. Mail and parcels can be entered directly into the destination country’s postal system. Depending on the situation, a global courier using door-to-door delivery is the best solution.


Here are a few examples; you decide which option is the best. I list the fastest and slowest; there are ranges in between available as well.


Example One: Two pound publication/booklet mailing to Brazil.

· 1 – 3 days for $128.80

· 10 – 21 days for $12.13


Example Two: Five pound box containing a pair of blue jeans and a T-shirt mailing to Brazil.

· 1 – 3 days for $168.85

· 6 – 10 days for $86.95

Because weight exceeds 4.4 pounds, you cannot take advantage of three slower options.


Example Three: If the blue jeans and T-shirt could be packaged so that the weight is under 4.4 pounds, the options are better.

· 1 – 3 days for $155.60

· 10 – 21 days for $33.00


Expanding your mailing reach internationally is an exciting opportunity for you to grow your business! There are many options available to you, and people who focus on this industry segment just for you.


After 35+ years working with domestic mail, I am very glad to be expanding my focus to include international mail. Just like any business endeavor, there are details and complexities to consider. It’s a relief to know that there are many successful experts who developed tools over many years to navigate the world of international mail. I encourage you to grow your business globally. It is easier than you may have realized.



Wanda Senne is Access Worldwide’s Vice President, Postal Affairs with over 35 years in the mailing industry. She can be reached at wsenne@accessworldwide.net.

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