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Mastering International Shipping And Returns: 8 Key Tips

Phuc Le
October 27, 2023

Expanding your global customer base necessitates careful consideration and substantial investment, especially in the management of international shipping and returns. The rise of online sales has been nothing short of remarkable, with one in every four consumers now choosing the convenience of shopping on the internet.

When contemplating investments in global markets, it's crucial to assess your brand's reach in the countries you intend to enter. In-depth research is vital to understand the preferences and tendencies of local buyers, providing valuable insights into the feasibility of future growth. Collaborating with a local representative in the target country can offer the necessary knowledge for a successful expansion.

Efficiency in the shipping and returns process is paramount to instill confidence in your brand and enhance customer retention. To further enhance your international shipping and returns experience, we present eight additional strategies:


In today's global marketplace, expanding your business beyond borders has never been more enticing. However, to succeed on this international stage, it's crucial to provide a seamless international shipping and returns experience. In this post, we'll delve into eight powerful strategies that can enhance your cross border operations, improve customer satisfaction, and boost your brand's reputation.

1. Customer Insights Through Data Analysis

Elevating your international shipping and returns experience begins with data-driven market research. Utilize advanced analytics to identify the geographical location of international visitors to your website. One effective method is leveraging the power of social commerce, a rapidly growing trend where consumers shop through social media apps. For context, a recent Accenture study predicts this revenue stream to surge to $1.2 trillion by 2025, up from $492 billion in 2021. With insights from web and app usage analytics and social commerce interactions, you'll be well-equipped to make informed decisions on expanding your market presence.


2. Navigating Customs and Taxes

Seamless international shipping requires a comprehensive understanding of customs requirements and taxes. These levies are vital to protecting a nation's economy, environment, and citizens. To ensure your shipments reach their destination without issues, familiarize yourself with the specific documentation and fees essential for each region. Opt for electronic submission to minimize the risk of lost paperwork. Accuracy in labeling, including value, weight, and product descriptions, is paramount to avoid costly delays. Stay informed about prohibited or restricted items, which can vary significantly between countries. For example, aerosols, tobacco, hemp-based products, perfumes with alcohol, and perishable items may be subject to various restrictions. Be sure to consult the guidelines provided by carriers like UPS and USPS specific to each destination. Additionally, if you're considering shipping by sea, understand the distinct tariffs, weight restrictions, and legal requirements applicable to maritime transport. These can differ significantly from those for mailing packages.

3. Transparent Shipping Policies

Crafting a transparent shipping policy is integral to winning customer trust. It's essential to provide a smooth checkout experience by presenting shipping costs in the local currency, ensuring they align with the product's value. A significant percentage of cart abandonment, nearly 50%, in 2020 was attributed to unexpected shipping fees and costs, according to the Baymard Institute. To incentivize multiple-item purchases, consider offering flat-rate or free shipping for orders exceeding a specified dollar amount. Transparency is key. Clearly communicate who bears the responsibility for taxes and duties, which is pivotal for enhancing customer retention. Furthermore, diversify your payment options beyond credit cards. In today's global e-commerce landscape, customers expect versatile payment methods such as PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. These alternatives not only eliminate international transaction fees but also enhance convenience for your customers.

4. Streamlined Production Strategies

Optimizing your production process often involves strategic outsourcing. For instance, certain products, like leather shoes, may incur heavy taxes when shipped internationally. However, by manufacturing and shipping these items locally in the buyer's market, you can circumvent such fees altogether. The establishment of businesses in warehouses situated in the destination country can substantially streamline the ntire operation, enhancing practicality and efficiency. To further streamline international shipping, leverage platforms like Shopify Shipping, offering merchants in the United States, Canada, and Australia access to discounted international shipping rates.

5. Embracing Sustainability and Transparency

In today's global market, sustainability and ethical business practices are paramount. Consumers are increasingly inclined to support brands that proudly uphold high standards in these areas. Notably, numerous countries are implementing policies aimed at elevating sustainability standards. As your company extends its global reach, it is imperative to stay attuned to these evolving standards. For example, New York has recently introduced the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act/Fashion Act. If enacted, this legislation would necessitate international apparel and footwear brands with $100 million in revenue to disclose critical practices. These practices encompass the significant social and environmental impacts of production, worker wages, greenhouse gas emissions, and water or chemical management. Brands would be mandated to provide plans for reducing their impact in these areas. Additionally, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has introduced new requirements to address the environmental impact of maritime transport, which accounts for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The IMO's proposal includes measuring and reporting a ship's carbon intensity index through an annual efficiency ratio (AER). The AER offers detailed data regarding a ship's deadweight tonnage, fuel consumption, and travel history, ultimately assigning a grade that ships must attain to comply with the new regulations. Anticipate that these regulations could increase shipping costs as vessels are updated or maintained to meet the stringent requirements. This could also lead to less frequent deliveries. To mitigate these factors, consider regional warehouses to reduce shipping delays. This strategy involves sourcing suppliers closer to your international customers or stores, which offers additional benefits such as cost savings on labor and supply chain efficiencies.

6. Preparing for Shipping Delays

Delays in shipping, particularly during unforeseen circumstances like the recent pandemic, can result in significant disruptions. To avoid disappointment among customers, proactively account for potential delays and manage expectations. One effective approach is to maintain a robust inventory buffer to address increased demand. If feasible, invest in local production, which can provide a degree of resilience during supply chain disruptions. Platforms like Loop's Destinations integration enable you to efficiently send products to distribution centers and third-party vendors, enhancing adaptability and ensuring smoother operations. For businesses utilizing marine transport, consider bypassing major cities in favor of more streamlined routes, reducing the risk of slowdowns.

7. High-Quality Packaging and Expert Logistics

Packaging quality is a critical factor in ensuring products arrive in pristine condition. Utilize high-quality materials to safeguard items during transit. Evaluate whether insurance is necessary. While it incurs an upfront cost, it may ultimately save you from revenue losses due to damaged goods. There's nothing more disappointing than receiving a long-awaited purchase only to find it has been damaged during transportation. Collaborate with a logistics manager who possesses a deep understanding of the target market. Such an expert can recommend reliable shipping methods that align with cultural nuances and drive revenue growth.

8. Hassle-Free Returns and Customer Engagement

Returns are an integral part of e-commerce, and creating a seamless return process is crucial. Simplify and automate the returns process as much as possible. Offer multiple convenient return options, including covering shipping costs and specifying drop-off locations. To mitigate revenue risk, explore alternatives to straightforward returns. For instance, provide customers with the option of easy exchanges if they seek different sizes or styles. Leveraging transaction history insights enables you to understand customer preferences and lifestyles better, allowing you to suggest products tailored to their needs. By incorporating these measures, you can enhance the returns experience, reduce customer dissatisfaction, and cultivate lasting relationships with your clientele.

In conclusion, your brand's success in international eommerce depends on providing a top-notch shipping and returns experience. By mastering customs, collaborating with local carriers, offering transparent pricing, streamlining returns, establishing international warehouses, providing multilingual support, implementing real-time tracking, and leveraging data analytics, you can create an exceptional international shopping experience that sets you apart in the global marketplace. This not only delights your customers but also drives long-term success for your brand.

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