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Most Common Reasons for Delays in International Shipping

Most Common Reasons for Delays in International Shipping

Phuc Le
May 5, 2023

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, eCommerce businesses have seized the opportunity to expand their customer base beyond borders. Thanks to technological advancements and global trade agreements, it is now possible to sell products to customers in different countries with relative ease. However, international shipping is not without its challenges. One of the biggest obstacles faced by eCommerce businesses today is shipping disruptions, which can cause delays and result in customer dissatisfaction.

If you are running an eCommerce business that sells to customers across borders, delivering your products on time and in good condition is crucial to your success. But what happens when things go wrong? These disruptions can cause significant delays that can negatively impact your business reputation and bottom line.

However, there are ways to deal with these disruptions effectively. In this article, we will explore the different types of shipping disruptions and provide practical tips on how to mitigate their impact

1. Customs clearance

Customs clearance can be a complicated process, involving inspections, taxes, and fees that vary by country. It's essential to understand the regulations and requirements of each destination country to avoid delays and ensure successful delivery. In 2019, global trade experienced a total of 117.6 million customs seizures worth $3.3 billion, which highlights the importance of adhering to customs regulations.

To navigate this process efficiently, partnering with experienced logistics companies that have extensive knowledge and experience with customs clearance is essential. These companies can help you prepare and submit necessary documentation, and liaise with local authorities to minimize the risk of delays. It's also important to provide accurate and detailed information on product descriptions, values, and quantities to avoid any discrepancies during the customs clearance process.

2. Weather conditions

Bad weather condition may impact delivery

Weather conditions can significantly impact the transportation and delivery of goods, causing delays and disruptions. According to the World Economic Forum, the total economic cost of natural disasters reached $232 billion in 2019, with transportation and logistics being one of the most affected sectors.

It's crucial to monitor weather conditions and have contingency plans in place to address any potential disruptions. One strategy is to diversify your shipping routes to avoid areas that are prone to severe weather conditions. You can also leverage technology, such as real-time tracking and weather forecasting tools, to make informed decisions and keep your customers updated.

3. Holidays and peak seasons

Holidays and peak seasons can significantly impact delivery services and cause delays. For example, Chinese New Year, which falls between January and February, can cause disruptions in shipping from China, affecting eCommerce businesses that rely on Chinese suppliers. Similarly, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday season can create a surge in demand for delivery services, leading to delays in shipping and delivery.

To manage these peak periods, eCommerce businesses should plan ahead and communicate with their customers. It's essential to understand the shipping lead times and capacity of delivery services during these periods and set realistic delivery expectations for your customers. You can also offer alternative delivery options, such as expedited shipping, to meet the demands of customers who need their orders quickly.

4. Incorrect or incomplete address

Providing an incorrect or incomplete address is a common mistake that can cause delays in delivery. In fact, according to a survey by Pitney Bowes, 20% of eCommerce shipments experience delivery issues due to incorrect or incomplete addresses.

To avoid these delays, it's crucial to verify and confirm the address with the customer before shipping the product. You can use automated address verification tools to check the accuracy of the address and reduce errors. Another strategy is to offer address correction services to your customers to prevent errors at the source.

5. Missing or inaccurate documentation

Missing or inaccurate documentation can also cause delays or rejection at customs, leading to frustration and potential loss of business. For example, a missing or inaccurate commercial invoice can lead to lengthy delays in the customs clearance process. In 2019, 70% of customs issues were due to incorrect or missing documentation.

To avoid these issues, eCommerce businesses should have a clear understanding of the necessary documentation for cross-border delivery and ensure its accuracy. Automating the documentation process with digital tools can also help reduce errors and streamline the customs clearance process.

6. Product restrictions

Prohibited goods in international shipping

Certain products may be restricted or prohibited from entering certain countries due to safety, health, or legal reasons. It's essential to understand these restrictions and regulations to avoid delays, penalties, or even the seizure of goods. In 2020, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized over 27,000 shipments of counterfeit goods worth approximately $1.3 billion.

To navigate these restrictions, eCommerce businesses should conduct thorough research on the product restrictions and regulations of the destination country before shipping their products. They can also partner with experienced logistics companies that have extensive knowledge of international shipping regulations to ensure compliance and avoid any issues.

7. Delivery errors

Delivery errors are a common problem in international shipping and can have a significant impact on delivery times. Inaccurate or incomplete addressing information, incorrect labeling, and damaged packaging are just a few examples of the types of errors that can occur during shipping. According to a survey conducted by MetaPack, delivery errors are a major problem, with 55% of customers experiencing a late or failed delivery due to incorrect addressing.

To reduce the risk of delivery errors, it's essential to use accurate and complete addressing information and to make sure that your products are packaged securely and labeled correctly. This can help to minimize the risk of damage during transit and ensure that your products are delivered to the correct address, on time, and in good condition.

8. Political instability

Unrest or protest affecting crossborder delivery

Political instability can have a significant impact on international shipping, with protests, riots, and civil unrest all potentially causing disruptions to transportation and delivery services. For example, during the Arab Spring in 2011, many businesses in Egypt were affected by the unrest, leading to delays in delivery services. Similarly, the ongoing conflict in Yemen has disrupted shipping routes and caused delays in the delivery of humanitarian aid.

To mitigate the impact of political instability on shipping, it's essential to have contingency plans and work with logistics providers that have experience operating in politically unstable regions. This can help to minimize the risk of delays and ensure that your products are delivered on time and in good condition.

9. Capacity constraints

Capacity constraints can also lead to delays in international shipping, particularly during peak seasons such as the holiday season. During these periods, delivery services may experience a surge in demand, leading to capacity constraints and delays. Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to disruptions in transportation and logistics, causing capacity constraints and delays.

To mitigate the impact of capacity constraints on shipping, it's essential to plan ahead and work with logistics providers that have sufficient capacity to handle your shipping needs. This can help to ensure that your products are delivered on time and in good condition, even during periods of high demand or disruption.

10. Payment issues

Payment issues can also cause delays in international shipping, with customs duties and taxes often causing problems for businesses and customers alike. If your customer fails to pay the customs duties or taxes on their shipment, it may be held at customs, leading to delays. Similarly, if there are issues with your payment processing system, it may cause delays in the processing of your shipment.

To avoid payment issues, it's crucial to have a reliable payment processing system and work with logistics providers that have experience handling customs clearance and tax payments. This can help to ensure that your products are delivered on time and in good condition, without being held up by payment-related issues.

In conclusion…

As an eCommerce seller, it's essential to acknowledge that delays in international shipping can be inevitable in some scenarios. Customs clearance, weather conditions, holidays, and peak seasons, and other factors outside of your control can cause shipping delays. However, it's how you proactively manage these delays that can set you apart from other sellers.

One way to differentiate yourself is by communicating with your customers about the potential for delays and providing updates on the status of their shipments. This can help manage customer expectations and reduce frustration. Another way to stay ahead of delays is by working with logistics providers that have experience navigating customs clearance, transportation disruptions, and capacity constraints.

By being proactive in managing potential delays, eCommerce sellers can turn this into a competitive advantage. Customers are more likely to return to a seller that has transparent communication and is reliable in delivering their products, even in challenging circumstances. So, don't view delays as a setback, but as an opportunity to set yourself apart from other sellers in the eCommerce space.

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