For retailers and manufacturers, global e-commerce is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity. Data suggests the international e-commerce market will total nearly $5 trillion this year, and that figure is estimated to reach more than $6.3 trillion in the next three years.
Borderless e-commerce has become a profitable option for large and small businesses alike, but the opportunities can be overwhelming. How do you choose the right shipping model and carriers? Do you need a freight forwarder or a logistics service provider? What’s the difference between the two?
Below, let’s break down all the ways to handle international shipments, and the obstacles e-tailers may face.
The Right Shipping Model
While there are many ways to handle the shipping and fulfillment process with international shipping, the best option depends on your current business model.
Because these businesses ship large volumes, B2B shipping and fulfillment needs differ from that of B2C or D2C. Businesses that sell products in bulk, especially to multiple countries, benefit from having professional shipping services that offer services and features to streamline the shipping and fulfillment process.
Freight forwarders arrange the logistics for high-volume orders from start to finish, making the process less stressful for you. Each freight forwarder offers its own range of features and services, however, so here are some points to consider:
Regionally Focused Freight Forwarders
Like freight forwarders, regionally focused freight forwarders offer similar benefits, but operate in a smaller area. Some examples of regionally focused freight forwarders include Yamato Holdings Co. (Japan), YunExpress Logistics Co. (China) and Savo Store (East Africa). Because they operate in a small area, they have a deeper knowledge of the regulations and compliance in their market and can help you save on time and expense.
One of the benefits of choosing a regionally focused freight forwarder is that you can get Delivered Duty Paid service, a service that allows the customs duties to be paid in advance. Many customers may prefer purchasing from a company that handles the customs duties and eliminates any surprises upon delivery.
Some regionally focused freight forwarders offer door-to-door services in their region, taking a lot of hassle out of your process. You can leave the shipping to them, giving you the freedom to focus on running your business.
Both B2C and D2C businesses have similar processes for customer orders and benefit from the same shipping and fulfillment processes.
Regional Logistics Service Providers
The most professional option for international shipping is a regional logistics service provider. These companies offer top-notch service to specific areas, learn the most efficient shipping routes and handle compliance, tariffs, documentation and other services for you.
Multi-Carrier Shipping Aggregator
Companies like Shippo are multi-carrier shipping aggregators and offer many beneficial services, such as producing import and export documentation, automating shipping labels and managing orders. Different shipping aggregators offer different packages and features for large businesses' shipping needs.
Courier services are familiar and convenient for shipping internationally. Many businesses use companies like DHL and FedEx Corp., and several platforms offer integration to streamline the process. You can find many helpful features, such as label printing, shipping schedules and instant quotes. For many, courier services are the simplest shipping option.
International Shipping Obstacles
No matter how good your shipping partner is, you may come up against obstacles in the international shipping process. Some of these include:
To ensure a smooth process, follow these tips:
If you’re thinking about expanding your market to include international customers, there’s no better time than the present. The market is rapidly growing and offering untapped potential for international e-commerce businesses. Though you have some planning to get started, it’s well worth the initial effort to have a global customer base.
Sidney Karanja is founder of Savo Store, a logistics and procurement services provider.
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