Four tips for international shipping

Making the transition to international shipping can be tricky. Here are four tips to help.

If you're an owner of a fledgling business, odds are that you are focusing on finding success in smaller, local markets for starters. As more and more consumers in your area begin to choose you over your competitors in the region, it may be time to think about expanding your business to a greater area.

Eventually, that may force you and other leaders of your business to contemplate options in international shipping. While you start to look abroad for additional markets, you will inevitably begin to discover for yourself how complicated it can be to make the transition to international shipping.

But that doesn't mean that international shipping is impossible. With an overwhelming growth in e-commerce over the past few years, the ability for businesses to ship their products across the world is becoming more and more popular as well. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, e-commerce in the U.S. grew by almost 15 percent in 2015 alone.

That said, shipping internationally is a different process than mailing your aunt a birthday card just a few states away. Don't let that stop you from expanding your business to an international marketplace. Here are four tips for international shipping:

1. Be selective about the products you ship internationally

To begin, remember that not all the products you are selling to local markets are appealing to different markets across the world. Take the time to research the countries where you're interested in selling your goods. You don't need to offer every one of your products internationally. Instead, start with fewer products that you know will have success. There's nothing wrong with taking small steps when entering the global market.

2. Check the rules and regulations of the destination country

After you've done market research on potential products, study the laws of the country in which you wish to sell them. Start by ensuring that it is legal to sell your product in that country. Even things you take for granted may be illegal in certain countries. For example, according to Practical Ecommerce, foreign calendars are illegal in the country of Vietnam. If you're looking for a good place to start your search for shipping regulations in a foreign country, take a look at the list of country restrictions from USPS.

3. Double-check your labels

Although you probably know exactly how to address letters and packages in the U.S., different rules may apply elsewhere. In fact, incorrect documentation is one of the top three causes for delays in international shipments. It's a good idea to double-check your destination label and return address with industry standards before you hand your product over for shipping. Either type or write legibly using all capital letters. The full address should fit onto five lines. For example:

MR JOHN DOE
1234 PARLIAMENT PARKWAY
LONDON WIP 7HQ
‚ÄčENGLAND

4. Know (and understand) the costs of shipping

If you owned a clothing company in Los Angeles you would only have to pay one shipping rate to send a T-shirt to Columbus, Ohio. If you were trying to send the same T-shirt to China, however, you will most likely encounter a wide variety of shipping costs. The same item that only cost a few dollars to ship across the country could cost more than $20 or $30 to send overseas. It's important to check to see how much it will cost you to ship something internationally. You may find that the profit isn't worth the added expenditure – and extra hassle – of shipping something abroad.