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Deciding the best process to ship internationally can be a complex process, but there are many things to consider. Shipping internationally has many more complications than domestic shipping, like increased risks, customs, and stricter regulations. It’s vital to have a solid international shipping strategy so essential steps aren’t missed. Failing to fulfil the necessary requirements for international shipping can result in undelivered packages, high costs, and – of course – unhappy customers. 

International Shipping: How To Send A Package Abroad?

international shipping
Below, you will find our complete checklist for international shipping. So whether you’re brand new to sending your products abroad, or whether you’ve been doing it for a while, make sure you carefully assess each step and include them in your own international shipping process. 

The checklist covers the following: 

  1. Unauthorised goods
  2. Incoterms
  3. Unexpected costs
  4. Calculating shipping costs
  5. Customs forms
  6. Packaging
  7. Addressing
  8. Insurance
  9. Returns
  10. Feedback

1: Don’t offer unauthorised goods that you can’t ship internationally

You are responsible for the goods you send. Products that are prohibited will be confiscated or destroyed – resulting in a loss for you. Every country has different rules so it’s important to make sure you are 100% confident you can deliver your products before selling to your customers. Otherwise, you could risk losing money and ending up with an unsatisfied customer who won’t receive their purchase. 

Which products are you generally not allowed to ship internationally?

  • Aerosol sprays
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Cigarettes
  • Perishable goods
  • Petrol or oil
  • Fingernail polish
  • Perfume and aftershave
  • Poison
  • Lighters
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Gas masks
  • Lottery tickets
  • Rough diamonds
  • Damaged Batteries
  • Magnets

2: Determine your Incoterms 

International Commercial Terms (commonly known as Incoterms) are a set of standardised international arrangements for transporting goods. They serve as a contract between seller and buyer and describe all tasks, risks, and costs associated with the transactions of goods. They were developed to avoid misunderstandings. 

It’s important to choose which Incoterm(s) you will use for which products and to which countries before you start to ship internationally. Incoterms are used to: 

  • State who is responsible for the cost of the shipment, insurance, import and customs costs of the shipment. 
  • Determine who is responsible for transport and where to. 
  • Allocate when the risk and costs of delivery pass from seller to buyer. 

international shipping
When deciding your Incoterms, keep in mind that not all carriers support every one. So always check this with the carrier you want to ship internationally with.

Want to know more about Incoterms, including the updated list for 2020, what each Incoterm means, and how to use them? Then head over to our complete guide on Incoterms. 

3: Don’t surprise customers with extra costs

Make sure to clearly communicate your Incoterm(s) and any other terms and conditions to your customers before they make the purchase. The Incoterm will determine what the customer is responsible for, including costs and transport. 

If your chosen Incoterm means the customer will face custom costs, make sure they are aware of this. If your customer is not aware, they could refuse the package. This means you could have to pay for the custom costs and return of the package. 

Clearly communicate in your shipping and return policy about what costs will be involved for your customers. Plainly describe the Incoterm(s) you choose so general consumers can understand them, explaining each condition so they know what it really means for them. 

4: Calculate shipping costs to avoid loss

Once you’ve determined what products you will be shipping, where you will be shipping them to, and who is responsible for what costs, map out all costs associated with getting your products to your customers.  

Here’s a quick example of how to calculate your total price. This includes the cost of shipping and ensures every cost is allocated.

  • Cost of the product12.00 euros
  • Packaging2.25 euros
  • Cost of the shipping6.50 euros
  • Handling charges2.00 euros
  • Duties and taxes4.50 euros
  • Credit card fee2.9%
  • Profit margin50%
  • Total price56.00 euros

Use the Sendcloud Price Calculator to calculate shipping costs. 
sendcloud price calculator

5: Include all customs forms needed 

Include all the customs forms – filled in correctly – to ensure the package is delivered. There is no free movement of goods outside the EU and if you don’t complete customs forms correctly, your package could be delayed or blocked. Depending on the carrier and destination, a Commercial Invoice, a CN22 or CN23, and a Certificate of Origin are required when you ship internationally.

Customs declaration CN22 | Customs declaration CN22

Include a CN22 when sending goods weighing up to 2 kg and up to 425 euros in value. Attach the CN22 customs declaration to the outside of the package.

Customs declaration CN23 | Customs declaration CN23

Include a CN23 when sending goods weighing over 2 kg and/or more than 425 euros in value, then you will need the CN23. The CN23 declaration is larger than the CN22 declaration and must be attached to the outside of the package in a clear envelope. Include a second copy inside the package as well.

Despatch Note CP71

This is a mandatory document that accompanies the CN23 declaration.

Commercial Invoice | Commercial Invoice

Attach the Commercial Invoice to any commercial shipment going to a country outside the EU. The commercial invoice is a mandatory customs document which includes information about the contents of the package and any agreed terms, such as who pays the customs charges (the Incoterms).

Normally you need to attach three copies of the Commercial Invoice, one for the country you are exporting from, one for the country you are sending to and one for the recipient. Attach two copies to the outside of the package in a “packing list envelope”. Then we advise putting one Commercial Invoice inside the package.

Certificate of Origin (CO)

The Certificate of Origin shows the origin of the product and therefore certifies in which country a product was made. This is required when importing goods from a number of countries outside the EU. A CO can be requested from the Chamber of Commerce website, and you can check whether a CO is required for your shipment using this link.

Don’t Forget: Always have your own copy of the documents for your own records. If problems arise, you can still submit a modified invoice to customs.  

Learn more about Customs forms, when they’re required and how to fill them out in our in-depth whitepaper covering everything you need to know about international shipping.

6: Pack products appropriately for international shipping

international shipping
Pack the products you ship internationally safely and securely so they arrive without damage or other issues. International shipping guidelines state that your package should be able to withstand a drop of 1.5 metres.

Tips to package your products: 

  • Fill the box with packing material such as bubble wrap or polystyrene
  • Put extra tape over the corners of the shipping box
  • Do not use newspaper as a filling material, because there may be censorship rules abroad
  • Avoid boxes that are too small for filling materials, and do not use string or twine to seal the box. 

7: Address the package correctly to avoid a failed delivery 

Each country has its own rules for how to correctly write addresses. In some countries, addresses may not include a house number, postal code or even a street name. This can cause confusion. To ensure that your shipment reaches the final destination without any problems, take into account the following general rules.

How to address the package correctly:

  • Recipient’s name
  • Street with house number / P.O. box number
  • Postcode and place name 
  • Country name

Always print the name of the destination country in capital letters after the name of the recipient’s town or city. Write the country and city names in English. Do not include any ISO codes with the postal codes or town/city names, such as FR, D, CH, etc. This may result in errors and delays in the sorting process.

8: Consider insuring your packages to avoid loss 

sendcloud insuranceOverseas shipments are more prone to damage or loss than domestic shipments. It is wise to consider insurance before you ship internationally, especially if you send high-value items. You could risk making a loss if something were to happen to a package. 

Some shipping options are insured as a standard for a certain amount by the carrier. However, you can also choose to insure your packages independently of the carriers. This can be a faster option, as some carriers take over 3 months to respond and take action on a claim. 

The Sendcloud Insurance lets you insure against any amount, easily and affordably with a quick handling of claims.

9: Consider offering returns for your international shipping 

Returns are an important aspect of e-commerce. Though it isn’t mandatory to offer returns to products shipped outside of the EU, it is a customer-friendly option to offer your customers the option if they want to. 

If you decide to create a returns strategy, then you have the option to choose from the following options: 

  • Outsource your returns to a local partner: Customers can return cheaply to their own country, then the partner can handle the return to your warehouse. 
  • Collaborate with an international logistics party: Make ready-made labels for the return shipments by making price agreements for both shipments and returns. 
  • International return solutions: Choose a party that offers a complete return solution on an international level.

10: Ask for feedback!

We all know the only way to get better at something is to get feedback. Just like you ask for product reviews, make sure you ask your international customers for comments on the service you’ve provided.

Your customers will be able to point out things you might not have realised could cause issues, and you can easily identify a solution to fix this in the process. Providing a good international service can help you gain loyal customers from across the globe, helping to tap into a larger market than just the one from your domestic country.

Need more information about international shipping?

What are you top tips for international shipping? Or do you have more questions? Let us know below in the comments – we look forward to hearing from you! And don’t forget to download our FREE whitepaper on international shipping.

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