If you are sending products outside the EU, there are many things to consider. For example, different rules apply for customs and import duties in each country and every carrier has different requirements and conditions. How do you ensure that your customer in South Africa or China, for example, receives their order without any problems? We have put together 10 tips which make it easier to ship abroad.
10 tips for sending international packages
To ensure that you can send your packages to customers abroad without any problems, we have listed 10 tips for trouble-free international shipping for you.
1. Packaging for international shipments
You want your products to arrive to your customer in good condition, so good packaging is important. Also, there are a number of international rules that you must comply with:
- Make sure the shipping box is sturdy and can withstand being dropped from 1.5 metres
- 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 of certain censorship rules abroad
2. Accurate address when sending abroad
An accurate address is essential for delivering your shipments. Therefore, for countries outside the EU, put the customer’s e-mail address and telephone number on the shipping label too. This improves the chances of delivery considerably.
Note: For countries within the EU, showing a telephone number on the outside of the package is not permitted, due to data minimisation under current legislation. Carriers take this into account by not printing this information on the shipping label. When you use a shipping tool such as SendCloud, the telephone number is shared with the carrier, but not printed on the shipping label. This way, you improve the chances of delivering the package successfully.
3. Transit time for international shipments: Express or standard?
Although in principle you can supply your products to customers all over the world, you do have to take transit times into account. So, take a good look at the average transit time for a shipment and communicate this clearly to your customer. Postal networks, such as PostNL, are often rather slower than express networks such as DHL or UPS, for example.
Therefore, offer the customer the choice whether they want express delivery (possibly at extra cost) or normal delivery which may take a little longer. You can easily offer different carriers and shipping options at the checkout with SendCloud.
4. What is and is not allowed with international shipping?
Each country and carrier has different rules about what you can and cannot ship abroad. Therefore, always check the carrier website for the latest information. In general, the following items may not be shipped abroad:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Goods with a limited shelf life
- Petrol or oil
- Nail polish
- Fire extinguishers
- Gas masks
- Lottery tickets
- Uncut diamonds
- Damaged batteries
For example, check this page from PostNL for a general summary of prohibited goods and substances, and an additional list of prohibited items for each country. Or use this UPS tool to see the import regulations which apply in each country or area.
5. Insuring shipments going abroad
Sending high-value goods? Then consider if it is wise to insure the package against loss or damage. Shipments going abroad are lost relatively more often than shipments within the Netherlands.
It depends on the shipping settings you select, whether shipments are insured up to a certain amount by default. You can also choose to take out separate insurance for each package. When you ship using SendCloud, you can choose to do this automatically at a reduced cost.
6. Take customs regulations into account
Although it’s no fun, it is important that you take customs regulations into account. When sending packages outside the EU, customs processing is required.
Authorities are getting stricter at controlling which goods can enter their country. Since 1 January 2019, the information needed when sending goods outside the EU has therefore been tightened up. This means that customs forms must be completed fully and accurately. If you don’t do this, it can be grounds for holding the shipment and not delivering it in the destination country. You can avoid this by filling in all the details, including the optional fields. Forewarned is forearmed!
7. Which customs forms are required for worldwide shipments?
When shipping packages to a country outside the EU (or to one of the EU exceptions), a CN22 or CN23 customs declaration must always be attached. To avoid delays, attaching the most important documents in duplicate is recommended. A proper international package is accompanied by a customs declaration CN22 or CN23, a commercial invoice, a CP71 dispatch note and, if required, a Certificate of Origin (CO).
- Customs declaration CN22 | Customs declaration CN22
For sending goods weighing up to 2 kg and up to 425 euros in value. You simply attach the CN22 customs declaration to the outside of the package.
- Customs declaration CN23 | Customs declaration CN23
For sending goods weighing more than 2 kg and/or more than 425 euros in value. The CN23 declaration is larger than the CN22 declaration and must be attached to the outside of the package in a clear envelope.
- Despatch Note CP71
Mandatory document accompanying the CN23 declaration.
- Commercial Invoice | Commercial Invoice
Export document which must be attached 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.
- Certificate of Origin (CO)
Shows the origin of the product and therefore certifies in which country a product was made. 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.
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. You need to attach two of these documents to the outside of the package, in what is often called a “packing list envelope”, and we advise putting one Commercial Invoice inside the package.
When completing these documents you must take the following considerations into account:
- Describe each item separately on the declaration
- State the quantity, weight (in grams) and value (in €)
- Also state the total weight and total value of the contents, even if a gift or sample
- Identify each item using the 6-digit HS goods code from the World Customs Organization and state the country of origin/manufacture. You can look it up here.
- Sign the CN22/Commercial Invoice label. If the signature is missing, this can lead to delays.
8. What you need to know about Incoterms
International Commercial Terms or “Incoterms” are standardised international terms relating to the transport of goods. You include them on the Commercial Invoice. In doing so, you automatically specify who arranges and pays the transport costs, documentation and insurance. Since 2010, these rules have been updated and some rules from previous Incoterms have been amended and/or merged.
Don’t know which Incoterm to use? Then we recommend putting DAP. This means that, as the seller, you pay the shipping costs, arrange the insurance and prepare export documentation. The recipient pays any import and customs charges.
9. Extra charges for you or for your customers? Manage expectations!
Speaking of charges in tip 8: make sure your customer is aware of the fact that, most likely, customs charges will need to be paid. If your customer is not aware of this, he may refuse the package. This could mean that, as sender, you then have to pay return and customs charges for this package. What’s more, if this happens you will probably lose the customer altogether, because they did not count on these extra charges and may not want to order from you again.
10. Not sure? Contact the carrier or intermediary
International selling offers many opportunities for your online shop, but you do have to take a lot of things into account. Don’t take chances if you are unsure about anything, and contact the transporter and/or intermediary if you have any questions. They will be up to speed with the latest customs regulations in the destination country.
At SendCloud we regularly receive enquiries about an international package that is stuck in customs because of missing or incorrect information, and that is such a shame! This means a considerable delay in the entire process. Therefore, ask for help beforehand, if needed. Better to ask too much than too little, right?
Want to know more about international shipping and the tips in this article? Then download our white paper free of charge.