Navigating the Seas and Skies: Your Ultimate Guide to International Shipping in 2023

International Shipping
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International Shipping: Everything You Need to Know in 2023

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, manufacturer, or even a shopper, you've likely asked, "How does international shipping work?" It's the lifeline that connects businesses to international customers, turning local enterprises into global contenders. It's a strategic move that expands your market reach and boosts your brand visibility.

However, it’s not simply moving your goods from one country to another. You should make sure that your products reach their destination efficiently, safely, and most importantly in compliance with relevant regulations.

This article will delve deep into the intricacies of international shipping, from the journey of a package to the costs and considerations businesses should be aware of. We'll also navigate the complex world of customs and regulations, and address the unique challenges and solutions presented in 2023.

In the end, you can confidently navigate the maze of intricacies of international shipping. Plus, you can confidently choose the best strategies for your business, avoid wasting resources, and meet your international buyers’ demands. 

How Does International Shipping Work?

International shipping involves moving your products across continents or oceans. It needs to go through several steps that involve you, carriers, ports or airports, legal documents, shipping calculators, and customs.

Here’s the scenario: You’re a retailer specializing in baseball pitching nets, and an international customer from Japan places an order. These nets, given their size, present unique shipping challenges like a bigger international shipping cost.

To send your products, you need to choose among many shipping options, weighing delivery speed against costs and the bulkiness of your product. Once packed, you need to hand the package to your chosen major carrier partner—like FedEx, UPS, or DHL.

These international shipping companies have vast networks of planes, trucks, and ships to move goods globally. But it doesn’t stop there. Before your pitching net takes its international flight, it needs to get customs clearance. Only then it’ll be allowed to leave the country of origin. 

Moreover, once your goods reach the destination country, it needs to be scrutinized by customs again. Once everything is good to go, it gets to the destination handling stage and is prepared for delivery to your customer who’s ready to perfect their pitch. 

International Shipping With Reship

Many aspiring entrepreneurs put their efforts and resources into digital marketing tactics, SEO best practices, and going all out in ads. Those are all vital in getting the word out and building brand awareness. But then what?

If you hit the nail with those methods, you’ll have a barrage of customers worldwide. However, if you can’t meet their demands and bring your product to their steps, then all those resources are wasted.

That's where Reship comes in. It allows you to seamlessly establish multiple shipping addresses in the US, UK, or Canada. This game-changing service helps eradicate international shipping hurdles. 

Plus, Reship lets you choose from diverse carriers and lets you consolidate your international packages. This cuts down shipping costs significantly, making global marketplace goals achievable for your business.

Now, it’s time to dive into the different eCommerce platforms and see how they’re making it easier for entrepreneurs like you to broaden your reach and get your products to a global customer base.

International Shipping Simplified: How 3 eCommerce Elites Deal With It

These eCommerce platforms are at the forefront of the industry and are continuously playing a role in bringing entrepreneurs to global expansion through their overseas shipping process. With their help, sending your products from country to country becomes more seamless and less headache-inducing.

A. eBay

This is a trailblazer platform for eCommerce businesses because it allows entrepreneurs to generate international sales through its International Shipping Program (ISP). Instead of grappling with customs documentation by yourself, all you have to do is send your item to eBay’s domestic shipping center.

Then, the magic happens. eBay manages international shipping, from package pickup to navigating customs. 

The best part?

This program has 5% cheaper international shipping costs compared to eBay’s pre-negotiated international shipping rates with USPS.

But what if a customer returns a product? eBay got you covered. They’ll handle all returns and refunds, streamlining return shipping.

However, to be a part of ISP, you’ll need to meet eBay’s requirements from having an “Above Standard” or “Top Rated” seller performance to having your account registered in the USA. 

B. Amazon

Through Amazon Global Selling, you can offer your products in different Amazon marketplaces and get access to its more than 200 million members. However, if your inventory is stationed in a different country from Amazon's shipping center, you're in for an international shipping journey.

You’ll be responsible for being the exporter from the source country and the importer into the destination. Plus, you’ll be on the hook for all applicable duties, taxes, and regulations in both countries.

Amazon steps back from customs duties and any shipment arriving with due charges gets a swift return ticket to you. 

Here’s the process overview:

  • Craft your listing in Seller Central.

  • Draft a commercial invoice, marking yourself as the importer.

  • Select your customs broker or choose a carrier that takes care of that.

  • Then, your products will be moved to the port to get export customs clearance, load them for transit, and ship them to the destination port.

  • Once the products are offloaded at the destination port, they need an import customs clearance. 

  • Load the products onto the carrier for transport to the fulfillment center. 

C. Etsy

Etsy, a haven for unique and handmade treasures, empowers its sellers to reach customers across borders through its Global Postal Shipping program. 

But before your rush to the post office, Etsy also has a guide to help you through the customs process. One important factor that they highlight is the need to include the right tariff code. It's a small detail that can prevent a customs delay, ensuring your creation reaches its new home swiftly.

Here’s a snippet of what you should do first according to Etsy’s customs guidelines:

  • Enter the total package weight and the customs descriptions for all items. Be accurate and round up the weight to the nearest whole number.

  • In the sender information, put both your full name and your shop's name. This clarity can potentially sidestep customs hiccups.

  • When filling out recipient details, always use the buyer's full name, even if they represent a business. 

  • Be transparent about the package's value. Keep handy documentation, like order receipts, to back up the item’s declared value.

With a grasp on how leading eCommerce platforms navigate international shipping, you can delve deeper into the details and factors that affect it. This will let you prepare on how to handle it, factoring in costs and additional charges, which if you’re not careful, could balloon up and impact your bottom line. 

Costs & Considerations For International Shipping

In navigating international deliveries, costs play a pivotal role. Beyond the basic freight charges, customs duties, taxes, and unexpected fees can quickly escalate the cost of shipping.

Here’s a quick overview of what you should expect:

  • Duties: These charges are imposed by the government.

  • Taxes: Specific international shipments are liable to an import tax.

  • Fees: Fixed rates apply for transportation, currency conversion, and parcel handling.

  • Tariffs: Certain foreign goods are tagged with taxation to encourage local production and enhance their appeal to customers.

As an online business owner, include those expenses in your pricing, making sure your company is profitable. 

Here’s a scenario: You run a brand selling customized mugs and t-shirts with personalized messages. Your items are individually lightweight, but if you’re shipping dozens of t-shirts and mugs in one package, the overall weight of your international parcels increases along with the costs. 

Another factor is how fragile the mugs are. Some carriers don’t charge extra for fragile items, while others, like USPS, do. Additionally, the choice of shipping method, by air for quicker delivery or sea for cost savings, can also impact your bottom line. 

You need to think of those when pricing your shirts so you won’t take losses. You can leverage shipping calculators, like the one from Reship, to gauge the best method or carrier based on factors like delivery time and package weight. 

Moreover, you need to consider shipping insurance against potential human errors or damages. There’s also the fact that carrier rate shipping varies depending on their requirements, making it crucial for you to research before selecting the best international shipping company for your products. 

Next up, let's tackle customs and regulations. A misstep here could snag your products in delays or even lead to confiscation. Worse yet, you might find yourself tangled in legal issues or slapped with violation fees. Navigating customs is a crucial leg in your journey of international transportation. 

Navigating Customs & Regulations

Getting your hands on international sales is exciting, but the maze of customs and regulations is overwhelming. Every nation has customs authorities that wield distinct rules, affecting imports and exports, so maneuvering through them requires precision. 

For instance, accurate customs declarations are pillars of the shipping process, where a single misstep could trigger delays, penalties, or even the confiscation of your prized products. However, it’s more than just filling out or getting customs forms ready. 

There’s a spectrum of banned items in different countries. What's embraced in one place might be unwelcome in another. Vigilance over these lists is paramount for seamless shipments. Plus, carriers have their own banned and prohibited items.  So, what can you do?

You can hire a seasoned executive assistant (EA) that has experience with customs intricacies and impeccable attention to detail. Those skills can make your life easier when filling out customs forms. An EA can also help you with research on which products are allowed and banned in your target country. Then, you can focus on other parts of your business.

With that, it’s time to tackle the challenges you can face in dabbling in international shipping and explore the potential solutions you can implement to make sure your goods reach your customers worldwide.

2 Prominent Challenges & Solutions For International Shipping

Many players are involved to have your products reach your customers’ doorsteps. That’s why it’s no surprise that you’ll meet obstacles you’ll need to jump through. Fortunately, you can employ solutions to lower the risks involved and continue making your brand global. 

Challenge 1: Disrupted Shipping Routes

The international shipping process is no stranger to disruptions. Sometimes political upheavals shake the foundations of trade agreements or workers take part in strikes that stop the process overall. Additionally, there can be natural disasters blocking ocean freight and air freight pathways, making the journey of your package fraught with uncertainties. 


This is when tech-driven solutions shine. Although those disruptions are mostly out of your control, you can still do something on your end. One such game-changer is incorporating streaming data integration software.

It’ll allow you to track your shipments in real-time, pivoting routes as challenges arise, and ensuring that every package not only meets but exceeds customer expectations. 

Instead of being blindsided by a sudden blockade or delay, you're proactively rerouting, making informed decisions on the fly. Whether it's ocean freight caught in a political storm or air freight threatened by a brewing cyclone, you've got the tools to navigate and deliver with confidence.

Challenge 2: Fluctuating Fuel Prices

One of the most volatile elements of international shipping is fuel prices. Global events, from political standoffs to economic shifts, can send fuel surcharges on a roller coaster ride. Thus, predicting your international shipping service costs means aiming at a constantly moving target.


To anchor your shipping strategy amidst these tides, diversification is key. Instead of relying solely on one mode of transport, consider blending ocean and air freight. 

You can evaluate the urgency of shipments against their cost, letting you choose the most efficient and economical method. For instance, while air freight might be faster, ocean freight often offers a more budget-friendly alternative, especially for bulk shipments.

Moreover, you can engage with your package forwarder or carrier to explore options like flat rate pricing. This approach not only provides cost predictability but also shields you from unexpected surges in fuel surcharges.

You should also harness the power of analytics. Integrating an analytics platform into your operations lets you gain invaluable insights. You'll discern which routes offer the best value, understand when to pivot between transport methods, and identify areas in the shipping process ripe for cost-saving opportunities.

Following that, let’s explore the best practices for international shipping. Mastering these lets you optimize your operations, avoid losing resources, and make sure your products get to the hands of your international customers. 

4 Best Practices For International Shipping

In the global arena, it's crucial to have every advantage at your disposal. Following these best practices ensures you have a seamless international shipping process, helping you maintain a positive business image for your valued customers.

I. Understand Local Regulations

Each country dances to its own rhythm, especially when it comes to shipping regulations. Thus, diving deep into destination-specific regulations is more than just a precaution; it's a strategy.

Equipping yourself with this knowledge sidesteps potential pitfalls and makes sure you have a smoother international shipping process for your products. Think of it as getting a local guide for each of your shipments. So, before you send off that package, take a moment to understand the lay of the land.

II. Know Your Documents

Proper documentation is crucial for international shipping to avoid delays, comply with regulations, steer clear of financial implications, and have an efficient business operation. 

Here are key documents you should know about:

  • Certificate of Origin: This certifies the country in which your products are manufactured.

  • Commercial Invoice: This provides information about the transaction, including a detailed description of the goods, their value, the terms of sale, and the names and addresses of the buyer and seller (you).

  • Bill of Lading (BOL): This is a contract between you and the carrier, detailing the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried. It also serves as a shipment receipt when the carrier delivers the goods.

III. Transparent Tracking

Competition for customers is fierce in today’s global and digital age. So, how do you stand out?

Offer real-time tracking for your shipments. It's more than just a feature, it's a statement of trust and transparency. With this, you'll give your customers peace of mind since they can monitor their package's every move.

We’re in an era where customers crave information at their fingertips, so having transparent tracking positions your business as responsive, reliable, and customer-centric. It's a simple yet powerful tool to set you apart in a crowded marketplace.

IV. Stay Insured

So, you’ve done everything right, and your product is already en route to your customer. But what if the unexpected strikes?

A mishap during transit or an unforeseen event could jeopardize your shipment. That's where shipping insurance steps in as your safety net. Investing in insurance is like having a protective shield for your goods and helps you minimize your chances of financial loss. 


As markets expand and eCommerce bridges geographical divides, making sure your products reach international customers seamlessly becomes paramount. So knowing how international shipping works is a strategic move that can catapult your brand onto the global stage.

Delving deep into the various factors that impact costs, understanding the customs and regulations that must be adhered to, and embracing industry best practices let you effectively deliver on your brand's promise across borders.

However, the international shipping landscape is ever-evolving. Stay agile, continuously evaluate and adapt your strategies to meet new challenges, and seize emerging opportunities.

As you ponder your next move, consider this: Are you fully leveraging the potential of global markets?

If not, you can always rely on Reship as your partner to simplify your international shipping needs. Creating a Reship account means you can have a mailbox in the USA, UK, and Canada. Not to mention, access to discounted shipping rates and a wide array of logistics services. Don’t wait any longer, choose your plan and sign-up now.

Author Bio

Burkhard Berger is the founder of Novum™. He helps innovative B2B companies implement revenue-driven SEO strategies to scale their organic traffic to 1,000,000+ visitors per month. Curious about what your true traffic potential is?

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