Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.
International shipping means tackling new challenges as a small business. You’ll need to get to grips with different processes, calculate additional costs, and build new partnerships – but it could also be a turning point for your business’ growth.
With the rise of eCommerce and online retail globally, international shipping has become a popular option for customers and business owners looking to expand into new markets. In Europe, cross-border shipping is becoming especially common with 25.5% of all online sales crossing country lines and shipping from overseas.
Read on to find out how international shipping can drive success for your small business and learn how to ship internationally.
Why is international shipping so important?
In 2018, just 44% of British eCommerce businesses offered worldwide delivery options. But this has changed. Now more than two-thirds of global eCommerce brands are selling internationally, and more are looking to move in this direction. Two-thirds of those that don’t currently offer cross-border shipping are looking to introduce it soon.
And demand is booming. The number of eCommerce customers has continued to grow, with forecasts suggesting that online retail will make up almost a quarter of total global retail sales by 2025.
With more than 505 million e-commerce consumers across Europe, offering international shipping could be a game changer for your business.
Benefits of international shipping
Here are the top benefits of international shipping for small businesses:
Reaches more consumers
International shipping means you can reach a wider range of customers from a broader range of markets. With this potential, you can start to target customers on a global scale, opening endless opportunities for your business.
Grows awareness of brand
More markets mean more opportunities to boost brand awareness. It also gives you the chance to build a positive international reputation. Engage with your global markets to get them talking about your brand online for growth in organic visibility.
Offers flexibility for customers
With more shipping options available, you can add a level of flexibility for your customers. This can be a unique selling point (USP) for your business that customers can utilise and rely upon when in need.
Ordering something from an international online store tends to be more time-consuming for customers, so they are usually more committed to their purchase – and less likely to return it. Just make sure your return policies are clear and concise to avoid any unhappy customers.
Expand your product lines
New markets might have different interests and demands that your business can capitalise on. Look for opportunities to add new products or services that appeal to these international consumers and tailor your offering to individual regions or countries.
Prevents seasonal sale slumps
While the UK has set seasonal sales periods with winter products popular from November to February and summer products selling from May to August, other countries – such as Australia – have the opposite. By selling to both sides of the equator, you can help make your business profitable year-round, rather than peaking in certain months.
Most importantly, international shipping can also help increase your revenue, with sales proven to increase by nearly 15% when small businesses access foreign markets.
How to ship internationally
Offering international shipping will mean different processes, so you’ll need to adapt your existing business model and financial plans accordingly. Here are some of the areas you should consider when starting to ship internationally:
Make sure there is the potential for international demand – Is there an increase in international traffic to your site? You could also check your followers’ demographic on social media to see if you have a global following.
Look at the shipping partners you want to work with – Research their prices and see how you can integrate this with your current business model.
Calculate your costings – Look through your current finances to ensure you have a strong foundation and that this move makes sense for your business plan.
How to ship internationally with Square Online
You can use Square Online to set up international shipping for your small business. Just follow our simple step-by-step guide to create an international shipping profile:
- Go to your Square Online Overview page.
- Select Fulfilment > Shipping.
- Click Set Up under Shipping Profiles and give the profile a name, like “International Orders”.
- Under Type, choose Default (applies to all your shippable products) or Custom (set unique shipping rates and regions for specific items).
- Select the countries you want to ship to.
- Click Add rate and select the type of shipping rate you want.
- Set the price for this rate and hit Save to finalise the new profile.
You’ll also need to select the right shipping partner to deliver your products.
Here are some of our key shipping partners you can integrate with Square:
Enjoy instant access to more than 250 discounted rates with top global couriers, from UPS to FedEx. Compare rates, automate fulfilment, and modify your customer’s journey within the all-in-one dashboard.
Sync up your Square Online orders with Shippo for an automated shipping experience. Enjoy real-time rate comparisons, shipment tracking, free return processes and more.
Use ShipBob’s third-party logistics (3PL) system for hands-off order fulfilment and warehousing. Send your inventory to one of the ShipBob centres across the US, Canada or Europe to enjoy automated fulfilment and same-day shipping.
Tips for success
Now you’re ready to set up international shipping with Square Online, here are a few additional tips to help you succeed in the global market:
Be prepared and make sure you have the right amount of stock to fit your international demand ahead of launch.
Setting up international shipping is a huge step for any business, so don’t feel like you need to go all-in right away. Run a trial period to get your bearings and start by expanding your market to just a few countries.
Protect fragile stock
Packaging is a vital part of your shipping experience, so make sure any fragile or breakable products are well-packaged when going the distance.
Research country specific rules and regulations
Stay up to date with the latest regulations for shipping outside the UK. Find out if your orders require any additional paperwork before sending to avoid them getting stuck in customs or delaying your shipments.
Ready to take your business to the global stage? Square can help you make the move from a domestic independent to an international brand. Our digital solutions can be used at every stage of the consumer journey to enhance your business processes and boost your customer’s experience. Start growing your small business with Square.