Your business fulfills orders, whether on-site or through your eCommerce store. However, you may be missing entire markets without the aid of international fulfillment services. Global commerce is the future and international fulfillment allows businesses to capitalize on it.
Creating a viable shipping strategy to accommodate international fulfillment is easier said than done. This is why your business needs an experienced retail partner to help your store grow internationally. If you want to capitalize on lucrative foreign markets, you need to know how to navigate customers in other countries and territories, how to refine shipping methods for abroad, and how to operate a storefront beyond your backyard. This applies to stores hoping to tap into the foreign US market as well as US-based stores that want to sell their products in Europe and China.
Read on to learn how to use international fulfillment services to profit from lucrative foreign markets. The process of fulfilling international orders, which includes shipping, customs, and other logistics, requires a partner that knows how to take your business to the international level.
The Costs of Fulfillment
As a store that wants to expand your products’ market to another country, you need to be familiar with the costs associated with international fulfillment. Some of these costs are the same as domestic shipping, but international fulfillment has some unique roadblocks as well.
Domestic shipping often calculates costs based on the package’s weight. However, since international packages must be transported using limited available space, the package dimensions are the key factor when calculating costs. Depending on how your merchandise is packed, you could be looking at exorbitant shipping fees.
Customs and Duties
Customs and duties constitute costs unique to international shipments. Customs differ depending on the country you’re exporting merchandise to and can be regulated by the government at any time.
Be prepared for shipment inspections and detailed checks of your product invoices as they charge the duties and (hopefully) deliver your package to the distributer. This can delay your orders and create angry customers if their merchandise is consistently held up by customs.
A commercial invoice works differently when you fulfill international orders. Done right, these invoices can speed up your merchandise’s journey through customs and to your customers. Likewise, products hung up in processing because of an improper commercial invoice will slow your whole operation. International fulfillment services can complete these invoices according to the recipient country’s specifications.
When to Expand to Include International Fulfillment Services
These costs sound daunting. However, profitable commercial markets in the US, China, Europe, and India are still tantalizing reasons to expand your commerce network to satisfy customers in those regions. As a result, you may not know when to expand your store to include an international retail partner.
The fact is that your store, like many others, probably has international manufacturers already. You simply haven’t yet tapped into your brand’s greater ability to store and ship orders internationally.
Fast-growing international commerce markets require your attention if you hope to expand your business. If you outsource fulfillment to an international retail partner, you can offer your customers the international shipping they expect with less hassle and a better experience overall.
These observations could be signs that you need international fulfillment services:
- If international orders are increasing on your eCommerce site, especially from certain countries, you should take this as an opportunity to explore that market. Targeting buyers in other markets and fostering demand for your site requires a partnership with international fulfillment companies that know the lay of the land.
- If you’ve omitted certain countries from your shipping list, consider if you did so because the markets are unprofitable, or because your current fulfillment infrastructure can’t support them. Reaping the potential business from these markets requires retail partners experienced in international shipping.
- If your eCommerce site or brick and mortar store receives many inquiries about international shipping that you cannot presently provide, this should be evidence that you need a retail partner who can get your merchandise to these areas.
- Consider if your competition ships orders internationally. If there’s room in your market for international shipping services, your business could get ahead by being the first (or best) international shipping offer available in your industry.
Paying attention to trends in your business inquiries as well as your competition’s capabilities, you can gauge how much global demand there is for your products. Research, data analysis, market forecasts, and further testing should inform your decision to partner with international fulfillment companies. They can offer your business many features that range from essential fulfillment services to quality of life improvements for your store.
Benefits of Partnering with an International Fulfillment Service
Completing international orders can strain the resources of a site without the help of fulfillment services. Many sites have already turned to global fulfillment as a solution for their increasing shipping costs abroad, which includes the benefits listed below.
Reach U.S. Customers
If you’ve observed a global demand for your products, you want to capitalize on it. If your store is based in major regions like the UK, Europe, and Australia, you need to ship efficiently to the US consumer market. An expanding retail enterprise requires knowledge of international costs and regulations. If you want to capitalize on increasing demand for your products in the US, you need a fulfillment partner.
Order and Inventory Management
If you have multiple fulfillment centers – which you should in order to expand your eCommerce to international territories – you need to be able to accurately track your inventory. To account for products that you need to keep stocked at each location, an international fulfillment service can help you set up the proper network systems.
Many today have Cloud-based warehouse management systems that keep your records up to date on what merchandise you have in stock and where. They also have temperature-controlled warehouses to keep your merchandise stored properly.
Some international fulfillment services ship orders the same business day, which helps you meet your customers’ expectations. By establishing an inventory network that puts warehouses close to your international customers, you can reduce your shipping times and meet their demands.
Remember that for your competitors who don’t use international fulfillment services, their orders to the US could take a month or more to fulfill. No matter where your business happens to be physically located, the modern online shopper has high expectations for delivery times and would rather buy domestic than wait a month. Partnering with a fulfillment company can help you keep those customers.
International shipping is difficult, but international returns are even worse for eCommerce sites that don’t have retail partners with domestic warehouses near the customers in question. Your profit margins will plummet every time a return needs to be made unless you have a company in that region that can inspect the merchandise, repair it for resale, and fulfill the customer’s original order.
Under normal circumstances, an unopened return wouldn’t be a hassle. However, international returns will burden your eCommerce framework without the right fulfillment service. Your profit margins and your customer experience will suffer as a result.
Many fulfillment services offer custom packaging for your products. You can design your own boxes to represent your style, which encourages positive brand engagement over time.
First impressions count for a lot in eCommerce, so a unique package design can create an atmosphere of professionalism and style. Customers love to feel special as much as they love to have their packages arrive on time.
Along with the physical customer experience comes the service benefits that a retail fulfillment company can offer. 24-hour support from a company near your customers can help expedite shipping and returns processes. These services save you money.
Costs of Shipping
Speaking of costs, if you increase your shipping zones to include those that are near your US customers, you can increase your logistical efficiency and lower shipping costs altogether. If you’re a US retailer and want to ship to Europe or China, the same logic applies.
A service provider in the country you want to sell to can offer you bulk shipping rates that lower your costs. They can also help you reduce shipping errors and pre-emptively stop costly returns before they fill your company inbox.
The Takeaway for Businesses
As a business looking to expand to a US market, or from the US to Europe or China, partnering with an international fulfillment service comes with many benefits. Warehouses in the same region as your intended customers will expedite your shipping and returns process.
International fulfillment services also know how to ship merchandise over borders, including how to navigate customs and duties, and how to make your shipping process efficient. Some are even certified by Amazon Prime, use advanced Cloud-based warehouse management systems, and ship orders the same day they’re purchased.
To excite customers around the globe and capitalize on foreign interest in your merchandise, consider international fulfillment services as a way to easily navigate customs, create a more efficient shipping process, and engage your customers in your brand, no matter where they live.