4 challenges of cross-border shipping & how to avoid them

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In our cross-border ecommerce guide, Indian Online Seller (IOS) informed you of the different requirements to sell internationally. Many of the online sellers we spoke with informed us that it is certainly easy to register on global marketplaces. But when asked about the difficulties faced whilst selling abroad, we were informed that shipping was a main concern that made things difficult for them.

IOS got in touch with product category Pranay Porwal from Browntape, the multi-channel order and inventory management firm to know more about the challenges in selling in foreign markets. The women’s western wear category manager said that the cost of logistics when selling abroad can range from Rs.1,500 to Rs.1,800. This is a hefty price that no one wants to shoulder.

So, how do you tap cross-border markets to sell without making losses?

To figure this out you first need to know what the perils of shipping products abroad are. Here are some that we identified and solutions you can use to reduce their costly impacts –

Peril #1 – Shipping the right kind of products

When you sell something online the goal is to make money; not pay money. So, try selling products –

  • In demand abroad

When you sell to other countries the product costs are high. Shipping is the number one reason for this. So you want to sell products that have good demand abroad. Don’t consider selling Western wear in global markets, this is because the product will be available in abundance there and at lower prices in comparison to your own.

According to Pranay, “Ethnic clothing receives good response abroad. Indians settled in foreign countries often look for religious items like idols and statues online. Also, cultural goods sell quickly in foreign markets.”

Try finding a niche that customers are crazy about. This way they don’t mind paying the price you quote plus shipping charges.

  • Of high value

“Things like jewellery, on the other hand, are not the best option. For example, if your product is worth Rs.300 and the shipping is worth Rs.1,800, no customer will consider buying a product which costs more to ship,” said Pranay.

  • Easy to package

You want to make sure it is easy to package the product you pick to sell internationally. Too much packaging material and you may need to pay more for shipping because of the weight. Too little packaging and your product may reach the customer in a bad state. This increases your costs. Try to bring down expenses with these product packaging tips like measuring products precisely, packaging according to your needs and staying updated with shipping charges.

  • Compact in size

These kinds of products are easy to manage and need little space when being shipped. This diminishes your shipping fees. To reduce the size of a product, try dismantling it so it can be broken into parts to control its size. This will also help maintain the integrity of the product.

  • Of non-perishable nature

Non-perishable items do not have needs like temperature control and special care. This removes the need for refrigeration and expensive logistics providers.

Peril #2 – Selling everywhere at once

Those selling abroad all dream of conquering the world. But be realistic in the start. Do not jump to new markets because it will increase your shipping expenses. The further an international market is from you, the more expensive it is for your products to be shipped there. Test one or a few regions at a time. Once you meet your sales targets in the first market only then move to the next. Also, pick countries that are closest to you or that offer the most demand for your products. To ensure your shipping charges are covered.

Peril #3 – Export-import regulations

Different import-export regulations are followed in different countries. To make sure your products are not seized or fined due to lack of documentation, speak with international logistics providers. Research the legal requirements for the countries you want to sell to and speak with other sellers to confirm the same. That’s not all. Stay updated with the export regulations in India as well to avoid trouble.

Peril #4 – Different shipping options

There are different options to choose from when picking an international courier partner. However, which one can you trust the most?

  • Logistics companies chosen should deliver quickly, that is within 25-30 days
  • They should be well reputed to avoid thefts, loss of products, or careless mistakes
  • They should be affordable
  • They should meet your requirements
  • They should deliver to the countries you plan to sell to

If you sell on an online marketplace you can avail of their fulfilment options abroad. You may still be required to deliver your products to the marketplace fulfilment centre. However, you can speed up the delivery pace internationally.

Pick a delivery service based on your requirements. For small quantities, you can use services like DHL, FedEx and so on. In case of large consignments, you will need to partner with a larger third party logistics provider that can match your shipping needs. This can also lessen your costs when shipping abroad. Again, ask other sellers for recommendations and test out delivery facilities to know just how good your options are.

In spite of these challenges, there is great potential is this line of business. It is a smarter way of trading with foreign economies and it certainly is cheaper. It allows you to test different foreign markets with little investments. All you need to do is control your shipping to save yourself additional costs and dreaded returns.

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