Over the past two years, the growth of eCommerce has created more demand – inside and outside the US. But the pandemic has also made it harder to ship goods across borders. To address international eCommerce shipping challenges, many online retailers have turned to third-party logistics providers (3PLs) for help navigating the intricacies of international order fulfillment.
How Can a 3PL Help with International eCommerce Shipping?
Not every order fulfillment services provider has the knowledge and experience required to help an online business set up an international sales model. If your business experiences a spike in interest from international customers, ask your 3PL if they can provide the following:
1. A thorough understanding of the international shipping
International eCommerce shipping features additional layers of complexity that some domestic US fulfillment providers may not know how to handle. Fulfilling orders to international customers requires a 3PL to have a grasp on:
- Harmonized System (HS) codes. Every five years, the World Customs Organization (WCO) releases an updated list of import and export codes that help international shippers properly classify the goods they ship. Customs agencies use these codes to determine the appropriate taxes and tariffs on goods entering the country. Failing to assign the proper codes can result in financial penalties and delayed or rejected shipments.
- Incoterms. These are basically the terms of sale between buyer and seller – who’s responsible for certain costs, and when. Two such terms are Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU) vs. Delivery Duty Paid (DDP). For DDU goods, the buyer must pay import duties to a customs broker before getting the package. Conversely, DDP shipments require the shipper to pay duties in advance, which raises the cost of the shipment but also avoids border delays. Generally speaking, most eCommerce sellers use DDP for small parcels to avoid undue burden on the end customer. However, your 3PL should be able to tell you which method is best for you.
- Carrier relationships. Leveraging your 3PL’s relationships with carriers like USPS, FedEx, and DHL can help streamline the international fulfillment process. Carriers act as a valuable international eCommerce shipping resource by helping to calculate duties and taxes, keeping track of compliance, and providing insight into different rules in different countries.
2. A process for managing international returns
Once you begin shipping to customers in other countries, you need a highly effective fulfillment provider that can help you effectively manage returned orders. While reverse logistics can get expensive and messy in a domestic operation, orders crossing international borders create additional problems. Depending on the product’s value, letting the customer keep the item often proves more cost-effective than another cross-border shipment. Similarly, if the customer refuses to receive the shipment, you will need a plan to manage that refusal in the most cost-conscious manner. An experienced 3PL can help you plan for these scenarios and make the most affordable choices.
3. Protocols for handling COVID-19-related international shipment issues
The coronavirus has caused disruption all along the global supply chain, and international eCommerce shipping has not gone unaffected. Some pandemic-related issues you may encounter when fulfilling international orders include:
- Shipping delays
- Border closures
- Transportation capacity shortages
- Higher shipping costs
- COVID-19 import fees at the destination country
Your 3PL will need to help you navigate unexpected costs and other challenges. Ensure that your provider keeps updated on pandemic challenges in your target markets and that they have the right carrier relationships in place to get goods into those countries quickly and affordably.
4. International partners that can locate inventory in the target country/countries
Not all fulfillment 3PLs in the US have experience fulfilling orders to overseas customers. However, as long as your provider has a network of international vendors, carriers, and partners, they should be able to help you successfully fulfill international orders. For example, Amware Fulfillment doesn’t operate facilities in Europe. Still, we have worked closely with European 3PLs to locate inventory overseas and streamline international orders on behalf of our customers. Work with a 3PL that’s willing to do what’s best for your international eCommerce shipping operation, even if that means bringing in another party to help out.
International eCommerce Fulfillment with Amware Fulfillment
Amware Fulfillment has the knowledge and experience necessary to help you ship eCommerce orders anywhere in the United States. Should your eCommerce operation reach a point where it must regularly fulfill thousands of orders internationally, we can also leverage our strong relationships with international carriers and partners to help with that. We also excel at helping international eCommerce businesses access American markets.
For more information about our eCommerce fulfillment capabilities, please reach out to us.